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Cars & travel.

21 July 2021

Car hire insurance

We've reviewed car hire excess insurance policies, to help you decide which one to buy, plus we tell you how to decode car hire insurance jargon and avoid the rip offs
Which?Editorial team
Car hire insurance_1 440351

When you hire a car, it usually comes with basic insurance included in the price so that you won’t have to pay the full cost of replacing a stolen or damaged vehicle.

But the basic insurance is subject to an ‘excess’ meaning that you could have to pay a contribution of up to £2,000 towards repair or theft costs, regardless of who is at fault. 

To avoid having to pay a massive excess, you can take out an Excess Reimbursement Insurance (ERI) policy from a third party insurance company. This is normally far cheaper, and often more comprehensive than the cover offered by car hire companies. 

You can buy a daily or annual policy. But which of the many third party ERI policies should you buy?

Best car hire excess insurance

We rated 23 leading car hire excess insurance companies including icarhireinsurance, insurance4carhire.com, carhireexcess.co.uk, reducemyexcess.co.uk and Questor to help you choose the insurance company that gives you the most comprehensive cover for your money. Unlock the table to find out:

  • which car hire insurance companies provide the best cover
  • comprehensive policy scores rating individual policies across 16 different policy elements
  • The maximum amount you can claim per policy
  • One week and annual prices for car hire insurance policies.

These results are for members only. Please log in if you're a member, or sign up to get instant access to all our reviews and test results.

Car hire excess insurance policy reviews
Policy score
1 week premium (Spain)
Premium for annual policy (Europe)
Annual policy trip length
Policy limit per claim
Tyres, windscreen and underbody cover
Misfuelling cover
Key cover
Big Blue
Blue Insurance
Cover for you
Holiday Extras
Leisure Guard
MRL Insurance
Questor insurance
Worldwide Insure (Deluxe)
Worldwide Insure (Standard)

How we rate policy scores

We calculated the policy scores by rating the 16 most important elements of the policy, including tyres, windscreen and underbody cover, flat battery cover, admin charges, car jacking, towing cover, personal accident cover and more.

Should you buy car hire excess insurance?

You have two options to reduce your excess liability:

1. Buy insurance from a standalone insurance company. This is called Excess Reimbursement Insurance (ERI) and can be purchased online, in advance of your trip. If there is any damage, you will have to pay the excess to the car hire company, but you will then be able to claim it back. See our car hire excess insurance reviews above.

2. Buy insurance from the company renting you the car. This is usually called  Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW) and can be purchased at the rental desk. SCDW reduces the excess (often down to zero) that you will have to pay in the event of damage.

There are pros and cons to both options:

Super Collision Damage Waiver

Car hire companies sell SCDW, allowing you to reduce your excess to a very small amount, often zero. This cover has many different names, including Excess Waiver, Super Cover and Excess Protection. But it’s expensive. 

Our table below shows quotes we obtained from a selection of major car hire companies, ranging from £14 to £27 per day. The SCDW covers a week’s rental in Spain. We reduced the excess to zero and where possible we included cover to protect the car’s windscreen, undercarriage and tyres. 

One major advantage of paying the car hire company for SCDW is that the company will not require a large pre-authorisation on your credit card. Pre-authorisations can be as high as €2,500 with some of the budget operators.

SCDW - purchased from car hire companies to reduce your excess
Car hire company
Policy score
SCDW cost for a week
Policy limit per claim
Tyres (T), windscreen (W) and underbody (U) cover
Locked out cover
Misfuelling cover
Key cover
Stolen personal effects
Alamo - Excess Protection
Avis - Super cover
Budget - Super cover
Enterprise - Excess Protection
Europcar - Premium Protection Cover
Goldcar - Mega Relax Cover
Hertz - SuperCover

Using the table: We obtained quotes for a week's car rental from Malaga airport in June 2020. We selected the most comprehensive super collision damage waiver (SCDW) available.

Car hire insurance jargon buster

Car hire customers are regularly falling foul of unexpected and unclear contract terms.

Here are some of the commonly used terms relating to car hire insurance.

You can also see which companies are best at explaining these extra charges in our car hire company comparison.

Collision damage waiver (CDW)

CDW insurance, providing cover in the event of damage or theft of the vehicle, is usually included as standard if you are hiring a car in Europe or Australasia. In the USA it may have to be purchased separately. 

However, CDW is not complete protection. All it means is that you will not have to pay the full cost of any repairs, but you will have to pay a contribution to repair costs up to an agreed level of 'excess' which can be as high as £2,000, regardless of who is at fault.

In addition, CDW generally does not cover certain areas of the car, such as the windscreen, tyres and the undercarriage. You will not usually be covered for damage caused while you were breaching the rental agreement, or caused by negligence or using the wrong fuel.

You will not usually be covered for damage caused while you were breaching the rental agreement, or caused by negligence or using the wrong fuel.

Theft protection (TP)

This covers you against the full cost of replacing the vehicle if it is stolen while in your possession. Like CDW, this insurance is normally included in the price, and like CDW it does not cover everything.

For example thefts as a result of negligence, such as leaving the car keys in the ignition, will not be covered. And there will still be an excess to pay.

Personal accident insurance (PAI)

You may also be offered extra cover for any injury to you or passengers while you are driving the car. However, this would normally be covered by your travel insurance.

In the same way, you may be offered cover for personal belongings in the car. This is known as personal effects protection (PEP). Again, this may be covered by your travel or home insurance.