The thought of driving on the other side of the road is more thrilling than getting the proper insurance to do it.

Because getting insured on a rental a car internationally comes with more complications than getting insured on a rental in the United States, get prepared well ahead of time with the proper coverage for your international adventure.

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Who Will Insure Me While I’m Driving a Rental Car Abroad?

Chances are, your standard auto insurance policy won’t cover you while you’re driving abroad. Your main options for getting covered are:

  1. Adding additional coverage, or short-term insurance, with your current carrier.
  2. Using the coverage offered by your credit card company.
  3. Having auto insurance added to your travel insurance.
  4. Getting covered through the car rental company.
  5. A combination of the above.

If you’re using one of the first three options, it’s important to be aware of all restrictions and exclusions that may apply. For example, your credit card company may cover a sedan but not an SUV. Get specific details from whatever source(s) of insurance you're relying on.  Understand exactly what countries, cars, and rental durations are eligible for the coverage, and what limitations the coverage has.

Take your time figuring out the insurance when you’re at the rental counter. If you’re getting insurance from the rental company, be sure that you understand all agreements and any paperwork that you sign. You’ll be held accountable even if you didn’t understand what they meant, so ask questions if you're confused.

If you’re using coverage other than what’s offered by the rental company, do the following to avoid common problems that transpire at the rental counter.

  • Have proof of insurance from your carrier, credit card company, or other insurer. You may get hassled at the car rental counter if you refuse the insurance offered by the car rental company, so it’s best to have documentation on hand to prove that you’re adequately covered.
  • Call your credit card company to see if, in the case that your insurance is rejected by the rental company, signing the Collision Damage Waiver (also called a Loss Damage Waiver) would cancel out the insurance benefits provided by the card company. Do this ahead of time to avoid the cost of an international call!

Unfortunately, getting all of your insurance concerns settled doesn’t mean you’re quite ready to hit the road in a foreign country.

When Driving Abroad, Don’t Forget...

Think through these common considerations to save yourself from an international driving headache...or accident.

  • Book your rental car early. You’ll be able to find better deals and reserve vehicles that meet your insurance eligibility requirements. 
  • Ensure that your American license is accepted in all of the countries that you’re visiting. You might need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP). This permit has to be obtained through the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the National Automobile Club before you leave the country.
  • Have mandatory equipment for the countries you’re visiting, or make sure it comes with the rental car. In France, for example, drivers are required to carry visibility equipment that can be used in case of a breakdown or accident.
  • Get the details of dropping off the rental vehicle to avoid hefty fees or inconveniences. Don’t assume that you can drop off the rental at any time or rental location. In addition, make sure that you know if the car needs to be returned with a full tank.
  • Bring a GPS if you have one. You’ll probably want a GPS to navigate your way around, but you can save money if you pack your own. Some rental companies charge for GPS.
  • Know the rules of the road. This is perhaps the most important piece of advice! Your risk of an accident will be significantly decreased if you understand the rules of the road in the country or countries where you’re driving (in addition to basic road no-nos). If you don’t, you’ll be a hazard to yourself, your passengers, and other drivers.