Zipcar insurance: How it works

Zipcars come with basic insurance coverage, but regular users may want to add more protection if they don't already have their own car insurance.

Andrew Hurst

By

Andrew Hurst

Andrew Hurst

Senior Editor & Licensed Auto Insurance Expert

Andrew Hurst is a senior editor and a licensed auto insurance expert at Policygenius. His work has also been featured in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, USA Today, NPR, Mic, Insurance Business Magazine, ValuePenguin, and Property Casualty 360.

Updated|4 min read

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When it comes to auto insurance, Zipcar generally offers members a minimum amount of coverage. Zipcar provides drivers with enough car insurance protection to meet the required minimum coverage amounts in whatever state an accident occurs. You can carry up to $300,000 of excess coverage, too.

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Zipcars insurance also includes coverage that pays for the cost of repairing physical damage to a rented vehicle. Members have to pay up to $1,000 if they're involved in an accident — even if no claim is filed — but higher-tier members can pay lower fees.

Key takeaways

  • Zipcars come with the minimum required amount of insurance, but drivers can purchase more liability coverage if they want.

  • While Zipcar insurance includes physical damage coverage, drivers who don't purchase a damage fee waiver have to pay up to $1,000 if their vehicle is damaged.

  • Zipcar insurance only covers damage after any insurance you may already have is exhausted, though you don't need your own insurance to rent a Zipcar.

Zipcar liability insurance

Zipcar rentals automatically include the minimum amount of liability insurance required in the state where an accident occurs. The liability coverage that comes with a Zipcar rental only covers drivers who are permitted to drive the vehicle, and its protection is secondary to any existing policy you already have.

Users who want more liability insurance can buy more coverage. Zipcar offers additional liability insurance that you can purchase on an hourly or daily basis. You can add up to $300,000 of combined bodily injury and property damage liability coverage. 

Although Zipcar liability insurance is included when you rent a car, you're required to waive un-/underinsured motorist liability coverage unless it's also required by law. Since this coverage is optional in most states, you would have to pay for the damages caused by an uninsured driver yourself when using a Zipcar.

→ Learn more about how liability coverage works on a regular car insurance policy

Who can get Zipcar insurance?

Zipcar insurance is available to people who are members of the service. Zipcar does not provide coverage in the event that you let a non-member drive your rental and they're involved in an accident. To become a member you must be at least 21 years old or a student at a university Zipcar has partnered with.

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Zipcar insurance and physical damage

In addition to the Zipcar liability insurance, your rental comes with physical damage protection. Physical damage insurance covers the cost of repairs to your own vehicle. If your car is damaged, you're responsible for a fee of up to $1,000.

Unlike with comprehensive and collision coverage — two common forms of physical damage insurance — you have to pay a fee for your vehicle's damage no matter who's responsible. While members don't have to pay a fee for wear and tear, Zipcar does require payment in the event of an accident, flat tire, windshield cracks, dead batteries, vandalism, and other incidents.

You can lower or even avoid a damage fee entirely by purchasing Zipcar's damage fee waiver (DFW). As long as you're a member and have had no Zipcar accidents in the past 12 months, you can reduce or remove a damage fee by electing to pay a higher membership premium. The cost of waiving or reducing your damage fee is listed below:

Plan nameCost of planFee per incident
StandardNo costUp to $1,000
Plus$5/month or $50/yearUp to $375
Premium$9/month or $79/year, or $0.95/hour or $5.95/day$0

You're not obligated to purchase a DFW from Zipcar. If you already have comprehensive and collision coverage in your personal car insurance policy, you won't have to pay a damage fee — though you would have to pay your policy's deductible. Likewise, a loss damage waiver or collision damage waiver — a form of rental car insurance — can allow you to avoid buying a DFW from Zipcar, too.

How to add damage fee waiver with Zipcar

You're able to add a damage fee waiver to your Zipcar insurance as long as you're 18 years or older and have had no accidents or incidents in a Zipcar in the last 12 months. 

If you're eligible, adding a DFW is easy: simply select and confirm higher coverage limits in your app's profile settings. After you sign up for an annual or monthly DFW, your plan will automatically renew.

Your damage fee waiver may be canceled if you violate your user agreement with Zipcar. Common violations may include:

  • Allowing a non-member to drive your rental

  • Forgetting to lock or close your windows or doors

  • Failing to notify Zipcar after an accident or incident

  • Not paying for service

Do you need insurance for Zipcar?

While you need coverage to drive, you don't necessarily need Zipcar insurance. According to its terms of service, Zipcar insurance is meant to provide secondary insurance protection. If you already have insurance, your existing coverage will have to be exhausted before Zipcar insurance would pay for damages.

However, if you don't already own a car and have insurance — and many Zipcar users don't — you aren't required to purchase more than the minimum amount of coverage that comes with any Zipcar insurance policy. That being said, it might be a good idea to buy more insurance in order to avoid paying for damage yourself.

If you don't want to pay for Zipcar insurance but you don't already have coverage of your own, you have a few options. Instead of Zipcar insurance, you could get: 

  • Non-owner car insurance: A non-owner policy can offer frequent Zipcar users higher limits of liability coverage than what's available with Zipcar insurance. Non-owner insurance also provides uninsured and underinsured drivers coverage, which a Zipcar policy does not offer in most cases.

  • Rental car insurance: Rental car insurance policies offer short-term protection against liability claims and physical damage. You could add excess liability and coverage for your personal property with most rental car insurance companies.

  • Coverage from a credit card: Many major credit card issuers offer benefits to cardholders that can fill in the gaps of a Zipcar insurance policy. As long as you pay for your reservation with a credit card that has insurance benefits, you can often get physical damage protection in the form of a loss damage or collision damage waiver and avoid the cost of a damage fee.

How to file a claim with Zipcar insurance

Properly (and promptly) making a claim after an accident or an incident is crucial to receiving the benefits of Zipcar insurance. The company's user agreements state that members may not receive coverage if they fail to notify Zipcar about the loss and fill out a report form. To remain in compliance, in the event of an accident Zipcar users should:

  1. Call Zipcar's reporting hotline at 966-4ZIPCAR

  2. Document the damage, along with the date and time of the incident, names and contact information of those involved, and fill out a police report. 

  3. Fill out the incident report form that Zipcar insurance will send.

  4. Communicate and cooperate with Zipcar and the company's third-party adjusters

  5. Await the completion of Zipcar's investigation into the incident and assessment of your vehicle's damage.

  6. Pay a damage fee and any other charges after the end of the investigation.

→ Learn about how to make a standard auto insurance claim

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Frequently Asked Questions

How does Zipcar insurance work with other forms of coverage?

Zipcar insurance is meant to provide secondary protection, unless you don't have coverage already. This means that you will have to exhaust the coverage limits of your existing car insurance policy before you can make a claim with Zipcar insurance. However, if you don't have your own car insurance, your Zipcar insurance will provide primary protection.

Does Zipcar include roadside assistance?

Zipcar provides roadside assistance automatically. As long as your car's need for emergency roadside assistance doesn't result from a violation of Zipcar's terms of use — like illegal activity, negligence, or driving your car while intoxicated — you won't have to pay extra for the cost of the service.

Do I have to pay a cleaning fee for Zipcar?

Zipcar requires you to keep your vehicle clean, though the company performs all necessary routine maintenance. However, Zipcar also reports that you actively aid the company in upkeep by notifying the service of any abnormal noises and handling issues as soon as possible. Failure to do so may result in your membership being terminated.