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Car Rental Insurance: What is Collision Damage Waiver?
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Published in Car Rentals Category.

When you rent a car for a business trip or family vacation, understanding the rental car insurance options can be overwhelming. One key term you'll encounter is Collision Damage Waiver (CDW).

This guide will explain what is Collision Damage Waiver. why it is essential, and how it works to help you make informed decisions.

What is a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW)?

A Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) is an optional insurance product car rental companies offer. It waives the renter's financial responsibility if the rental car is damaged in a collision.

Essentially, it acts as a form of insurance, covering the cost of repairs or the replacement of the vehicle up to a certain amount, reducing or eliminating the amount you might owe if an accident occurs.

Why Collision Damage Waiver Matters?

You are typically responsible for any vehicle damage when you rent a car, regardless of who is at fault. This financial responsibility can be substantial, potentially running into thousands of dollars. A CDW relieves you from these costs, providing a sense of security and peace of mind during your rental period.

How Does Collision Damage Waiver Work?

When you opt for a CDW, you pay an additional daily fee in addition to your rental rate. This is usually done at the car rental counter when you pick up the car. In return, the rental company agrees to cover the cost of any damage to the car minus a deductible. The deductible is the amount you are still responsible for paying before the CDW coverage kicks in.

For example, you're on vacation, and you rent a car. Unfortunately, you get into a minor accident that results in $2,000 worth of damage to the vehicle. Without a CDW, you would be responsible for $2,000. However, if you had purchased a CDW with a $500 deductible, you would only need to pay the $500, and the rental company would cover the remaining $1,500.

Key Features of Collision Damage Waiver

Coverage Limits

CDWs typically have coverage limits, meaning they only cover damages up to a certain amount. Knowing these limits is vital to ensure you are adequately protected, and it often comes with exclusions in situations where the waiver does not apply. Common exclusions include:

  • Damage caused by reckless driving or illegal activities.
  • Damage to certain vehicle parts, such as tires or the undercarriage.
  • Damage occurs when the car is driven by someone not listed on the rental agreement.

The Cost of Collision Damage Waiver

Daily Rates

A CDW costs between $10 and $30 daily. However, car rental insurance costs vary depending on the rental company, the type of vehicle, and the rental location. While this might seem like an additional expense, it can save you significant money and hassle in the event of an accident.

Comparing Prices

It's a good idea to compare CDW prices across different rental companies. Some companies may offer lower rates or even include CDW in their rental packages. Be sure to read the fine print to understand exactly what is covered.

Alternatives to Collision Damage Waiver

Personal Auto Insurance

About 50% of personal auto insurance policies extend coverage to rental cars. Ask your car rental insurance provider to confirm whether your insurance policy covers rental vehicles and the limits and exclusions. Remember that filing a claim on your personal insurance could lead to higher premiums.

Credit Card Coverage

Many credit cards offer rental car insurance as a perk if you use their card to pay for the rental. This coverage is usually secondary, covering what your personal insurance doesn't.

However, credit card coverage often comes with exclusions and limits, so read the terms and conditions carefully.

For example, you rent a car and use a credit card that covers rental car insurance. You get into a minor accident with $1,500 in damages. If your personal auto insurance covers $1,000, the credit card insurance might cover the remaining $500, reducing your out-of-pocket expense.

Deciding Whether to Purchase CDW

Assessing Your Needs

Deciding whether to purchase a CDW depends on several factors:

Personal Insurance: If your personal auto insurance or credit card provides adequate coverage, you might not need a CDW.

Travel Location: CDW is mandatory in some countries and optional in others. Check the requirements for your travel destination.

Risk Tolerance: Consider your comfort level with the potential financial risk. A CDW might be worth the cost if you prefer peace of mind.

For a better understanding,

Suppose you rent a car for a week-long trip to a foreign country. Your personal auto insurance doesn't cover international rentals, and your credit card offers limited coverage.

In this scenario, purchasing a CDW for $20 per day, totaling $140 for the week, might be a wise investment to protect against high repair costs and provide peace of mind.

Pros and Cons of Collision Damage Waiver


  • CDW significantly reduces your financial liability for damages to the rental car.
  • Knowing you are covered can make your trip more enjoyable and stress-free.
  • CDW simplifies the rental process, as you don't need to worry about insurance claims or dealing with your personal insurer. This convenience can make your trip more enjoyable and stress-free.


  • CDW can significantly increase your rental bill, especially for longer rentals. CDW can add up to 40% to the total cost of a rental car.
  • If you already have coverage through your personal insurance or credit card, a CDW might be redundant.
  • CDWs come with exclusions and limits, so you might still be responsible for certain damages.

Do You Need CDW: Making an Informed Decision

Ultimately, purchasing a CDW depends on your circumstances and preferences. Consider the following questions:

  1. Do I have existing coverage through my auto insurance or credit card?
  2. Am I comfortable with the potential financial risk of not having a CDW?
  3. Is the peace of mind worth the additional cost to me?


Understanding Collision Damage Waiver when needed involves evaluating your existing insurance coverage, considering your travel destination, assessing the value of the rental car, and reflecting on your personal risk tolerance. By carefully considering these factors and following the practical steps outlined, you can make an informed decision that ensures you are adequately protected during your car rental experience.