How a B.C. woman got stuck with a $4,000 bill after renting a pickup truck

Click to play video: 'Consumer Matters: Car rental nightmare'
Consumer Matters: Car rental nightmare
You may be renting a vehicle when you hit the road this summer, but do you have the proper insurance? Consumer Matters reporter Anne Drewa has details on why it's so important to read your policy to avoid a costly mistake. – Aug 4, 2021

A B.C. woman has a warning for drivers who plan to rent a vehicle this summer: read the fine print of your car rental insurance policy.

Henrietta Veenstra of Squamish was recently hit with a $4,424.50 bill after assuming she was fully covered by her rental’s insurance.

“It was a total hit,” she said. “I was really in shock.”

Click to play video: 'Tony Tighe answers consumer questions on car rental insurance'
Tony Tighe answers consumer questions on car rental insurance

At the beginning of July, Veenstra flew to Calgary to visit family. When she arrived at the National Rental Car counter in Alberta, she says staff members told her no cars were available.

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“Busy day, no vehicles available and they are like, ‘We are cleaning up a pickup truck, do you guys want a pickup truck?’ We said ‘Sure,’” Veenstra said.

At the time, Veenstra turned down the extra insurance offered by the rental company because she was confident she had adequate coverage through her credit card.

While in Calgary, she was caught in a major hailstorm that damaged the truck. When she returned the vehicle and filed a claim, she was shocked to discover her credit card insurance would not cover pickup trucks.

Click to play video: 'Is rental car insurance a necessity or a luxury?'
Is rental car insurance a necessity or a luxury?

“I knew we were going to be hit with damages,” Veenstra said. “I knew I would have to file a claim and go through all of that process, but I was very confident it would be covered in the end and we wouldn’t be on the hook for anything.”

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However, when Veenstra read the fine print of her credit card’s auto rental coverage, it indicated trucks, pickup trucks or any vehicle that can be spontaneously reconfigured into a pickup truck are excluded from coverage.

“I kind of felt sick to my stomach,” she said.

Veenstra did have auto insurance through the Insurance Corporation of B.C., but she only had basic insurance because she is in the middle of selling her vehicle. If Veenstra had ICBC’s optional Roadstar or Roadside Plus packages, she would have been covered.

The Insurance Bureau of Canada says it’s important to read the fine print of any insurance policy.

“The bottom line is that if you are renting a vehicle, make a call to your insurance provider to better understand the coverage that you have and the coverage you might need to ensure you are properly protected in case something happens,” Rob de Pruis of the Insurance Bureau of Canada said.

De Pruis also said most rental insurance policies will only provide coverage while you are in Canada or the United States.

“If you travel outside of North America… to Australia, to Europe, your insurance policy may not be applicable so you might need to purchase the insurance coverage that’s available from the renting organization,” he said.

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Veenstra hopes sharing her experience will help others.

“It was an honest mistake, but a costly mistake,” she said.

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