Auto Insurance When Traveling Abroad and International Driving

By: Staff Writer August 13, 2012
Share This Page
Share Pin It Email Print

If you plan on driving while traveling abroad, make sure you have enough car insurance coverage. Don't assume.

The auto insurance protection you carry in the United States might suffice for neighboring Canada or Mexico, but in most instances will be inadequate elsewhere, and the last thing you want is to be involved in an accident without proper coverage while handicapped by language differences and a lack of understanding of local laws. Check out our page on international auto insurance for more on driving in Mexico, Canada and beyond.

Research Car Insurance Coverage Before Journeying Abroad

Before exiting on vacation, check into the vehicle insurance needs for the countries you will be driving in.

There are a couple ways to do this:

  • Contact your car insurance agent.
  • Check with the car rental company you'll be renting from.

Buy Additional Car Insurance Coverage

Getting into a minor accident in the United States is a hassle dealing with insurance agents and claims adjustors. Now imagine this happening in a foreign country and how much more difficult it could be if you're carrying insufficient auto insurance coverage. Claiming ignorance to the law will not earn sympathy from foreign authorities.

If you discover you'll need extra coverage, don't chance it by thinking you'll drive extra careful. Even a fender-bender can explode into a major legal and financial nightmare with both the people involved in the accident and with the rental car company.

Protect yourself. Obtain additional coverage. You can do this by:

  • Checking with your credit card company. Some companies provide car rental insurance protection. VISA, for example, provides theft and collision coverage, provided you use their card for the rental car payment and decline the rental car company's collision damage waiver. Before using, however, make sure this extra coverage is adequate. Contact your credit card company. Ask if it covers overseas rentals. And if so, inquire if it excludes certain countries, types of vehicles, or rental lengths. And also ask if this coverage is primary or secondary.
  • Purchasing coverage from a foreign car insurance company. These third-party insurers can generally be found near national borders. Coverage is usually cheaper than rental car companies. If you go with this option, be sure you're adequately covered. Many of third-party insurers do not offer policies covering theft and personal accidents.
  • Purchasing coverage from the the rental car company. Be aware that this can be expensive and confusing. Most rental car rates include liability insurance, which does not cover the vehicle itself. For this you need to buy a collision damage waiver. But even this does not protect you against theft, which requires another separate policy.

Don't wait until you're at the rental car desk to decide on coverage. Plan before arriving when you have more time to carefully consider your options.

And don't forget to obtain an international driving permit (IDP). You will want to pack this along with your regular driver's license. Having a permit that allows you to drive in another country can only help if you get into an accident in that country.

Have you ever purchased auto insurance for driving in another country? What route did you take?

Recent Articles