Rachael Brennan has been working in the insurance industry since 2006 when she began working as a licensed insurance representative for 21st Century Insurance, during which time she earned her Property and Casualty license in all 50 states. After several years she expanded her insurance expertise, earning her license in Health and AD&D insurance as well. She has worked for small health insuran...

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Chris Harrigan has an economic degree from Limestone College and an MBA from Clemson University. He previously managed auto insurance claims for Enterprise Rent-A-Car. Currently, he is using his business and insurance expertise to provide insurance data analysis and visualizations to enhance the user experience.

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Reviewed by Chris Harrigan
Former Auto Insurance Claims Manager Chris Harrigan

UPDATED: Apr 13, 2022

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Key takeaways...

  • International driving laws are not the same as the ones in your state
  • You must have international car insurance to legally drive if you go abroad
  • Some U.S. car insurance policies cover drivers who travel internationally

When planning an international trip abroad, you may be filled with feelings of excitement and anticipation.

Whether you have plans to visit a country you know intimately and have visited often, or you are planning a trip to a destination entirely unfamiliar to you, your trip is sure to be filled with unique and memorable experiences.

International rental car insurance is available for drivers, but is this something you should purchase?

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Your Current Coverage


Many drivers rent a vehicle to get around while they are far from home.

This provides you with the ability to see sights on your own, as well as to avoid the need to communicate with foreign taxi drivers who may not understand where you want to go.

Most drivers already carry a car insurance policy for the vehicle they own.

This is a policy that may be purchased to meet state minimum requirements for car insurance, auto lender requirements, and more.

Many drivers purchase more car insurance coverage than what is required of them because they understand the risks associated with driving.

In most areas, drivers are responsible for the damage they cause others on the road.

Insurance can pay for most of those damages, so the risk of financial liability is reduced if you are properly insured.

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The Risks of Driving in Unfamiliar Areas

Driving in your own hometown does have its risks.

Anytime you get behind the wheel, you can cause damage to other people’s cars and property, or experience damage to your own vehicle.

Your own vehicle may even be damaged due to other factors as well.

When you are driving in an unfamiliar area, however, the risks are increased.

These risks include:

These and other things can and do happen to drivers all the time, whether they are at home or driving abroad.

However, driving abroad can be riskier because:

  • You are driving an unfamiliar vehicle
  • Streets are unfamiliar to you
  • You are not familiar with local driving laws and customs

Because of these factors, it does make sense to purchase international car insurance.

Car accidents can and do happen all of the time, and they may be more likely to happen when you are renting a car abroad.

The Minimum Insurance Requirements


While purchasing international car insurance for your rental car makes sense, it actually may be required in some areas.

Many countries impose minimum liability car insurance requirements on their drivers, just like most states in the United States do.

These requirements may include other coverage requirements as well.

When you get in an accident abroad, you do run the risk of facing financial liability. However, you may also face legal penalties for driving without the proper car insurance in place.

The requirements for coverage as well as the penalties for not being insured do vary, so it is in your best interest to research car insurance requirements for your destination carefully before the dates of your travel.

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Are you already covered?

The fact is that you may already be covered fully by your current car insurance policy. Some U.S. car insurance policies cover drivers who travel internationally.

Not every policy offers this feature, so you should contact your agent for more details.

Those car insurance policies that do cover you on international soil generally will only cover you while you drive in Canada and Mexico.

In some cases, this is an optional feature you can add to your policy.

If you travel regularly to Canada, Mexico, or another country covered by your policy, you may consider adding this coverage permanently.

However, if this is a one-time trip or you are traveling to another destination not covered by your current insurance, it is wise to consider buying international car rental insurance.

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Different Types of Coverage

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Perhaps the easiest way to buy car rental coverage is to buy it from the same company from which you rent your vehicle, but this may not be the most cost-effective coverage available.

In fact, blogs such as this one on USAToday.com, point out the many downfalls of purchasing your car insurance coverage from the car rental company.

You may consider buying short-term or temporary car insurance rather than rental car coverage.

Short-term or temporary car insurance can be purchased for specific dates of travel, and it is available for a term of up to 28 days.

Where to Buy It

When you make the decision to buy international rental car insurance, you then have to decide where to buy your coverage.

There are several different places to buy your coverage, and each may offer you a different rate. It is wise to compare car insurance rates to determine which option is most cost-effective.

Consider these options for purchasing car rental insurance:

  • Direct from the car rental agency
  • From your own car insurance company
  • From your credit card company
  • From a travel insurance company
  • From a reservation company that offers travel protection plans, such as Expedia
  • From a temporary or short-term car insurance company

If you are wondering if you should purchase car insurance for your international rental car, the answer is yes.

You never know what can happen when you are driving in your rental car, and this is especially true when driving in a foreign country.

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