Find Cheap Auto Insurance Quotes in Your Area
If you rent cars in the U.S. with any frequency, you probably know the drill when it comes to insuring your rental. Most or all of the coverage you need is available through either the insurance on a car you own or as a no-cost extra with the credit card you use to cover the rental.
Those coverages also apply widely to car rentals in Europe. However, as with just about everything else abroad, certain nuances and exceptions apply, and it's wise to read up on them before you're standing, under-informed and likely jetlagged, at that foreign rental counter.
Here's what you need to know about renting across the pond:
1. Liability coverage is included in your rental fee
Within most of Europe — and certainly within the European Union — your car-rental fee must include adequate liability coverage. You may use this type of coverage if the car is damaged or you cause harm to someone on the road. The agent may pitch you an upgrade for more liability insurance, but most experts feel you can safely forgo that extra coverage.
The rental agency may be skeptical that your credit card covers you
Many U.S. credit cards (including virtually all rewards and travel credit cards) offer free coverage that allows you to skip the rental company's collision damage waiver. The CDW reduces or eliminates any charges you'll incur should you damage the car.
That perk is more rare for credit cards issued in Europe, however, which tend to have fewer extras than their stateside counterparts. Consequently, you may encounter greater resistance from rental agents when you turn down their CDW coverage, especially in areas where U.S. visitors are less common. To reduce that pushback, you might want to bring a printout of your credit card's car-rental coverage provisions. Try to get a copy in the language of the host country, if that happens to be available.
A few countries have special requirements
A handful of European nations (along with a few elsewhere, including Israel, Jamaica and New Zealand) have regulations about what credit cards can cover for car rentals. In Italy, for example, specific coverage against theft is required. Ireland is among the countries that prohibit third parties, such as credit card companies, from purchasing collision coverage; instead, the car's driver must purchase it themselves.
The upshot: With rentals in Italy and Ireland, ask what type of coverage might be included as part of the rental rate. Find out before you arrive in the country, so you're not facing a confusing array of insurance options. More often than in other countries, coverage may be baked into the daily or weekly fee. If it isn't, you'll at least be able to determine how much extra you might pay to purchase coverage, so you're comparing the cheapest quotes on an apples-to-apples basis.
A U.S. rental company may be simplest
As you prepare for your trip, it's a good idea to shop for a car rental far in advance for the best rates. You may want to favor a familiar company that has a U.S. presence, especially if their rates are competitive and you already have rental experience with them.
For price quotes, those companies may use familiar templates that clearly address your questions and offer readily accessible toll-free phone numbers.
That familiarity and proximity may also be helpful should you have an accident with your car, since that can lead to some back-and-forth with the rental-car company. The company will charge your credit card for the value of the damage (up to the deductible amount) or, if the vehicle is stolen, the value of the deductible that's associated with theft. You then need to seek reimbursement for these charges from your credit card company when you get home, using the police report and the car-rental company's accident report.