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Kelly Kapoor’s Auto Insurance Headache

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If only “The Office” star Mindy Kaling had access to the corporate credit card or a travel-booking HR rep, she might not have overpaid for car rental insurance.

Kaling, who plays Kelly Kapoor on the popular show, tweeted Thursday, “Beware guys! Rented a car on Expedia. They sold me car insurance. I picked up the car, was told the insurance didn’t cover that type of car.” She said she ended up buying insurance from the rental company, but couldn’t get the “25-50 bucks” spent through Expedia refunded.

Without more information from “The Office” actress (who declined to comment), it’s tough to say who’s at fault — the unnamed car rental company, Expedia, or Kaling herself, says Phil Reed, consumer advice editor for Edmunds.com. “I can’t think of any reason why it would not be covered,” he says. (An Expedia spokesman says the company is investigating, and that its policy is to offer a refund in cases where there has been  a miscommunication on coverage. The company tweeted Kaling to apologize, asking her to follow them and send them a message with details so that they could look into the issue.)

But as airlines and other travel sites branch out more into booking car rentals, Kaling’s dilemma is one more consumers might face. “The insurance that they sell is a very high-profit items for them, and they’re very eager to sell you that,” Reed says. Full coverage could add as much as $26 per day to the cost of a rental, so it’s important to weigh the options before you hit the road:

Check current coverage. “Many people are insured, possibly twice, before they even get to the counter,” Reed says. Car owners typically have adequate collision coverage through their regular policy. Many credit cards also offer free rental insurance coverage as a perk for cardholders. (You’ll need to book the rental with that card to take advantage.) Call reps for both to check coverage and exclusions.

Compare options. If you have a choice of places from which to buy coverage, as Kaling did, take time to read the policy documents and compare costs. Policies may not provide coverage for say, driving on dirt roads or traveling with expensive goods in the vehicle, Reed says. Expedia’s excludes rental of trucks, motorcycles and “exotic vehicles,” among other factors.

Skip unnecessary add-ons. Collision, liability and comprehensive insurance is all you need, Reed says. Companies may try to sell you add-ons for roadside assistance, theft from inside the vehicle and other things, but they add more to your bill than they do to coverage.

Update: The story has been updated to add a response from Expedia.com.


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