OTAs and Car Rental Insurance in Costa Rica

Online travel agencies (OTAs) are on the rise as customers search for bargains in their vacation flights, accommodation and car rental.  While these websites often appear to have amazingly low prices, frequent users of such sites know that reading the small print is essential in order to be informed of all further costs, surcharges and taxes that could be additional to the screen advertised price.
One of the biggest issues for OTA customer booking car rental for Costa Rica is insurance coverage.  Car rental protection is a money maker for OTAs and the promotion of their car insurance at a cheap rate is tempting to many online bookers.  However, it is not as simple as clicking the right buttons and charging the credit card.
Third Party Insurance (TPL) is an obligatory coverage in the country and although can be covered by an outside agency in theory; in practice there are no formal agreements in place between any coverage providers other than the Costa Rican government’s own INS policies. Regardless of the stated coverage on the OTA website, the car rental agency cannot allow a customer on the road without additional insurance.
No OTA Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) coverage options are accepted by Costa Rican car rental agencies for a number of valid reasons:
1. The CDW offered by OTAs is unsuitable for Costa Rican car rental as its exclusions make its coverage inapplicable:
a. Both Priceline and Expedia’s terms and conditions clearly state that excluded vehicles include: rentals of trucks, campers, trailers, off-road or four wheel drive vehicles, motor bikes, motorcycles, recreational vehicles or Exotic Vehicles.  Approximately 60% of the vehicle fleets for rental car agencies are 4×4 vehicles so this exclusion is prohibitive for the customer.
b. The maximum coverage amount is often below the replacement value of the rental vehicle. A new full-sized or premium SUV sells for far more than the $35,000 maximum pay out on many OTA policies, such as Orbitz.
c. Most terms and conditions also mention in their terms and conditions that driving on unpaved roads voids insurance. At this point, it’s impossible not to laugh!  Anyone who’s driven in Costa Rica will know that avoiding unpaved roads is simply impossible.
2. As if the three reasons above weren’t sufficient, there is another factor to consider. The OTA coverage is a transaction between the OTA and the client.  The client must transmit the claim to the OTA if they are involved in an accident, or there is damage to the rental vehicle, but Costa Rican businesses do not have formal agreements with the OTAs regarding their CDW transactions; therefore this is not possible.
OTAs sell full insurance options to their customers, and yet this coverage is useless when the customer reaches Costa Rica.  It’s all there in the small print but it takes a determined customer to find the tiny details.  But what remains clear it that the car rental agency is not to blame if the customer’s purchased insurance is rejected, and further insurance has to be bought.
For further information go to the links below:
See Expedia insurance terms and conditions here: http://images.trvl-media.com/media/content/expus/graphics/promos/other/expedia_car_travel_protection_1_2015.pdf
See Priceline insurance terms and conditions here: https://img1.priceline.com/rentalcars/insurance/des_coverage.html?v=72
See Orbitz insurance terms and conditions here: http://aontravelprotect.net/exc/zerodeductiblecar.html