If you're taking off to Europe with long drives through the Continent in mind, you might first want to check your American auto insurance policy – it probably doesn't cover you on a European trek. But, though most personal policies for car insurance in the United States won't cover you in Europe, there are plenty of ways to get the coverage you need. Here's where to start.
1. Call to Your Credit Card Provider
Most major credit card companies offer free insurance coverage for car rentals in Europe, with provisions for vehicular damage and towing, plus some other expenses. Seeking coverage through your credit card is usually the cheapest option for car insurance abroad, and often one of the simplest.
On the downside, this coverage wouldn't usually have your back in case of injury or other liabilities, so give your insurance agent a ring to discuss options for health and liability coverage.
Another drawback to using insurance through your credit card is that it might exclude certain European countries, depending on your provider's policy. Also, if you're in an accident, the rental car company might charge the damages to your card while your credit card provider processes your claim.
Still, if you decide to go with your credit card company's coverage, make sure you're listed as the driver on the rental car, and pay for the car on the card that's connected with your insurance coverage.
2. Have a Friend Add You
Perhaps you're not planning on renting a car at all, and you'll instead be borrowing a friend's or family member's vehicle while you're in Europe. In that case, you have a couple of options for insurance coverage, including a temporary add to the car owner's insurance plan.
This is probably the simplest option if you know your friend's car will be your primary mode of transportation. Ask the car's owner to add you as a driver to her car insurance policy.
3. Buy a Stand-Alone Policy
This option can help cover you in Europe, whether you plan on renting a car or borrowing one from a friend or family member. You can buy auto insurance for one specific time period, called trip insurance.
Trip insurance varies in cost, depending on the length of your trip, where you plan to go and how much you'll be spending. For example, trip insurance to cover a car rental in Italy for one week can range from $108 (with Assistance USA's silver policy) to $381 (for Travelex's Travel Max policy), according to insuremytrip.com, which provides comparisons of insurance policy prices.
If you're applying for coverage to drive a friend's car, you'll probably have to verify the identity of the vehicle's owner and/or registered keeper. Some insurance providers will only provide you with coverage to drive another person's car if that car belongs to your spouse, partner, civil partner, parent or employer, or a lease company.
Getting insurance to drive someone else's car can sometimes cost more, because insurers see you as a higher risk if you don't have financial interest in the vehicle you're using.
4. Purchase Insurance From the Rental Company
Just like in the United States, rental car companies in Europe sell collision-damage waiver supplements with their leases. These waivers aren't technically insurance – they just reduce the deductible the rental company would collect should you damage the vehicle you're leasing.
Purchasing one of these waivers usually tacks on an additional 30 percent to the rental's daily cost, so do some research into how much it would realistically reduce the deductible before committing to one of these plans. Buying a standalone policy or going through your credit card might make more financial sense.