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When renting a car in Oregon, does the agent have to explain to me what insurance options I am accepting/declining?

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There are two separate questions that you would be interested in. One is whether you understand the terms of the contract: you probably don't, but also, the agent probably doesn't either, and they cannot give you legal advice about what the contract means. So you have to take it or leave it (and typically one takes it).

The other is whether you actually have been told what the terms are. The answer usually is "No, not really". The document that you sign / initial does not contain all of the terms of the contract, but will (or should) refer to some other thing that constitutes the full set of conditions – let's call that the "external specification" (I don't know of a uniform name for the thing). You can request a copy of that thing, or ask to see it, but they may not be able to provide it to you at the counter (I had that experience in an airport). You choice they is simple: if you do not have faith in the company spelling out the terms of the contract in honest legalese, you should not sign the agreement. Otherwise, you might reasonably do so. Certain concepts usually are left open, such as "administrative fee".

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It's generally up to you to inform yourself of the terms of any contract you are entering - the other party to the contract is not obliged to do it for you.

  • Yeah, that's my assumption too - signed on the dotted line a bit too quickly ☹️ – Matthew Herbst Aug 27 '17 at 2:43
  • When the terms of the contract have been written by the other party, it certainly is an obligation on them to inform this party of those terms. Without being provided them in some way, there's an argument that no contract has been formed, even if providing the terms was a simple matter of saying "this website, look for TOU, that's the whole thing, now sign here". – Nij Dec 25 '17 at 10:53
  • @Nij have you ever rented a car without being provided with and signing the contract? – Dale M Dec 25 '17 at 23:04
  • I've never seen a rental contract that didn't specify where the terms were written, and this is always in a publicly accessible place (usually both a tatty paper version somewhere and online at the company website). The other party is obliged to inform the terms in some way to this party, actual reading and familiarisation is something separate. – Nij Dec 26 '17 at 3:04
  • @Nij My point exactly - the renter must make the contract available he doesn’t have to (and shouldn’t) explain it – Dale M Dec 26 '17 at 8:27

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