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Travel is wonderful, but there are lots of things you need to take care of before you go. If you’re planning on driving abroad, securing appropriate car insurance is one of them.

Standard car insurance policies in the United States don’t typically cover you in other countries, with the exception of Canada. International coverage is needed if you plan to rent or drive a vehicle. It protects you if you get into an accident and works similarly to the policies issued in the U.S.

You can buy additional international car insurance here in the states or your destination country. Either way, you should buy insurance from a company that specializes in the country you’re visiting because they will be familiar with all of the local requirements.

In most countries, you can purchase liability, comprehensive and collision coverage, as well as optional coverage for rental cars you drive while yours is being repaired due to a claim. If possible, 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 when you are driving in another country.

International motor insurance card systems
There are multiple motor insurance card systems around the world, established on a regional basis. The different colored cards all serve much the same purpose — to ensure that victims of traffic accidents are protected from injuries or damages caused by a foreign motorist.

The so-called Green Card system is widely recognized around Europe, for example. The card contains information about your international insurance policy and is accepted in every country that is a part of the Green Card system. Other regions have their own card systems.

You can get your international insurance card from the insurer who issues your international motor insurance policy. It’s normally free, but there may be a small administrative fee. If you don’t have a card while driving in a country that requires an international regional card, you could be held liable for all accident-related expenses.

Renting a car
If you don't plan to transport your vehicle overseas and instead plan to rent a car, you’ll need international rental car insurance with a damage protection waiver (DWP). Overseas liability protects against property damage that you cause with the vehicle, but it doesn’t cover vehicle repairs. DWP is collision coverage that pays for repairs in the event of an accident.

If your current auto insurance policy doesn’t cover international rental cars, you can ask your insurance professional if you can add some for a fee. Otherwise, you may need to buy that coverage from the rental company.

A variety of packages are usually available:
  • Coverage for liability to the rental company if you damage the vehicle
  • Coverage for injury to you or other passengers in the event of an accident.
  • Coverage for liability to 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 being used — in the U.K., for example, your deductible is known as “excess” — take the time to understand what is covered and any requirements you must meet. You want to be adequately covered without being charged for coverage you already have.

You may also be able to get car insurance through your credit card company if you're using that card to pay for a rental; call the company in advance to find out.

While insurance may cover you in the first country you visit, things might change as you travel around. Your credit card's coverage may not extend across all borders, so plan ahead and do your research.

Borrowing a car
What if you’re borrowing a car from a friend or family member during your trip? Asking your friend or relative to temporarily add you to their insurance may be the simplest choice if you’ll be driving that borrowed car frequently.

Temporary car insurance
There are companies that offer short-term, standalone car insurance policies for overseas visitors. Ask your insurance professional if this a good option for you. Temporary car insurance for international drivers is available if you’re borrowing a car to visit friends and family, making a business trip or need to share driving responsibilities.

Be prepared
If you’re going to be driving during your trip abroad, make sure you have a good handle on your vehicle coverage needs and options.

Most importantly, contact your insurance professional to discuss your options and make sure you obtain adequate international coverage and proof of coverage. The more legwork you do now, the fewer surprises you'll have later.  V.F. McNeil Insurance is a Trusted Choice® independent insurance agency located in Branford, Connecticut.  We can help with your auto insurance needs.  

Bon voyage!

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