Damage Waiver Cost to be Added to Car Rental

Adler is a Los Angeles free-lance writer .

The cost of a collision damage waiver from Hertz or Avis in Europe will be added to the regular rates as of April 1.

Hertz is dropping its optional CDW coverage for travelers who rent cars at its 1990 Affordable Europe weekly rates. Consequently, there will be an average price increase of about 8% to offset the loss of revenue from selling the CDW, according to Simon Todd, vice president for international sales and marketing for Hertz.

"But now travelers know they are covered, and we want to erase from their minds any possible doubt," Todd said. "American travelers will have a greater feeling of security."

This move followed on the heels of Hertz's drive to eliminate the CDW in the United States.

"There has been a good deal of confusion in the past year and a half by consumers on what their credit card coverage of CDW really covered in Europe and elsewhere," Todd said.

"The credit-card companies recently began offering this extra coverage, but each company has different policies, and sometimes Hertz is called upon to explain the policies of the credit card organizations. Travelers should, of course, ask their credit card issuer, not us."

One of the major differences between credit card and regular CDW protection comes in distinguishing between primary and secondary coverage.

Primary coverage means that if you have an accident the credit card company will take care of it without any reference to any insurance you might have, whereas secondary coverage means that the credit card company will only cover any liability not covered by your own insurance company.

Another source of confusion comes from the fact that CDW can mean different things in Europe than in the United States. Not too long ago Hertz revised its CDW into LDW, or Loss Damage Waiver.

The latter term broadens the renter's responsibility to cover theft and vandalism. But in Europe the term CDW is still used, and it just means collision and damage coverage, excluding theft and vandalism.

While Hertz is still offering the option of CDW in Europe, the rates vary according to the model of car and the country where you rent the car.

Some Hertz-provided samples of daily CDW rates: $6.30 to $15.80 in the United Kingdom, $8.55 to $14.45 in France and $12.35 to $20.95 in West Germany. And you have to pay the value-added tax on this CDW tab as part of your car rental cost in countries that levy such a tax.

You also can't buy CDW separately in Hertz's Affordable Australia, New Zealand or Asia/Pacific programs. Coverage in those programs is included in the basic rate.

On April 1 Avis will eliminate any liability on the part of consumers who rent a car for use in Europe through its Super Value program, according to Jerry Kelly, director of sales and marketing for Europe for Avis.

"The whole aim is to simplify the rental process and enable renters to know exactly what their cost is, and not be concerned with whether or not to buy options," Kelly said.

Moreover, Avis will also include personal liability insurance as part of its rental price with this new program. "Previously, renters just had third-party liability coverage, such as cases where other people sue you, as part of their basic cost."

Now you also get personal liability, which you would have had to pay for in the past through PAI, or personal accident insurance.

"Let's say you broke your leg in Europe in a car accident and the medical cost was $3,000. If you didn't have PAI, it would be up to you or your insurer to pay this amount.

"Under our new system you're covered up to a certain amount per country, with Avis providing your primary coverage. If the cost went over our coverage, then you'd go to whatever type of insurer you had providing secondary coverage."

Avis customers do face a rise in car rental prices to cover these changes, Kelly admitted. "The increases will reflect the umbrella of extra values we're offering renters, which includes more travel itinerary planning assistance before you leave the United States and toll-free numbers in major European countries where you can call an English-speaking person for advice on any travel-related subject, such as where to find a doctor or dentist, and not just car repair places."

Until April 1 Avis will continue to offer a two-tier system, with one rate structure including CDW and PAI, as well as the value-added tax. Renters can still choose a lower rate in the Super Value program, where they have the option of buying CDW or PAI (with no choice regarding the VAT).

Depending on the country in Europe, the inclusive Super Value rate is 10% to 18% more than the rate permitting the CDW option, Kelly added.

The type of credit card you have, as well as the issuer, may determine what type of CDW coverage you have. Find out if you're entitled to primary or secondary coverage. More expensive cards, of course, are more likely to provide primary coverage, as well as other related perks.

Here's what three major credit-card outfits said about their CDW provisions:

--According to a spokesman for Visa, whether CDW coverage is included, and whether or not that coverage is primary or secondary, depends on the type of card and the bank the card is issued through.

--All American Express cards offer what the company calls "car rental loss and damage protection," with primary coverage in Europe, an American Express spokeswoman said.

--A Diners Club International spokeswoman said that it offers primary coverage through its CDW provision.

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