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I’ve covered the basics on how to rent a car and drive a car in Europe in my two previous posts. When I asked my Facebook followers the question of what they would like to know about car rental, the resounding query was about car rental insurance. Yep, pretty boring stuff, but very important to figure out. I’ve done a little research into the topic and have some answers for you.

What Kinds of Car Rental Insurance

The typical insurance that is available from rental companies is called a Collision Damage Waiver or CDW. This covers damage to your car if you happen to have an accident. Theft Protection is another kind of insurance that is usually included in insurance packages, and that insures theft of the car itself, not usually the contents of the car. Liability insurance covers damage to property or people outside of the car. According to Italian law, every car must have basic insurance for liability and your rental car should come with that automatically.

US Car Insurance

My US car is insured, so I thought I’d call my agent and find out if any coverage extends to car rental insurance. The answer is yes and no. It turns out that my insurance, and apparently most US policies, covers insurance on the policy holder’s rental car. Score! My agent said that I should never need to take the extra insurance offered by the car rental company because it duplicates what I already have. Geez, I wish I’d have known that sooner! Great news! Unfortunately, that coverage doesn’t apply in Europe. Boo! My agent said that she did not know of a US company that covers rentals in Europe. Darn. Next idea…

Credit Card Coverage

Many credit cards boast of free car rental insurance. That has swayed my choice of cards. I have an American Express Delta card and I’ve been using it for all of my rentals. As I mentioned above, I didn’t really need it in the US as it turns out, but being over-insured is not a bad thing. I looked into the fine print of my card agreement recently and found out that they do insure you in Europe! Yay! But not in Ireland or….Italy. Boo! Visa, however, does appear to cover Italy, but still not Ireland. Sorry to my Ireland-bound adventurers, you’re going to have to buy it from the rental company.

Credit card companies usually provide the CDW, Theft, and a little bit of liability. It’s a pretty good deal, so look into the fine print of your card before you go. Upgrading to a Platinum or other premium card usually gives you more insurance.

I read through several credit card policies and they have a couple of common stipulations- you must pay for the whole rental on the card and you must turn down the rental company’s insurance for the credit card insurance to work. Sorry, no double dipping allowed.

Buying Insurance from the Rental Company

The easiest thing to do, if you are unsure, is to buy insurance directly from the rental company. I have decided that this is my thing. I’ve tried to pinch pennies in the past and turned down the extra insurance and I just felt worried the whole time. I like the way AutoEurope sells the insurance, they have inclusive packages that you can buy ahead of time. On my last rental, I chose a zero deductible plan which basically covered everything that I worry about. I chose the insurance when I made the reservation and it turned out to be only about $40 more on a week rental. That seemed like a bargain to me.

A mistake I made which I pass on to you: buy the insurance when you book. I didn’t do that, and on a two day rental in Sicily I decided to add the car rental insurance at the counter. The rental company charged me an additional $40! For two days! Sheesh. My mistake, though. I’ll always get the insurance when I book from now on.

AutoEurope is who I strongly suggest you book through for the best prices, and they have a great article that explains the different insurance options. You can find it here.

I hope that all makes sense for you. I’d suggest that you call your insurance provider and have a chat about your travel plans. Every policy is different and you may find out you have coverage for car rental insurance you didn’t even know you had, like I did!

AWS Staff

This post was published by the Adventures with Sarah team. Click here to find out more about the people that make everything at AWS happen.


  • Barbara says:

    We have successfully booked our cars through Avis in France for 15 years using a VISA card. We use the VISA insurance and even had to make use of the service once. VISA has a group of agents who only deal with processing accident claims for Europe. They were able to clearly explain things and help us gather the required documentation from the rental agency. It took about two months for all the processing and we received a check. One thing to note, most VISA cards only allow for 21 days of coverage, so for longer trips you would need to “swap cars” at some point.

    • says:

      Yep, good point, the stipulation on rental length ranges from 15 to 30 days depending on the type of Visa card. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • Hi Sarah.We tend to go for the “Supercoverage” so we can walk away from any problems, regardless of what coverage our credit card might offer. Like you, I want the peace-of-mind that every scratch won’t be scrutinized upon return. We’ve had that scrutiny happen in Croatia with MACK. Even though we took their coverage they tried to ding us for scratches during the return process that at the start of the rental were waived off as inconsequential. I’ll take Supercoverage from Hertz of whomever any day to avoid arguing over the return in a foreign country!

  • Tom A. says:

    I’ve rented a car in Ireland on two separate visits there and did plenty of research beforehand. I ended up deciding to rent through both times and am glad I did. From what I understand, the company is based in the USA and offers rentals in Ireland only through Hertz, and all quoted prices are all-inclusive (all insurance, zero deductible).During my most recent Ireland visit (September of 2015), we had a little mishap with our rental car and banged it up a little. It was so nice to be able to return our car at the end of our trip and simply walk away because of the fact that we had full coverage with no deductible.

  • Emma Evans says:

    Hello. When I am in Europe, I book a car with Enterprise. When you rent, you get basic insurance from Enterprise when you take one of their cars. The company provides supplemental or comprehensive plans if needed. However, you can also use your personal auto policy if it covers driving a rental car abroad, if you are interested you can read more here

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