I already have auto insurance, so why is Europcar forcing me to buy it for my car rental?

When Allison Blake rents a car through Hotwire for her trip to Mexico, she is forced to purchase auto insurance coverage even though she already has it through Allianz. Can our advocates persuade Hotwire to refund Blake the cost of the insurance she didn’t need?

Question: I recently arranged a trip to Cancún, Mexico, for my family through Hotwire, including a car rental, and purchased travel insurance through Allianz on Hotwire’s recommendation. The total cost of the car rental was supposed to be $84.

But when we arrived at the car rental facility in Mexico to pick up the car, we were told that our auto insurance coverage through Allianz wasn’t valid and we would have to purchase insurance through the rental agency if we wanted a car. The agency was unwilling to provide us with any transportation back to the airport terminal, so we were forced to pay for rental insurance through Europcar for $527.

When I arrived home, I called Allianz and Hotwire to find out whether it was true that my travel insurance was invalid in Mexico. Allianz’s representatives were helpful and assured me that the coverage I had purchased through their company had been valid. Hotwire’s personnel, on the other hand, were antagonistic.

One Hotwire agent told me that Hotwire would grant me a refund of the price differential between the $84 I had purchased through its site and the $527 Europcar had charged me, but Hotwire later claimed it made me no such promise. It also claimed that the Allianz coverage recommendation on its website was a “glitch.”

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Can you help me get Hotwire to honor its promise and refund me the cost of the insurance I didn’t need? — Allison Blake, Acton, Mass.

Answer: A rate difference of $443 is a huge glitch. And it’s a weak excuse for Hotwire to make for your terrible experience in Mexico.

Unfortunately, there was a gap in communication as to what auto insurance coverage you needed in Mexico.

As our advocate pointed out, the policy you purchased from Allianz included a collision damage waiver (CDW), which is not technically insurance but would have paid for damage to your rental vehicle up to the covered amount. However, it did not include third-party liability coverage, which would have paid your liability, up to a maximum, for any medical care or property damage sustained by a third party if you were found to be at fault in an accident while driving the rental car. Such liability insurance is more expensive than CDW coverage.

Mexico is one of the few countries that does not incorporate third-party liability insurance coverage into its car rental rates, so car rental agencies advertise vehicles at a low rate and then require a large additional amount for the third party liability insurance.

Hotwire’s terms of use contains the following disclaimer: “Some international car rentals have mandatory insurance requirements that result in additional charges at the time of pick up.”

Europcar’s terms and conditions contains the following provision regarding third party liability insurance coverage:

We are mandated by the laws of all of the countries in which we operate our vehicle rental services to insure our Vehicles against liability for the claims or actions of Third Parties. We have purchased the best Third Party Liability insurance from the foremost insurers in the business and it is automatically included as part of our vehicle rental services. You will therefore, as a matter of course, be covered up to the level legally required by the country in which you are renting the Vehicle for the consequences others may suffer as a direct result of your actions whilst you are driving the Vehicle.

Since Mexico mandates purchasing third party liability insurance coverage when renting vehicles, unfortunately, you could not avoid having to pay the high rate for it.

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But we agree with you that all the costs of renting a vehicle should have been disclosed to you by Hotwire at the time you reserved your car. You should not have been caught unaware when you arrived in Mexico to pick up the car. Also, Europcar should not have required you to buy additional CDW coverage in order to rent its cars, as it is not legally mandatory, and neither Europcar nor the rental agency should have told you that the coverage you had was not valid when it was.

Although you might have escalated your complaints to Hotwire and Europcar using our executive contact information, you asked our advocates for assistance in seeking a refund of the price differential between the two daily rates you were charged for insurance coverage.

Because you were forced to buy Europcar’s CDW in order to rent a car in Mexico, Allianz agreed to refund you the cost of the insurance it sold you before our advocates became involved in your case.

Yours is not the only case we’ve recently seen where Europcar has forced renters to purchase CDW coverage in addition to third-party liability insurance. We reached out to Europcar on your behalf with regard to the CDW coverage it required you to purchase, but the only response we received was an invitation for you to ask Hotwire for a refund of the cost of the CDW coverage.

We followed up by asking Europcar why it is demanding that renters buy CDW coverage and whether its suggestion that you contact Hotwire indicated that it would reimburse you for the CDW cost, but we received no response.

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We can only warn car renters about Europcar’s practice of charging for both third party liability insurance and CDW coverage even when the CDW isn’t legally mandatory.

Jennifer Finger

Jennifer is the founder of KeenReader, an Internet-based freelance editing operation, as well as a certified public accountant. She is a senior writer for Elliott.org.

  • Dutchess

    If you read reviews of Europcar this is pretty much SOP for their employees. People arrive, force them to purchase CDW insurance or refuse to rent them the car. The ones that don’t refuse require you to show them proof you have coverage on your credit card. This is how they advertise prices lower than everyone else, because they make it up in garbage insurance fees.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    OTA…the OP should have used the services of a professional brick & mortar travel agent that understood the insurance requirements of Mexico. If the OP wanted to be their own travel agent, a simple Google search of “rental car insurance mexico” would have generate several results with one display link of “Mexico does not accept liability coverage from U.S. auto policies or credit card insurance. You simply cannot rent a car without buying Mexican liability insurance. But here’s what most renters don’t know: By law, the mandatory liability insurance is already included in the rental price.” (Source: www_dot_sfgate_dot_com)

    Living in Arizona and having work for two companies with operations in Mexico, I learned about the Mexico insurance requirements quickly.

