Rental Cars

Jul 1, 2014
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Just make sure you pay up for the insurance. I never would otherwise, but It is worth it to not getting hassled when you drop a care off that looks like a giant sponge from a hail storm.
 
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Warren Faidley

Supporter
May 7, 2006
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Mos Isley Space Port
www.stormchaser.com
FYI, the rental car companies are on to "storm chasing." This comes right from an attorney who handles claims -- and has seen underwriter's discussions regarding the matter. I have yet to see a rental agreement specifically noting "chasing" but any insurance could be voided if they wanted to argue you were using the vehicle in a reckless manner, e.g., like they void insurance for drag racing a rental car. With GPS and other vehicle data recording, it would not be hard to prove. I do know chasers who were billed for the damage, despite having insurance. I am of the opinion that if you have insurance they should have to cover the damage if encountered despite being careful, unless you were purposely driving into hail or being reckless for shi$$s and giggles.
 

Todd Lemery

Staff member
Supporter
Jun 2, 2014
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Menominee, MI
I don’t use one to chase any more, but there were a couple of things I checked out before hand that seemed important. The first was making sure it had AWD and decent ground clearance. Some of those side roads get some pretty deep ruts. The second was making sure there are plenty of charge ports. You can always bring a multi tap or two, but it’s nice to had the vehicle fully loaded with charge ports.
Also, you may want to make sure you can drop the rental off at whatever airport you happen to end up by. That burned me once big time.
 
Dec 8, 2003
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Southeast CO
www.youtube.com
My credit card company provides insurance for any rental car I rent so long as I pay for it using that card, and that is probably true of most any credit card you may have, but obviously you would want to verify that. I always decline the rental company's CDW for that reason (plus they charge a ridiculous amount for it.) I rarely rent anything to chase, but I have done so a few times when both my car and my truck happened to need repairs at the same time. I am always more careful to keep some extra distance between myself and the storm when in a rental car. I sure wouldn't be on any dirt roads with a rental. If something were to happen I would guess there would be a lesser chance of having issues with the credit card insurance vs. the the CDW from the rental company.
 

Randy Jennings

Supporter
May 18, 2013
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Two things to keep in mind when renting a car (chasing or otherwise):
1) Some rental agreements have restrictions on driving the rental out of state, on dirt roads, etc.
2) Any insurance claim will be a big pain (regardless of if it is the optional coverage purchased thru the rental agency, on your own policy, or on a credit car policy). It really gets complicated when there are multiple companies providing coverage. Their goal is to pay as little as possible. You may end up getting them to pay - but remember they have more money and full time staffs to fight you - you might not be able to last long enough in the battle to get them to pay.
 

Dave C

EF2
Jun 5, 2013
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Denver
www.davidcrowlphotography.com
Lots of benefits: Renting is a great way to save miles/depreciation on your daily driver particularly for long chases. Or, if you need a car when you fly in or part ways with another chase partner mid chase, or just to get a car with capabilities yours may not have (maybe newer, more space, better features, better gas mileage, additional ground clearance, more comfort, AWD, etc).

As Warren said, I also highly suggest using the car as if it was your own daily driver: reasonably and ethically both commuting to the chase and near storms. Don't make the mistake some have of perceiving a rental as a free pass to destroy a car via core punching, driving through washouts, getting stuck in thick mud, abusing the tires or engine, etc. Those things should only ever be done in your own property (if then, but that is for another topic). A willful decision to risk or cause damage to someone else's property is unethical. I am not implying anyone in this discussion is doing that or advocating it, just presenting an opinion that people should refrain from that type of use of the rental car.

As has been pointed out, many of these companies are very aware of rentals for chases and will be quick to ban you if they think that is what you are doing. If you damage a vehicle in a storm or high intensity driving situation, I don't agree insurance (whether personal, credit card, damage waiver) has got you covered in all cases. The fine print of almost every rental contract, insurance policy, and loss damage waiver says that accidental damage is covered, not damage resulting from risk or intent, or prohibited uses. The same is true of conventional insurance, they will fight you if they think you risked the vehicle on purpose. The interpretation of deliberate risk or damage is a grey area.

