“This happens all the time to us, and we live here,” says the Italian bellhop at a nearby hotel who came out to see my car accident. “We always buy bad cars, smash them up and then buy a new one.” This is advice I could have used before renting a car in Italy.
His kind words made squishing into the side of a bus somewhat better, but having bought extra insurance that morning made me feel even better.
I wasn’t going to buy it at first — I assumed my credit card insurance would cover it. But it turns out, that’s not the case. In fact, many of my assumptions about renting a car overseas were proven wrong. It’s a bit more complicated, and a whole lot more expensive, than I ever imagined.
Before you leave
Be sure to book with a well-known rental agency such as Avis, Hertz or Budget. They offer more locations to pick up and drop off your vehicle, and are available to help if you find yourself in trouble.
Most importantly, check to see if your credit cards, and current car insurance, will cover part or all of the insurance. “Many customers often arrive at the Hertz location not knowing what type of insurance they do or don’t have,” says Leann Sabato, public affairs specialist for Hertz, based in New Jersey. “Thus, it’s impossible for our representatives to provide any guidance.”
If you don’t know what you have, you might end up paying for more insurance than is necessary.
“Some car rental agencies are real shysters and will try to sell you extra insurance,” says Sarah Wood, a travel agent with Durham Travel in Oshawa, Ont.
Ensure you’re insured
Most gold or premium credit cards will offer collision damage, which covers damage to the car itself. If your card doesn’t cover collision, consider switching to a credit card that does before you leave. Typically, collision insurance costs $20 a day.
Depending on where you go, other insurance may be required. For instance, theft insurance, about $10 a day, is mandatory in Italy. “Italy has real problems with theft,” says Wood.
Another option is using your home or existing auto insurance. However, be warned: If you have an accident and make a claim, your home insurance will increase. And most Canadian auto insurance isn’t valid outside of Canada or the US.
Finally, it’s important to realize that third-party insurance, which protects you in case you hurt someone or damage another car, is not provided under collision policies.
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Get an International Driver’s Permit
According to Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada’s travel
In Italy, for instance, rental agencies do not require an IDP, but if you were pulled over, a police officer might ask for your IDP. It’s a good backup to have, and it’s easy to get. You can pick up an IDP from any
That’s cheap — or is it?
To start, if you plan on dropping the car off in a different location from where you picked it up, it’s another $65.
If you’re picking up the car at the airport, there’s an airport service charge of $50. Add to that a physical damage waiver ($10 a day), road tax ($2.50 per day), $10 theft protection and a value added tax of 20 per cent, and your grand total is about $600.
“It’s very expensive to rent a car in Europe,” says Wood. “In Europe there are more accidents — little fender benders, parking and driving in roundabouts.”
Rules of the road
You should also some research about the kind of drivers you’ll be encountering. For example, I learned that Italians don’t have a good safety record; in fact, each year, about 300,000 people are injured and 9,000 die on the roads according to the Association of Families of Traffic Accident Victims. Knowing this will also influence the kind of insurance you buy.
A word on speeding
If you didn’t pay with a credit card, the company will give your contact information to the local authorities. So, your best bet is to obey the rules of the road, even if the Ferrari next to you is driving double the limit!
Melanie Chambers is a freelance writer, and honorary Italian driver, based in London, Ont.