lunes, 22 de agosto de 2011

Car Rental Insurance in Costa Rica

When you go to rent a car, you will probably be offered an option to get rental car insurance. When considering getting rental car insurance in Costa Rica, you should think about the driving environment you’ll be renting in. In Central Valley, Costa Rica for instance, or San Jose GAM, you’ll be in a fast, urban metropolis in all likelihood, and therefore the odds of you having a collision, vandalism, or theft, increase tremendously compared to renting a car in some place like Guanacaste or Arenal.

As you know, when you go driving, you need to be covered to the extent of the minimum liability requirements for the country you’re driving in. Even if you have minimum liability coverage though, it won’t protect the car you’re driving unless you have additional protection. To this end, when you visit a car rental agency, you’ll be offered rental car insurance to protect the rental car while you’re using it. This will be a condition for renting as long as you are not insured or have a proof of CDW coverage, just in case there is damage to the car, obviously you’ll be responsible for it. So should you get rental car insurance or not? If you have only minimum liability coverage, you probably want to consider it strongly, since your own insurance will not cover damage to the rental car that you’re driving in the event of a collision or another accident. Personal auto insurance from U. S. and Canada will not cover you in Costa Rica. So you need to do you home work by following the simple steps:

Auto insurance in Costa Rica is a government monopoly of the INS (Instituto Nacional de Seguros). Liability insurance from the INS is mandated by law, but provides only minimal coverage. Rental agencies offer supplemental programs that cover deductibles and contingencies other than a simple traffic accident.

First call up your credit card company and ask them what insurance coverage they provide with car rental in Costa Rica?    Each credit card company is different. .  Many credit cards cover Car Rental Insurance, but it is important that you check the fine print to avoid surprises when you're in the middle of an emergency and a huge repair bill is presented to you! Credit cards' coverage only covers the vehicle in case of collision, but will not provide liability coverage. You will need to purchase this from the rental car company as part of your rental.

Some credit card coverage plans do not cover 4 wheel drive vehicles, large vans and large sized SUV, others are not valid in Latin America or Costa Rica and still others do not cover car rental insurance on unpaved roads.  Call your bank (card issuer) and inquire if what you want to do is covered and if possible, get a copy of your coverage to present at the rental car's counter. You can be covered while renting a car in Costa Rica EXCEPT FOR LIABILITY.  So you need to purchase a separate liability insurance policy thru the rental car agency in Costa Rica.

The cost of insurance can approach or exceed the cost of renting. There are three types:
Required by Law—TPL, SLI, SLC or API—Liability Insurance from the INS is required regardless of your policies at home or the claims of your titanium credit card. The cost ranges from $US 10-28 per day depending on the vehicle. This insurance does not cover your rental car at all, only damages to other people, their cars, or property. Unless you purchase supplements, or have documented coverage from your credit card you are still responsible for all damages to the rental vehicle.

Optional—CDW or SLDW—Collision Damage Waivers are a supplement underwritten by the rental company to reduce your liability for your rental car to the deductable amount ($US 1,000-3,000 depending on the company and vehicle) only in the case of an accident. The cost ranges from $US 8-10 per day depending on the company and vehicle. You are still responsible for all losses or damages in the case of negligence, vandalism, road damage, or theft.

This insurance may be replaced by your credit card coverage. Check before you rent, and get it in writing. This document will be required at the time of rental in order for you to decline the CWD offered at the rental counter. Some credit card companies have exclusions specifically against Latin American rentals. Some rental companies do not allow you to waive this insurance regardless of other coverage.

Optional: Zero Liability-Under the names of Full Coverage, Vandalism Supplement, Damage Supplement, and Theft Insurance these extra policies are intended to reduce your liability to zero when combined with SLI and CDW. For example, if the trunk is damaged or a window glass is broken by thieves while they steal your luggage you will be held responsible for the damage unless you have purchased a third level of insurance. The cost ranges from $US 16-21 per day depending on the fine print and vehicle.
Roads of Costa Rica
Roads in Costa Rica are not tremendously developed.  There are plenty of single lane paved roads in Costa Rica.  Even the main highway that goes from Panama to Nicaragua has single lanes.  There are many unpaved roads in Costa Rica.  If you want the freedom to travel anywhere in the country, 4 wheel drive vehicles are helpful.  

