5 Things To Know About Rental-Car Insurance in Europe

5 Things To Know About Rental-Car Insurance in Europe

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If you rent cars at U.S. destinations with any frequency, you probably know the drill when it comes to insuring your rental. Much 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:

Liability Coverage Is Included In Your Rental Fee

Within most of Europe--and certainly within the European Union--it’s required that your car-rental fee include basic (but adequate) liability coverage; that’s the protection you need against all but damage to the car or any harm you cause to someone who’s outside the car. You may receive a pitch to upgrade to more liability than is offered under the policy, but most experts feel you can safely forgo that extra coverage, and save the extra charges they’ll add to your bill.

The Rental Agency May Be Skeptical That Your Credit Card Covers You

Though there are exceptions, 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--an option that 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 to turning 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--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 regulatory curves that mean most credit cards do not extend coverage for rentals. In Italy, for example, specific coverage against theft is required. Ireland is among the countries that prohibit third parties, like credit-card companies, from purchasing collision coverage; instead, the car’s driver must purchase that themselves.

The upshot: With rentals in Italy and Ireland, you should inquire as to what coverage might be included as part of the rental rate, preferably before you arrive in the country and face 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 quotes on an apples-to-apples basis.

A U.S. Rental Company May Be Simplest

As you shop around for a rental car abroad (which you should do from the U.S., and 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 presentation and templates, and more readily and clearly be able to address questions about what is and isn’t included, through readily accessed toll-free phone numbers.

That familiarity and proximity may also be helpful should you in fact 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.

Mark is a Senior Research Analyst for ValuePenguin focusing on the insurance industry, primarily auto insurance. He previously worked in financial risk management at State Street Corporation.

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