Avoiding hail is pretty easy and you don't miss a lot unless you insist on seeing every grungy HP tornado. Sometimes I think cautious chasers save insurance money since we are weather aware and know not to drive into hail cores and tornadoes.

For myself, I much prefer to chase in my own car as it has the comforts, capabilities, and custom setup I already need (booster, tablet stands, a place for everything, my large amount of emergency and camping supplies, air mattress, etc), but those things can be transferred into the rental if it is a similar class of car.
 

Bobby Little

Supporter
Mar 18, 2013
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eagle, michigan
So 20 yrs ago i flew into phoenix for a vacation in may. i rented ?? A car for $0 (no insurance) but had to make sure it was in Dallas 3 weeks later. (they needed to move rentals thus the '0' )
Hung around phoenix for the first week and took off for the pan handle. Scored 2 nice tornadoes and some hail to the windshield. Turning it back into Dallas rental they wondered where the hell id been putting a ton of mileage on this car and a bad windshield. Im like : goes with the territory..no problem
 
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Jul 5, 2009
1,255
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Newtown, Pennsylvania
We chase vacationers generally have no choice but to rent a car. I like to have a large SUV with 4WD for chasing. Even if I owned one, I wouldn’t want to waste limited vacation time driving to and from the Plains when I could just fly out. If the stars align, sometimes I can actually be chasing that same afternoon.

In 20+ years chasing, I never took the LDW and only had hail damage twice. I got dinged by the rental company only one of those two times, because the windshield cracked in the lower corner. My credit card company covered it (about $600). The other time nothing was said by the rental company. There was a third year with an issue, we got stuck in the mud, no damage but the car was filthy inside and out. The attendant that we gave the car back to said there might be an extra cleaning charge, but they never did charge us.

I agree with Dave C, in many ways we are more careful than the average driver that is wandering around out there, susceptible to hail even just parked at a hotel or whatever. Some of these rental cars get destroyed by hail just sitting in the rental lot.
 
Mar 30, 2008
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Norman, OK
www.benholcomb.com
Most credit cards are only secondary coverage, and I can't imagine getting them to actually pay out. American Express and some other high end cards have good, better and best type programs for rental cars. My AMEX charges me $19.99 per rental and covers me 100% as primary insurance should something happen.

Also, don't even deal with the insurance companies. If you're going to chase, just get the loss damage waiver on the damn car. You can turn them in with no questions asked.
 

Mark Stephens

Enthusiast
Feb 2, 2021
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Philadelphia PA
I have chased in rental vehicles countless times. I've been lucky overall, but not without a fair share of anxiety usually induced by my fear of hail damage. One thing I will note is I discovered at least with my credit card is that they will only cover damage on vehicles rented for under 2 weeks. I had a vehicle rented for the entire month of May on an extended Chasecation last year, and did not realize this caveat in the fine print until after I signed the rental agreement. I was fine of course, but the constant fear of hail is no fun.

Plan to drive my personal vehicle out to the plains from the East coast this Spring to avoid this altogether!
 
Oct 10, 2004
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Madison, WI
I still use rental cars for fly-in chasing, CA wildfires and hurricanes. You just have to treat the property like it belongs to you. I agree with using a credit card to cover insurance. Regardless, things can still happen to a rental car beyond chase damage, e.g., accidents and theft.
All these years later (had the book since I was a kid), your story about getting the LDW on your rental prior to intercepting Hurricane Andrew in Storm Chaser: In Pursuit of Untamed Skies is still good for a chuckle.
 
Apr 13, 2009
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I was looking into renting a car this summer. I read the contracts for the various "insurances" (you have to hunt around a bit to find them). For the companies I looked renting from, I found that driving on dirt roads voided ALL coverages -- not just damage, but liability, towing, etc. I also discovered large variations in the rental car coverage provided by various credit cards. Bottom line: READ EVERYTHING CLOSELY.
 
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