  • ArizonaRoadWarrior

    Maybe it is the SOP for Europcar to force people to buying insurance at their locations outside of Mexico.. However, renting a car in Mexico or driving your own car into Mexico requires you to have auto insurance from a Mexico insurance company because they DO not recognize auto insurance from US insurance companies. To me, this is corruption…the Mexican insurance companies paying off the government to force people to purchase auto insurance from Mexican insurance companies if you are driving your own vehicle or renting a vehicle. Regardless of my opinion, a driver needs to have insurance from a Mexican insurance company.

    If you rent a car from Hertz in Phoenix, it will state that you can’t drive the car into Mexico.

    From the Arizona’s AAA website: “Before you hit the road, make sure you’re protected with locally-recognized Mexico Auto Insurance.”

    From the Progressive website: When travelling to Mexico, your United States car insurance policy may not travel across the border with you. Additionally, various Mexico insurance laws require you to purchase liability insurance from an insurer that’s actually licensed to provide coverage in Mexico.

    From the dmv_dot_org/insurance/mexican-car-insurance_dot_php website: In Mexico, U.S. car insurance policies are not valid. If you plan to drive while traveling, you will need to purchase international car insurance from an authorized Mexican auto insurance company.

  • Falfurrias

    Europcar doesn’t require CDW for rentals in Mexico, only Third Party Liability (TLP). Of course if you do not purchase their CDW, they can depending on the rental category put a depost of up to 10K on your credit card. https://www.europcar.com.mx/en/car-hire-mexico.php. The Allianz policy provides coverage for covered events in Mexico.

  • Michael__K

    If Hotwire recommending Allianz CDW for car rentals in Cancun is a glitch, then they still haven’t fixed this glitch. It’s still being offered (“highly recommended”) right now.

    Also, Hotwire does have a link before payment to “Supplier terms and conditions.” When I select Europcar in Cancun it shows the following under “Insurance”:




    Seems like only the SLI should have been mandatory. And I’m guessing this wasn’t a 250 day or so rental to justify a $500+ charge. Sounds like they forced all the optional stuff on him (and maybe quite a bit more than that, unless the rental was for more than 2 weeks).

  • Falfurrias

    Not a glitch, the Allianz policy offered by Hotwire does provide collision coverage (up to 40K) for vehicle rentals, including in Mexico. It was the Europcar agent in Mexico that claimed it wasn’t valid.

  • Michael__K

    I’m referring to this:

    One Hotwire agent told me that Hotwire would grant me a refund of the price differential between the $84 I had purchased through its site and the $527 Europcar had charged me, but Hotwire later claimed it made me no such promise. It also claimed that the Allianz coverage recommendation on its website was a “glitch.”

  • KanExplore

    I rented a car a couple of months ago in Mexico and the rental charge was $6 per day. But I had to pay $34 a day for liability insurance when I arrived to pick up my car. I wasn’t happy about it, and thought about canceling, but in the bigger picture, $40 a day wasn’t a terrible price, so I didn’t fight it for long. I’ve seen rates much lower than $6 actually, but I’m sure the insurance will bring it up to a more standard total. This seems to be the way it is done.

  • Michael__K

    Do you know a professional brick and mortar travel agent who will book a standalone car rental reservation if that’s all you need? (And at what additional cost?)

    BTW, an $84 charge from Hotwire with their Allianz CDW implies a rental period of a week or less. And based on the insurance rates shown on Hotwire for Europcar in Cancun, it is impossible to rack up anywhere close to $500 in insurance costs in one week even if you bought every optional coverage.

  • cscasi

    Avis has, in the past, allowed persons to rent vehicles to drive into Mexico. I know because we used to rent them at the San Diego Airport location to use to drive into Tijuana and also Calexico, Mexico where we did facility inspections. There was an additional fee of somewhere between $16-20 a day for the additional insurance. It was valid and there was never an issue.

  • The Original Joe S

    Europcar? Never hearda them. Why not rent from a very well-known company? Oh, you saved 50¢? Ya gets what ya pays for.

    Online Travel Agency? Bra-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha-ha!

    Go cheep; get what you pay for!

    Go to Mexico? Ha ha ha!

  • Annie M

    “However, it did not include third-party liability coverage,”

    This is always a problem in Mexico. And if you ask them what cost of just this third party liability is, or is only a few dollars cheaper then buying the entire policy. This happened to us as well. We opted to buy the full coverage because I don’t trust anyone in Mexico to be truthful if God forbid something should happen to the car while I had it.

    Renting a car in Mexico is not pleasant.

  • Lindabator

    I do it for clients – and do not charge any additional fees to do so — and yes, I educate them on the foibles of Mexican car rentals

  • Lindabator

    you are correct – some do allow, but make it perfectly clear you MUST pay the additional costs and carry the proper documentation with you at all times

  • Lindabator

    Europcar is one of the largest rental companies in the world — we just are not familiar with them here in the US, unless well traveled

  • Michael__K

    Is this for new clients or for people who have already given you lots of business?

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