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INSURANCE – “Do I need Insurance in Belize?”

Insurance: Do I decline or take the rental insurance? This is a Major choice:

If you are renting a car in the USA and have your own personal automobile insurance then yes, definitely you can decline the insurance because your personal automobile insurance policy is your primary coverage provider and your credit card will be the secondary.

However when travelling and renting outside the USA your credit card is your primary coverage provider.  There are various stipulations and limitations in effect when renting outside the U.S.A. on your credit card insurance policy.

There are literally thousands of different credit card issuing companies, each having their own variations in respect to their car rental insurance policy coverage if provided at all. One of the most common problems experienced outside the U.S. is that the majority of the credit card companies will only extend coverage to you if you are travelling on a paved or hard surface roads.  Unfortunately, most of the tourist destinations such as the Mayan sites, cave tubing, the mountain pine ridge reserve, zip lining, bird watching at the Crooked Tree Wild Life Sanctuary are all on dirt roads.  Please verify with your credit card company to determine if you are covered on a dirt/gravel road.

Please be aware also that declining insurance in Belize can be risky and you could become liable for the balance of what the credit card would not pay.  A lot of credit card companies will only pay the US manufactures list price or current book value in the USA but will not take care of the Belize import duties and taxes which possibly can leave you liable for up to 60-70% of the claim being denied by the credit card company.

Again, each credit card is different; so it would be best to email your credit card provider and inform them that you’re travelling to Belize and that you’ll be travelling on dirt/gravel roads and want to know if you have coverage.Also, ask them what their policy is in the event of a claim.  Will they pay the Belize import duties and taxes on the rental vehicle?

Deposits:

Expect higher deposits than in the US.  Again, due to the fact that vehicles cost almost double than in the US and the limited parts availability in Belize makes the security/deductible deposits run between US$750 – US$3000 which is normally based on the actual cash value of the vehicle.  Normally when an authorization is taken for a deposit, the credit card company will hold these funds which can be held from 7 days up to 2 weeks before it is automatically released, again depending on the credit card company.

Customers with limited credit card funds; I suggest that you have the rental car company charge everything less US$5 to your credit card.  When you return have the rental car company charge the last US$5 to the authorized deposit which will in effect immediately clear out the original authorization amount releasing the funds back to the credit card.  Also beware of companies who will not take a security deposit/deductible which the credit card guide line recommend that the car rental companies do.  If you do rent from one of these companies that does not require a security deposit/deductible, please make sure you’re financially capable of assuming any financial obligation or liability in respect of the vehicle so as to not incur any legal delays which may prevent you from leavng the country.

Types of vehicles available for rent in Belize:  There are 3 types of vehicles that you can rent in Belize.

U.S. Vehicles:

vehicles manufactured for the U.S. market with the highest safety and pollutions standards in the world.  Normally these are larger more comfortable vehicles.

3rd World Vehicles:

vehicles manufactured for 3rd world countries which are smaller lighter and less expensive.

Chinese manufactured vehicles

Now that you know the facts about the rental industry in Belize you’re now ready to start searching on the internet but here are a few things to look out for:

Beware of companies who use generic photographs and advertise “or similar vehicles” or you’ll never know the actual year, make or model you’re going to get until you show up.  “Or similar vehicle” may work in your favor in the U.S. where the franchises maintain strict control but do not count on it in Belize.

When inquiring with any companies about rental vehicles it is suggested you email the following:

The most important question is to ask the rental company about their reservation cancellation policy.  What if you arrive to pick up your vehicle and are not satisfied with it?  Will you be forced into taking it by them charging you penalties OR do they have a 100% customer satisfaction guarantee where if you are not satisfied; you are free to walk away with no obligations or penalties.  Who would you rather deal with?

What is the year, Mileage and length of service of the vehicles and how long has this been a rental unit?

What type of vehicle do they rent? Is it a US issued vehicle, 3rd World or Chinese?

Inquire about their liability insurance coverage.  While some companies only carry what is required by the government of Belize: of a $20,000BZ ($10,000 USD) liability, other more responsible companies have a $1,000,000.00 BZ policy to help protect both the company and renters in the event of an unforeseen accident.

When you find the vehicle you want to rent, at the time of renting ask what the charges are for a chipped windshield.  The reason for asking this is that different companies charge different prices which can run from as low as US$280 to US$1200 depending on the company. Some will show you an invoice for US$1100-$1200 for a factory dealership windshield, but then only install a US$450 aftermarket windshield. It’s better to know up front than when you return the vehicle because they may quote you a lower price initially so as not to scare you away.  Fortunately, there are not as many dump trucks which are not properly covered on the roads of Belize, but if you come up behind one on the road, please do keep your distance.  Remember most credit card insurances will not pay for a damaged windshield unless it was damaged in a collision, thus making you responsible for chipped windshield damage.

Now you know the facts and completed your research the next step will be as follows:

Now that you have made your reservation and confirmed with the rental car company about its 100% customer satisfaction guarantee, before you go to pick up your reservation, shop around at the other car rental agencies at the International Airport and actually look and inspect beforehand the different types of vehicles, their condition and pricing – also you may be able to get a last minute discount.  This way when you go to your chosen rental company and are not satisfied with the vehicle; you have the option to walk away without being penalized or pressured.

*IMPORTANT* DRIVING IN BELIZE: on an added note, driving in Belize is like driving anywhere else in the world except for one thing.  When making a left hand turn any approaching vehicle or any vehicle immediately behind you has the right away.  You must pull over to the extreme right hand side of the road and let both lanes of traffic clear before turning left.

I hope that all this information will be helpful in assisting you on your research and decision about your first car rental in Belize. I hope you have a pleasant and enjoyable time in Belize.  It is a wonderful country.

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