North American Travel

Getting Car Insurance Abroad and While Traveling in North America

If you drive outside of the country, it’s important to understand how to get car insurance abroad. No matter if your bucket list includes breathtaking drives through Europe’s Mediterranean coast or Canada’s Icefields Parkway, you need to enjoy these trips with proper auto insurance.

The car insurance requirements vary greatly depending on several factors including:

  • Your destination
  • The length of your stay
  • Whether you rent a car
  • Whether you drive your own vehicle
  • If you borrow a car from a friend that has it registered in-country

In each case, it’s a good idea to check with your insurance agent to see what coverage you need. Let’s take a look at the specifics for getting car insurance abroad.

Car Insurance for North American Travels

When it comes to auto travel, sharing a continent with your destination makes visiting a pleasure instead of a pain.

“Most U.S. auto policies extend to Canada, and in some cases to Mexico as well,” says Jean Nestor, an account executive with Clements Worldwide Insurance. Still, it’s a good idea to double-check with your insurer to make sure you have coverage in Mexico.

Car Insurance Abroad When Renting a Vehicle

When you plan to travel to Europe and rent a car, first contact your credit card company. Most card issuers offer some foreign rental car insurance as one of their perks.

But these policies for car insurance abroad may lack the full liability coverage of your auto policy. So, consult your insurer to see if they can fill the gap short-term.

What’s wrong with buying auto insurance from the rental company? Well, for starters, the bare-bones plans usually tack on an additional 30 percent to the daily cost of your rental car. What’s more, they’re not really insurance per se, but merely an agreement to reduce your deductible in the event of an accident.

“Rental policies can, in some cases, be very expensive,” Nestor agrees.

If you happen to have a friend or family member awaiting your arrival overseas, you can hop aboard their car insurance by having them add you as an additional driver for the length of your visit.

While traditional insurers may not offer a short-term policy for car insurance abroad, a trip insurer might. Travel specialists such as Assistance USA and Travelex can provide the short-term liability and other auto-related coverage you may not get from a foreign rental car plan.

READ MORE: How Much Car Insurance You Need to Buy

Car Insurance Abroad When You Bring Your Own Vehicle

If you plan to take your own vehicle to drive overseas, you’ll want to secure coverage for car and driver before you leave the country. Oftentimes, you need an international insurance company to comply with overseas laws. But an international policy may only be valid until foreign license plates expire or you’re no longer a visitor.

Nestor says Clements Worldwide uses a mix of its own international policies and third-party local providers to move Americans and their vehicles to their overseas destinations.

“Let’s say a person is shipping their own vehicle overseas with a U.S. license plate. We can do the physical damage coverage, comprehensive and collision if something happens to the vehicle – collision, fire, theft – but no liability,” he says.

A European-based Clements affiliate insurer would then provide the short-term liability insurance so the owner can immediately drive when their car arrives.

“If you cross the border in a motor vehicle, you may need to provide proof of insurance. Find out what the usual basic coverage for foreign drivers is and carry your insurance documents with you. Most countries expect both national and international drivers and car owners to hold some kind of liability insurance,” Nestor explains.

Upon return to the States, remember to carry proof of your continuous auto coverage overseas when you shop for a new auto policy. Some insurers may bump your premium or even disqualify you if it appears that your coverage had lapsed.