Strong-armed into buying insurance for my rental car — it’s happening again!

It happened again: those pesky car rental companies with their bogus insurance requirements, forcing customers to buy unwanted coverage.

Samantha Sigler says she experienced this at a Thrifty car rental counter in Orlando. An agent told her insurance was “mandatory” — and she bought it.

The agent knew that Sigler had flown in from Ottawa,Canada. Strong-arming international visitors into insurance is a time-honored scam in the car rental industry. But the agent underestimated Sigler. Details in a minute.

I’ve written a series of stories in the last few days about “mandatory” insurance that isn’t really mandatory. There’s no state or federal rule that requires a car renter purchase the expensive and highly profitable insurance offered by the car rental company. Indeed, extras like collision-damage waivers (CDW) and loss-damage waivers (LDW) are, and have always been, totally optional.

Lately, something has shifted, and not for the better. Car rental companies have begun insisting that their renters pay for insurance or protection waivers. Among their targets: international visitors, specifically motorists flying in from Canada or Mexico, and walk-up customers.

That’s where Sigler comes in.

“I rented the car in advance through an online agent,” she explains. “When I arrived at the airport, an agent asked me if I was interested in obtaining additional insurance coverage for the car.”

That’s where the sales pitch started …

I told the agent that I was not interested, as I was covered by the coverage provided by my credit card.

In response, the agent told me that it was mandatory for to purchase Liability Insurance Supplement coverage pursuant to Florida state law, as “there was no way that the state of Florida would cover the cost of an accident that could be over $1 million.”

I again told the agent that I did not want to purchase any additional coverage, yet he kept repeating that it was mandatory according to Florida state law, and in the end I purchased the Liability Insurance Supplement coverage.

Sigler neglected to mention one thing: She’s a lawyer. She may not have read the fine print on the rental before she picked up the keys, but now she would. The rules were clear: She didn’t need the insurance. She’d been duped.

“After leaving the airport, I consulted with the agency that helped me book the car rental,” she says. “They told me that Liability Insurance Supplement was not required pursuant to the law. I was extremely surprised, and when I returned the car to the airport once the rental had come to an end, I asked for a refund of the Liability Insurance Supplement charges.”

Of course, Sigler can be very persuasive. So in the end, Thrifty refunded the charges.

But she wants to warn others.

“Other customers may not consider contacting the agency through which they rent the car,” she says. “This agent may have tricked and conned numerous other tourists by invoking the mandatory-by-law line. He is duping innocent people and should be stopped. He is lining his pockets at the great expense of others.”

So noted.

Let’s set the record straight. You don’t have to buy insurance for your rental car in Florida. True, there’s an insurance requirement. But if you rent for less than a year, the owner is the car rental company.

The lessor, under an agreement to rent or lease a motor vehicle for a period of less than 1 year, shall be deemed the owner of the motor vehicle for the purpose of determining liability for the operation of the vehicle or the acts of the operator in connection therewith only up to $100,000 per person and up to $300,000 per incident for bodily injury and up to $50,000 for property damage.

Reality check: You should still get some kind of coverage, just in case you’re in an accident. But you don’t have to — nor should you have to prove you’re insured. The State of Florida doesn’t consider you the owner of the vehicle, so you don’t have to prove anything, at least legally.

These hard-sell tactics are wrong. It’s time for them to end.

Should car rental customers be required to buy insurance?

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