Car Hire Knowhow

What is Collision Damage Waiver in car rental?

What is Collision Damage Waiver in car rental?

Normally, Collision Damage Waiver covers:

  • the car’s bodywork.

So there’s a lot it does NOT cover, including:

  • windows and mirrors
  • wheels and tyres
  • undercarriage
  • engine
  • the car’s interior
  • flat battery
  • personal belongings
  • lost keys
  • extras, such as GPS, child seats or ski racks
  • towing charges.

To find out more, see Which parts of a hire car does Collision Damage Waiver cover?

Just bear in mind that different rental companies will have different Collision Damage Waivers. For example, some policies will cover the roof, while others won’t. 

And a policy might cover the bodywork part of a wing mirror (the bit that’s the same colour as the car) but not the actual glass, or the mechanical parts that let the driver adjust the mirror.

Does Collision Damage Waiver cover all repair costs? 


Like most types of insurance or coverage, Collision Damage Waiver almost always has an excess (called a deductible in the USA). The excess is the maximum that the renter will pay towards bodywork repairs. It’s usually between £500/€600 and £3,000/€3,500.

And if anything other than the car’s bodywork gets damaged, the renter will pay the full cost of repairs.

What if the driver damages someone else’s property?

Collision Damage Waiver isn’t the only kind of cover for hire cars. Normally, they also come with Theft Protection (which covers theft of the car, and damage caused if someone tries to steal it) and Third-Party Liability cover (which covers damage to other people’s property).

However, the cover that comes with a car will depend on where you live and where you’re renting. To find out more, see Is insurance included when I rent a car?

Can you buy extra cover at the counter?

When you pick up your rental car, the counter staff will probably offer to sell you some extra cover or insurance. 

These policies will reduce the excess, cover extra parts of the car, and/or mean that you don’t need to leave a security deposit. If a policy reduces the excess to zero, you wouldn’t pay anything towards anything that the policy covers.

The names can be a bit confusing. A policy might be called Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW) or Excess Reduction. Some rental companies have their own names for their policies, such as Smart Cover, Premium Protection or Super Relax Insurance.

Unless it’s a legal requirement, you don’t need to buy extra cover. 

However, if your credit card doesn’t have enough available money for the deposit, you might need to buy some cover that means you don’t need to leave a deposit – or you won’t be able to take the car at all.

There are also other companies that sell cover for hire cars. To find out more, see What's the best way to insure your rental car?

Is Collision Damage Waiver the same as insurance?

Collision Damage Waiver is often called insurance, but it’s not. Car hire companies are liable for any damage to their cars, as they’re the insurance holders. They have the right to pass on this liability to anyone who rents one of their cars, but they ‘waive’ this right (although the renter is still responsible for some of the cost – the excess).

From the renter’s point of view, of course, it doesn’t really matter whether something is called insurance or a waiver. Whatever it’s called, it’s a policy that can stop unexpected bills spoiling the memory of a great holiday. 


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