What You Should Know About Renting A Car Overseas

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Renting a car overseas is different from renting a car in the U.S. Here's what you need to know before you leave. 

6 Things You Should Know About Renting A Car Overseas

1. You May Need an International Drivers Permit (IDP)

An IDP works as a valid form of identification in 150 countries and is translated into ten languages. Fines for driving without an IDP in countries where it's required can be steep. 

Mike Baron, of FivePax Family Travel, recently traveled to Croatia where he rented a car and drove across the border at Bosnia and Herzegovina. He thought he'd need an IDP to cross the border. His rental car company wanted to verify that he had a valid IDP, but he wasn't asked to show it at the border crossing. 

"Every country and every rental agency is different, so it is important to do research ahead of your trip to determine if one is necessary," said Baron. "The fastest and most convenient way to purchase and obtain an IDP is by visiting a local AAA office. You can walk in with your domestic license and $20.00 and walk out with an IDP."

2. Use a Comparison Site to Get the Best Rates

Like renting a car in the United States, when you rent a car overseas, it's important to compare rates. The major rental car companies in Europe are Avis, Hertz, Budget, Europcar, and Sixt.

Check out comparison sites like Auto Europe, where you'll get access to perks like free cancellation 48 hours from your scheduled pickup time and 24/7 phone support.

It's also possible to rent everything from an economy car to an SUV to a full-sized Mercedes sedan, depending on your needs. Call to speak with an agent so you can learn about your options, the rental company's restrictions about where and how far you drive, and their insurance requirements. 

3. You May Need to Learn to Drive a Stick-Shift

You're likely to end up with a vehicle equipped with a manual transmission when traveling to another country. You can get an automatic transmission, but it could cost you 50% more. 

If you'll be driving on the alternate side of the road in a foreign country, make sure you are happy behind the wheel of a stick-shift or verify that the rental agency can guarantee you a vehicle with an automatic transmission. For example, in Northern Ireland, you'll get a car with the steering wheel on the right side. Traffic travels on the left side of the road, and roundabouts present special challenges for foreign drivers.

4. Plan Your Route with Your Car Rental in Mind

The rental car company may charge you extra for driving their cars into certain countries. This is another reason to talk with a representative from the rental agency before you leave for your trip. Make sure you have a clear understanding of the rules about where you can take the car. Ask about mileage restrictions, as well. 

For example, if you rent a car in Estonia, you'll pay additional fees and have to purchase extra insurance to travel into Russia, Lithuania, or Latvia. 

5. Research Local Driving Habits

Local driving habits could cause problems when you rent a car in a foreign country. In Spain, drivers often purposefully bump the car behind them when parallel parking so they have extra room to pull out of the space. This could mean you'll pay extra fines for a scratched bumper if you don't have comprehensive insurance coverage. 

Drivers in Barcelona and Madrid are notorious for driving both ways on roundabouts, which poses a threat to other motorists and can be terrifying for the uninitiated foreign driver. 

6. Check with Your Credit Card Company for Rental Car Insurance

According to Saurabh Jindal of Talk Travel, it's crucial to work out the details of your insurance well before your trip. "The insurance provided by the car company is normally very expensive," said Jindal. "There are many companies which provide daily insurance, which is very cheap. Remember to inspect the car and take photos of damage in case they charge you later."

Don't assume you are safe to turn down extra insurance offered by the rental agency when you pay with a credit card. Before your trip, call the credit card company and ask about their specific coverage levels. Talk with your insurance agent to find out about your current coverage and ask their advice about purchasing additional insurance for your trip. You may be able to get a nice discount on car insurance by completing a driving class before you travel, as well.