International Car Insurance

Driving Abroad Makes a Vacation But Takes Some Planning

Whether you’re touring the Ring of Kerry in Ireland, Bordeaux wine country in France, or just visiting our Canadian neighbors to the north, you gain so much from the independence offered by driving yourself around.

Before you even think about getting behind the wheel at your chosen destination, check whether your insurance has you covered and whether your U.S. driver’s license is accepted where you are visiting.

International Auto Insurance

In general, your U.S. car insurance will not cover you while you are abroad (but, some policies may cover you if you are traveling to Canada or Mexico).

Even if your insurance is valid, it may not meet that country’s minimum requirements.

  • For example, in parts of Canada, you’re required to have at least $200,000 in liability insurance. Your insurance provider may also advise you to call in advance of your visit to get a Canadian insurance card.
  • Likewise, Mexico may want you to post a bond for as much as half of the vehicle’s value if you do not have theft, third-party liability, and comprehensive insurance coverage.

You may be able to buy additional car insurance in the U.S. or your destination country. Before you travel, review your car insurance policy and speak with your insurance company to verify your coverage. Ask whether there is anything else they require you to do before you leave the country. If you have coverage, be sure you have a copy of your insurance card to take with you on your trip.

International Car Rental Insurance

In many cases when you go on vacation and want to drive, you will use the services of a car rental company. If your insurance policy doesn’t provide any coverage for an international rental car, you can ask your insurance provider if additional coverage can be added for a fee.

Otherwise, you may need to buy insurance coverage from the rental company. A variety of packages are usually available:

  • Coverage for liability to the rental company should you damage the vehicle
  • Coverage for injury to you or other passengers in the event of an accident
  • Coverage for liability toward other drivers — injury and damage — if you are found at fault for an accident
  • Coverage for personal property stolen from inside the rental car (your homeowners or renters insurance policy may cover this already)

With so many options available and different terms possibly being used — ‘excess’ for ‘deductible,’ for example — spend time to understand what is being covered and what requirements you must meet. Once you have coverage determined, be sure you are not being charged for something for which you already have coverage.

If available, purchase international car insurance coverage with limits that match what you have in the U.S. You picked your U.S. limits based on your needs and assets — those don’t change just because you are driving in another country!

Driving License Abroad

In addition to making sure you have sufficient insurance, you will need to make sure you have the required licenses to drive abroad.

While a lot of countries do, many others will not recognize your U.S. driver’s license. However, many countries — more than 150 — will accept your U.S. license if it is accompanied by an International Driving Permit. You can find out about your destination’s license requirements at the U.S. Department of State website.

If you require an International Driving Permits, you can get them from two organizations in the U.S.:

To apply for an International Driving Permit, you must

  • Be older than age 18
  • Submit two passport-size photographs
  • Provide a valid U.S. driver’s license

Licensing and insurance coverage are the two main challenges of driving abroad, but there are plenty of others.

Additional Considerations while Driving Abroad

  • Standard Transmission

    Automatic transmission is something that many in North America (and increasingly, beyond) take for granted.

    In many countries, you may have a hard time finding a vehicle with automatic transmission to rent. If you can, you may find it much more expensive than a vehicle with a manual transmission.

  • Left-Side Driving

    Britain, Ireland, Hong Kong, southern African nations, Australia and New Zealand are among the locations that drive on the left side of the road.

    When visiting these destinations, try gaining some experience on quiet stretches of road before taking to highways and busy cities.

  • Road Conditions

    Roads abroad may wind and be narrower than those in much of the U.S. In other parts of the world, some roads may be made of gravel, dirt, sand or rocky surfaces.

    Rent a vehicle suitable to the conditions.

  • Traffic Citations

    If you are issued a citation while using a rented car abroad, you may be expected to:

    • Pay on the spot
    • Pay before leaving the country
    • Reimburse the car rental agency, which will be charged the fine

    If you get a ticket, try to take care of it as soon as possible.

International road trips can be among the most memorable ways to travel. Once you get the details ironed out, sit back, enjoy the scenery and make memories to last a lifetime.