Navigating International Car Rental Insurance

Choosing rental car insurance policy domestically is pretty simple, especially when major credit card companies offer car rental insurance through their platform. Though it is simple to find the right policy within the states, it may not be as simple when searching for one internationally.

Make sure you find an insurance company that offers international auto insurance policy. Additionally, there are a few extra things to consider depending on where you are traveling because foreign countries do not operate the same way that we do domestically.

Despite there being a few extra hoops to jump through, renting overseas is not impossible. It actually has its added benefits because you get to explore more of a new country. Following tips for acquiring car rental insurance overseas can make the process smoother so you can start exploring as soon as you touch down.

Find Out if You Need an International Driving Permit

By definition, an international driving license is a document confirming the right to drive vehicles outside the state that issued it.

This certificate is issued on the basis of your country's driver's license. You do not need to take any additional exams to obtain the document. Validity of international rights - 3 years.

Such a certificate allows you to drive your car abroad or rent a car. But you need to take into account the nuance of international car hire insurance.

Just as the United States requires its drivers to be licensed, most, if not all, other countries require the same. So the first thing you need to do is figure out if the place you are visiting requires an international driving permit. The rental company and the insurance company may not serve you if you do not have this.

You can find this out by inquiring with the embassy in the country you are visiting. It is important to remember that countries' rules and laws vary just as much as their process for implementing their rules differ. For instance, the Swiss has a driving license exchange system but a neighboring country may not.

The bright side is that getting an international driving permit is not as difficult as you may think. The two traveling administrations that license international drivers, National Automobile Club and AAA, make the process simple.

The process can take four to six weeks depending on how many other people are applying for international permits.

To apply, you fill out an application, provide the organizations with two photos of yourself (passport-style), and pay a fee. Once you have your permit, you can use it for up to a year from receiving it.

Learn the Rules of the Road

Imagine being a local resident and having a foreigner driving in your hometown without being sure that they know the rules of the road. I am pretty sure that would leave you frightened because, of course, you want your loved ones safe!

Rental car insurance providers want to be sure they are offering a policy to someone who has taken the time to learn the laws of the country they are visiting. Everything you do should be questioned in a legal aspect, like if you’re breaking the law by driving in a bikini as you head to the local beach?

Some places are more strict with their distracted driving laws, so the answer to that question could very well be yes. Getting a ticket, or worse, in another country could hinder you from getting an international car rental insurance policy the next time you travel overseas.

Another thing to note is the fact that you may have to drive a car that has a manual transmission or drive on the opposite side of the road. Everyone cannot easily adapt to different driving styles and laws, so it is best to educate yourself on how the rules of the road run before arriving.

Should I compare U.S. rates and local rates where I am visiting?

Now that you have your international driving permit and have learned the laws of the road, you can start comparing car rental insurance rates. To get a good idea of which policy rates are reasonable or not, you can compare the international rates to the ones you are familiar with within the United States.

Large rental companies like Enterprise and Hertz charge more for rental cars in foreign countries, so it can only be assumed that they charge more for their coverage policies too. Personal car insurance policies do not extend to abroad either, so you have to find another provider.

If you have a personal umbrella policy, there is a chance you are covered internationally because this policy usually applies anywhere in the world. However, you may have to still buy liability insurance specific to the country you are visiting.

To combat higher rates from the rental companies you are used to, you can save money by purchasing coverage from the local rental company you are getting your car from.

Before your travel dates, you should reach out to foreign rental companies, rental companies you are familiar with, and your credit card company to see what rates they are offering. From those presented rates, you can decide which ones save you the most money.

Check What is Covered under the Rental Policy

One car rental insurance provider may be cheaper than the other, but it may not cover everything you need to be covered. So after asking about their rates, inquire about what exactly these policies cover while driving internationally.

If you choose a basic policy, be sure to read the fine print to know what is not covered in this policy. Again, different companies have different minimum coverage requirements. In Europe, mandated liability coverage protects any accident-related impairment to anything and anyone outside the car. This is why researching the country’s laws is important.

In places like Italy, vehicle theft is extremely common so a loss and damage waiver (LDW) and theft protection are mandatory there. Also, having a zero-deductible collision damage waiver (CDW) coverage can protect your pockets and peace of mind if you happen to get into an accident.

Plan before You Travel

You cannot be completely sure what type of coverage is needed until you know the laws of the road. So with that information and your personal preference, you can easily shop around for the perfect coverage.

Though you are looking in a different country, shopping around for the best rate is still recommended. Nevertheless, finding the right coverage is not impossible, and once you do, be sure to respect the country you are visiting and limit your tourism carbon footprint.

Imani Francies,
Imani Francies,

Imani Francies writes and researches for the auto insurance comparison site, She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Media and specializes in various forms of media marketing.

Frequently Asked Questions

What should travelers know about international car rental insurance, and how can they ensure adequate coverage?
Travelers should understand the types of coverage offered, such as collision damage waiver and theft protection. They should check if their existing policies provide international coverage and consider purchasing additional insurance from the rental company if needed.

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