If you want complete freedom on your vacation then you might want to consider renting a car. You will be able to come and go as you please without having to work out foreign public transport maps or deal with organized tours. It’s a dream for those who like creating their own adventures.
Before you head out on the open road there are a few things you need to know about renting a car abroad. Take note, be smart, and enjoy a stress-free rental experience.
1. Which Side Do They Drive On?
This is probably the most important thing you need to know before you even think about renting a car abroad. A quick google will give you your answer, but please for the love of the God of the Roads make sure you look this up.
Remember, if it’s the other side to back home, the steering wheel and gear stick will also be on the other side. If you’ve never driven on the other side before or you’re a new driver, this could be a deal-breaker.
2. Does the Car Already Have Any Damage?
Inspect the car thoroughly before you hand over your money and take photos of any damage you find. This way, you won’t get fined for it when you hand the car back at the end of your trip. Check the inside and outside of the car for cosmetic damage, ensure the spare wheel is inflated, and—if you can—check the oil and coolant.
Once you have spotted every mark or blemish on the car, write it down in the rental agreement and get the rental company to sign it. This is important. Once it is signed, it is a legally binding contract. Without a signature it is about as useful in a claim as your shopping list.
3. Beware of the Excess Waiver
Excess, in relation to insurance coverage, means the amount you have to pay before your insurance will cough up. Some people end up paying thousands of dollars before their insurance provider will pay a penny.
Your supplier will try to sell you an excess waiver. This is an exorbitant add-on that brings down the excess for a daily charge. Arranging your own excess waiver will always work out cheaper. Just make sure it is valid for your destination as there are differences in excess coverage in different countries.
4. Make Sure You Have the Right Insurance
Most car insurance policies do not cover you abroad. You will need to purchase a separate policy that covers you whilst on vacation. Your rental vehicle supplier will try to sell you one but you can be sure this will be far more expensive than you need to pay. Work out what you need and shop around online.
Once you have purchased your policy, print it out and keep it with you whenever you’re driving. Don’t even think about driving without insurance.
5. Booking in Advance is Always Cheaper
Just like flights and hotels, car rentals are always cheaper when they are done in advance. If you can book your vehicle online two months in advance you could save over $100 per week than renting something at a counter in an airport.
Booking online in advance also gives you the freedom to shop around and look for bargains. Waiting until you get to your destination airport leaves you without much choice and vulnerable to being ripped off.
6. Specify the Type of Car You Want
If you’ve never driven a shift before then you’re not going to want your first time to be on a winding country road in Greece. If you are more comfortable in an automatic then specify this. In Europe and other parts of the world, shift is the standard and automatics are far less common.
7. Get an International Driving Permit
It used to be the case that you would always need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive abroad. Nowadays, the rules are a little more relaxed. But, you don’t want to get all the way to your destination and then be asked for your IDP. They can be bought for $20 from the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance.