Last Updated on June 19, 2023 by Kristin

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You’re driving a rental car and happen to notice a windshield crack or chip. Was it there when you picked up the car? How did it happen? Will your insurance cover the cost of repair? The answers to these questions will determine whether your trip is about to get worse.

Document All Damage Before Driving Away

If you notice a small chip or crack in your vehicle’s windshield before leaving the rental car lot, the agent might say that it’s small enough not to worry about. Don’t believe it. Get out your smartphone and document all damage, including every dent, ding and scratch. Take photos of the entire car from multiple angles, and don’t forget the the wheels and the windshield. If there’s a small ding that you miss, you could be held accountable for it later on. 

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Why Do Car Windshields Crack?

It’s possible that your rental vehicle may pick up a windshield crack or chip while it is in your possession. A windshield can crack or chip for a variety of reasons, even when the rest of the car appears to be fine. Some of the most common causes include:

  • inclement weather, such as hail
  • accidents, such as tree branches falling
  • debris, such as small rocks or gravel

What to Do If Your Car Windshield Cracks

Find safety and call roadside assistance if needed. If your windshield cracks so badly you cannot see through it clearly, don’t try to drive. Instead, pull over to a safe spot and call the rental car company to let them know that the car is unsafe to drive and clarify next steps. You may be able to use the rental company’s roadside assistance or get this through AAA, AARP or your credit card.

Avoid getting pulled over. Even if you think a cracked windshield is no big deal, be aware that getting pulled over for a noticeably cracked windshield is a very real possibility. Federal laws prohibit driving with a crack measuring more than three-quarters of an inch in diameter or if the windshield has multiple cracks in the same area. States laws can vary regarding driving with cracked windshields.

File an insurance claim. If your windshield cracks while you have a rental car, you may have to file an insurance claim with your car insurance company. The Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) from the rental car company should cover a cracked windshield. Likewise, your personal auto policy should cover it if your policy includes comprehensive coverage.

How to Avoid Windshield Cracks

To lower the risk of having a cracked windshield from cracking, try to park the car in an enclosed place to avoid potential hail storms or freak accidents such as a tree branch falling on the windshield. Avoid driving on unpaved roads or off-road situations. Not only can this increase the chance of a stray rock striking the windshield, but it may be a violation of your rental agreement—and in that case, you may be on the hook for damages.

Who Pays for a Cracked Windshield on a Rental Car?

Whether or not you will be held responsible for your rental car’s windshield cracking depends on a few factors, including how the damages occurred and what kind of coverage you have.

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The rental car company’s collision damage waiver (CDW) should cover the damages from the cracked windshield if the damage was beyond the renter’s control. If you don’t have a CDW, you can file a claim using your personal auto insurance. If the cracked windshield did not happen as a result of a car accident, the damages should be covered by your policy’s comprehensive coverage. It’s also worth checking your credit card’s policy to see if it would cover damages to the windshield.

Note that this is a case where your choice of rental company may matter. Hertz may charge as little as $15 to repair a windshield chip.