I’ve been waiting for Iron Man 3 to open in theaters since seeing the trailer for the first time months ago. In anticipation of the May 3 release date, I found myself reading up on the plot on Wikipedia’s Iron Man 3 page.
But instead of envisioning Iron Man’s standoff with the Mandarin or wondering if removing the shrapnel near his heart followed the original comic book storyline, I found myself thinking about how Stark planned on getting back to California from Tennessee after his experimental Iron Man armor failed and left him stranded.
Maybe it’s the last five years of working in the car insurance industry, but I started to wonder: Would Tony Stark get a one-way car rental home and if he did, would he buy the car insurance his rental company offered?
Types of rental car insurance available to Tony Stark
In order to answer our burning question, we need to understand the four types of insurance most rental car companies offer.
First, a quick note: Insurance coverage names and options might vary depending on which rental-car company you use. Now that we got that out of the way:
Collision damage waiver, AKA loss damage waiver
This waiver covers the rental car if it is damaged. It also covers towing costs and what rental car companies refer to as “loss of use.” "Loss of use" refers to the lost income rental companies experience when they can’t rent a car because is was damaged in an accident. This waiver also may cover your out-of-pocket deductible you are obligated to pay if you use your own insurance.
This waiver can become void if speeding, driving while intoxicated, or driving on unpaved roads contributed to the accident.
Iron Man’s decision: no thanks
The speeding clause alone makes this a no-go for Tony Stark, never mind his other risky behaviors that could null and void this waiver somewhere between miles two and three of his 2,000-mile road trip.
This insurance coverage provides additional liability protection if you are found at fault and a claim is made against you for injuries and/or property damage that exceed your regular policy’s limits.
Iron Man’s decision: no thanks (again)
Another no-go for Tony. Chances are Tony Stark would have more than enough liability coverage on his other cars (which would transfer to his rental) and/or he would have an additional umbrella insurance policy which would have far higher coverage limits and would negate the need for this supplemental insurance.
Personal accidental insurance
This insurance covers healthcare expenses for you and any passengers in an accident.
Iron Man’s decision: strike three
Considering that Tony probably has good health insurance (all super heroes should) and will most likely be driving home by himself, he can refuse this added insurance.
Personal effects coverage
This insurance covers any personal property in the rental car.
Iron Man’s decision: strike...four
Tony doesn’t need this coverage considering that the only property he’ll be taking back to California is a bag of corn chips and his armor. Also, as a rule, I don’t buy insurance to protect my stuff if I can fire repulsor rays from the palms of my armored gauntlets.
It’s also important to know that home insurance and rental insurance frequently cover your personal belongings outside of your home. The home insurance policy Tony has on his house overlooking the Pacific would probably cover any personal property he had with him.
Should ordinary Joes like us buy rental car insurance?
Tony Stark has the money to buy insurance with the highest limits available. But, what about those of us who aren’t billionaires?
For the rest of us, the collision damage waiver at about $10-$20 a day is a tempting coverage because it covers the costs of “loss of use,” towing and the insurance deductible associated with the accident. Other than that, your personal car insurance policy will transfer to your rental car as if it were your primary vehicle, making the other coverages unnecessary for many drivers.
If you don’t have existing car insurance policy, you may be obligated to purchase coverage at the rental-car counter.
Like Tony Stark, you don’t have a secret identity
Just like Tony Stark, we don’t have secret identities. This is important to remember if a car rental agent tries to sell you on anonymity being a benefit of their car insurance coverage as some misinformed car rental reps think that if you buy their car insurance coverage and get into an accident, your insurer won’t find out and your rates won’t increase. This is not true.
If you get into an accident while driving your rental, and the incident is reported and you are found at fault, your insurance company will find out and your rates are subject to increase. You see, insurance companies have access to a common database that contains your driving history, including speeding ticket and accident information. Think Jarvis, but not as smart.
Until Iron Man 4 hits the theaters, talk to your car insurance company
While I do live in California, I’m not a licensed car insurance agent or a superhero (or a genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist). So talk to your car insurance company before deciding what, if any, added coverages are right for you the next time you rent a car. We have a more information on when to buy rental car insurance here.
Postscript: See our followup post on the research behind this article: Behind the scenes: Iron Man & rental car insurance.