Requirements
If you want to rent a car in Costa Rica, you must be at least 21 years old (some rental car companies use 24 as the minimum driving age) and some rental car companies offer optional covers for young drivers aged 18-21 years.  Your country's license, issued a year or more previously, is valid for driving in Costa Rica for a maximum period of 3 months after your entry date into the country.
You will also need to possess a major credit card for the safety deposit that will be held on your card while you have the car. The deposits can run between $950 - $ 2500 USD depending on the car category. Take note that car rental companies do not accept cash deposits, and if you use a debit card, the amount of the deposit might be higher if accepted, and is actually debited by your bank and not "held" as is done with a credit card, so it will often take more than a month for the bank to return the money to you. Since the rental car has no way of knowing whether the card you are using is a debit or credit, use common sense when doing the transaction or advise you car rental agent about this issue.  
Distance
 Costa Rica has many volcanoes, mountainous land and unpaved areas.  What may look very close on the map may actually be a great distance away.  For example, Arenal looks very close to Monteverde on the map, but it is at least 3 hours away.  Driving to Arenal from Liberia looks very close, but is a long and winding road which also takes about 3 hours.  Driving from Playa del Coco to Tamarindo looks very close but is about an hour drive time away.  It could be less on the dirt road, but it is an adventure!
Most rental cars now have GPS systems available for rent and getting one will most probably save you time and add some confidence to your driving experience in Costa Rica. 
Some of the extra costs that may not be included in your rental contract.
  • Government License Plate Fee— $US 1.2 per day, rarely included in quoted rates.
  • Airport Concourse Fee—there is a 12% airport concourse tax added to the cost of any car picked up at, San Jose’s, Juan Santamaría International Airport (SJO) or Liberia Intl. Airport (LIR). If you arrive late and plan to stay in the area (do not drive at night), take a taxi to your hotel and have the car delivered the next morning (often free of charge and saves you a day of rental). If you arrive early and want to get on the road, the car companies have off airport pickup locations a few minutes away.
  • Additional Drivers—$US 5-8 per day
  • Secure Parking—Recommended. Never leave anything in the car!
  • Damages—unless you purchase all of the insurance or your credit card covers it, you are responsible for damage done by potholes, vandals, thieves, falling trees, high tide, army ants, spilled food, and any other imaginable occurrence other than a traffic accident involving another party.
When renting a car, make SURE you do a vehicle damage check before leaving. The agency will give you a form to mark all existing damages. Take your time and do it right! Otherwise you could be paying for damage you did not do. When returning the car, walk the car with the attendant AND make sure he or she signs it off. Keep a copy of this report, and whatever you do, do not go with the BS that they will send it to you. You want a copy of that report now that has been signed and dated.

Also in that report, it should also state the extras that have also been returned like spare tire and GPS. I can not tell you how many horrid stories there are about travelers getting charged for a spare tire that is missing and/or GPS that were supposedly in the glove compartment when you first rented it.

When involved in a car accident, be sure to file your paperwork right away. Many credit card companies put a time limit on turning in your paperwork, usually capped at 45 days from the accident. Rental car companies may delay or miss sending you the invoice and other paperwork until after that period has passed, so be assertive in contacting the national/international franchise or local agency you rented from and asking them to send the bill and requested paper work immediately. Or else you may be stuck with the tab.

So if your rental car company sends you a bill for unpaid administrative fees or other bills, don't pay it until you speak with your credit card company. Insist that your credit card company receive the documentation it needs from the car rental agency to process the claim. You'll likely be referred to a third-party agency, not a staff member of your credit card issuer, and you may have be persistent to defend yours.

Know the terms of each company, and be sure they are clearly understood. This will help you through the process from beginning to end and make your car rental enjoyable and not a horrible experience.

Renting a car in Costa Rica is a great way to get around, because you will be able to do your own touring to different places off the beaten track and not tie up to somebody else´s schedule. The roads are well-marked, the sign are easy to read, and the traffic is pretty light outside urban areas. It is a good idea to have a detailed map when driving in rural area since it is easy to miss a turn.  

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Some credit card coverage plans do not cover 4 wheel drive vehicles, large vans and large sized SUV, others are not valid in Latin America or Costa Rica and still others do not cover car rental insurance on unpaved roads. Call your bank (card issuer) and inquire if what you want to do is covered and if possible, get a copy of your coverage to present at the rental car's counter. You can be covered while renting a car in Costa Rica EXCEPT FOR LIABILITY. So you need to purchase a separate liability insurance policy thru the rental car agency in Costa Rica. minibus hire kent
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