Customer Exchange Primary and Supplemental Rental Car Liability Insurance in the United States

Rental car meets house!

Real names have not been used in the interest of privacy

Normally we don't put customer exchanges in blog posts, though we figured this is an important topic, given so many are bamboozled by how rental car liability insurance works in the US, given all 50 states have different regulations and coverage levels. 


Customer question:


I'm hoping you can clarify something from your website. I was presented with the option to add both Renter's Contingent Liability Insurance (RCLI) and Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI).

I understand that SLI is more comprehensive - does it not cover claims which might be covered under RCLI?

Essentially, I'm asking if these are two COMPLETELY separate types of coverage or if purchasing both would actually be redundant because SLI is sufficient, if selected.


Company response: 

Hello Customer

Thanks for the message.
It really depends. For example every rental car by law has to have the state minimum coverage (in CA its $35K) Thus, buying SLI makes sense because it will increase your coverage from $35K up to $1M in aggregate liability.
Let's say for example you have an accident and injure somebody, the rental car company will need to pay the claim for the state minimum amount up to $35K, and your SLI liability policy will cover additional expenses up to $1M. 
Now, the thing about state minimum, is the rental company can claim that $35K back off. For example if the accident was in CA, the rental car company would pay up to $35K for the claim, but could then claim that back off you the renter.  And that's why RCLI exists - because it is primary liability insurance to the state minimum amount. 
So, with RCLI the rental company won't try to sue you for the state minimum because your primary liability (RCLI) will cover the claim up to the state minimum and your SLI will kick in after that up to the $1M aggregate. 
I know it seems quite complicated, but we offer both options because it's a genuine risk that most people don't really know exists. For example: in many states a driver 25 years or younger has to have their own primary liability insurance. Normally they just wouldn't be able to rent from major rental companies (if they don't have an auto policy), but now they can buy the RCLI and be covered by the primary state minimum. voila!
Please let us know if you have any further questions. 
Safe travels! Team

Customer response:

Thanks for the very clear explanation!


In 2005 the Graves Amendment was passed into law, preventing rental car companies being vicariously liable for damage that their customer cause in a rental car. 
In 2020 the Graves Amendment was upheld by a federal court, solidifying the finding that rental car companies are required to have insurance for their vehicles (i.e. the state minimum) but can legally claim those expenses from their customers.