Is it mandatory to purchase CDW insurance from your car rental agency in Mexico?

Anna Kim was taken for a ride. Unfortunately, it’s not the one she had planned for.

She had done tons of research, both online and via phone, before booking a rental car for her Mexican vacation. Specifically, she was assured by her car rental company, Europcar, that the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) insurance provided by her credit card company would be sufficient for her rental.

It’s important to do your research before, during and after booking your flight, hotel, car rental, or any other aspect of travel. It’s frustrating when, after you’ve done all that hard work, a company representative tries to take advantage of a bad situation by insisting that your research is wrong in order to pry more money from your wallet, and that is exactly what happened to Kim.

“I made a one week reservation through Priceline for $171,” Kim told us. “Prior to picking up the car, I researched Europcar’s policies online and received confirmation from an agent that Europcar provides all mandatory required third-party liability coverage in Mexico and that CDW was optional.”

But when she arrived at the counter, she learned otherwise:

The agent told me that I had to pay extra to purchase both the mandatory liability insurance as well as CDW coverage in order to rent the car.

They would not allow me to use my credit card for CDW coverage, even with a damage deposit, which contradicts with Europcar’s policies. For the bare minimum “basic” coverage, I would have to pay $567, or I could get “full” coverage for $800, but if I didn’t choose one of the two I wouldn’t be able to rent the car.

The basic coverage offered by Europcar’s policy offered a 20 percent deductible, much less coverage than the zero percent deductible offered by her credit card’s CDW policy. To make matters worse, it was peak holiday season, and the agent claimed there were no other rentals available in the area.

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The Europcar representative also told Kim that there were more reservations than cars available, and the car she wanted to rent was the last one available. The agent threatened to take away Kim’s car in order to rent it to someone else if she didn’t purchase the insurance, so Kim took the car with the minimum coverage.

Because the rental ended up being much more expensive than she had planned for, Kim shortened the rental from seven days to four. Still, she was out about $250 ($63 a day) more in fees than she had counted on.

Immediately after receiving the car, Kim sent an email to Europcar customer service outlining what had happened and requesting that they cancel her CDW coverage for the remainder of the rental term. However, she did not receive a response or a refund.

She also contacted Priceline, from whom she had rented the Europcar vehicle, but they sent her back to Europcar, saying they do not deal with insurance issues.

This highlights an accountability issue that takes place whenever you do business with a third-party travel provider such as Priceline or Hotwire. Fewer customer service issues occur when just dealing with a company directly. I’ll often do my research on these sites, find the lowest-priced rental, and then contact the company directly to get that lowest price.

Kim definitely did her homework before making this reservation. She checked Europcar’s website for their Mexico Terms and Conditions, which stated that CDW “is optional and is typically purchased by customers that are not covered for vehicle damage or loss by their credit card company (or insurance linked to a credit card).”

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So what happened at the Europcar location in Los Cabos, Mexico? We’ll never know. Europcar never responded to Kim. Our advocates attempted multiple times to contact the company on her behalf, and the lone public relations person we spoke to never called us back.

We’ll have to file Kim’s nightmarish rental experience in the Case Dismissed pile. I’m sure Europcar won’t be getting her business anymore, and we strongly suggest that she and our other readers use caution when using Europcar and third-party travel sites.

Mark Pokedoff

Four-time Emmy-award-winning television sports production specialist and frequent traveler. Longtime freelance writer and travel blog enthusiast. Proud papa of four amazing kids who have been upgraded to first class more than all their friends combined. Read more of Mark's articles here.

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