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I am planning on traveling to America in January… I live in Europe and am a EU resident. How does a non-citizen get car insurance? I think I I’ll be renting a car
First things first, we hope you enjoy your trip to the United States! Second, you may or may not have car insurance coverage already.
Generally, any short-term visitor to the United States can legally drive in the country as long as he or she has a valid driver’s license. In some states, you are required to have an International Driving Permit (IDP) and your ordinary driver’s license. Depending on where you are driving, you may or may not require an IDP. Some car rental companies may also require you to have an IDP and a driver’s license prior to renting a vehicle.
To get an IDP, you must contact the motor vehicle department in your own country.
Now let’s talk about car insurance. All car rental companies have car insurance coverage on all their vehicles. Car insurance coverage is legally required on all vehicles, so the rental car is already fully insured. However, unlike in the EU, the cost of car insurance is not typically included in the cost of a rental car. Yes, the car is insured, but the rental car company will charge you extra fees for actually using that insurance.
The car rental company will try to sell you their own car insurance. You might be asked to pay $10 to $50 per day to fully insure the rental car and get a collision damage waiver, which means all damages to the vehicle are covered.
If you choose to buy that additional coverage, however, then you may be doubly insuring yourself. You might already have rental car insurance through any of the following:
Your European Car Insurance Provider: If you have a personal car insurance policy in Europe for your own vehicle, then this policy may cover you during certain trips to the United States. Talk to your European car insurance company to determine if coverage extends to rental cars in foreign countries. Once you verify coverage, bring proof of insurance with you to the United States. Your rental car company might request to see it before renting the vehicle.
Your Credit Card: Do you have a credit card through Visa or Mastercard? If so, then your credit card might extend car insurance to your rental car automatically. As long as you pay for your rental car fully with your Visa or Mastercard, you might have full car insurance coverage. Contact your credit card company or read your credit card policy to verify you have rental car coverage. Most Visa and Mastercard credit cards provide rental car coverage, but not all.
Insurance on a Friend’s Car: You said you were renting a vehicle in the United States. If you are planning to borrow a friend’s vehicle, however, then you may have insurance coverage through that vehicle. Insurance covers the vehicle – not the driver. As long as your friend’s vehicle has insurance, and you have permission to drive the vehicle, then your friend’s car insurance should cover you while on your trip to the United States.
Other Insurance: You might also have car insurance coverage through a motor club membership, an employer benefits program, or another organization. If you’re traveling to America for business, for example, then your company might already have automatic car insurance coverage for your vehicle.
If you don’t have car insurance through any of the above methods, then you can buy temporary car insurance while visiting the United States. Or, you can buy car insurance through the rental car company. Typically, it’s cheaper to buy your own car insurance coverage through a third party insurance company specializing in short-term car insurance. However, it may be more convenient and less stressful to buy car insurance directly through the rental car company.
Drivers visiting the United States from Canada or Mexico can use their existing driver’s license. Drivers from the EU – like yourself – are required to have an International Driving Permit (IDP) in some states in America.
As for car insurance, you may already have insurance for your American rental car through your personal auto insurance policy in the EU – or through any of the other options mentioned above. If not, then we recommend buying temporary car insurance while in the United States or getting collision damage waiver (CDW) coverage through your car rental company.
Will you be on a visa? You should be able to easily get insurance from the rental car company. Just ask them!
Realize that insurance for you might be a little more expensive because they have no way of checking your previous driving record, etc. Check out this article for some tips on getting cheap insurance – Car Insurance for Non-US Citizens