Securing a vehicle for ground transportation at my destination is something I have done numerous times. I research the rental companies as well as third party offers through Priceline, Expedia, Orbitz, and other online agencies. Careful consideration is given to selecting the appropriate pick-up location, the dates the car is needed, best amenities, and best price; and then, finally, I book a car. Very soon the confirmation is delivered to my inbox.
Now, most people would put a check mark by “rental car” on their to-do-list. I put a check with another date, because a few days before the trip, I will call the rental agency to make sure everything is in order. Oh, I do not expect any problems, but I just like to make sure. With that said, I had obviously never tried to rent a car internationally, until preparing for my recent trip to Europe. Renting a car for my stay in Italy proved to be time consuming, nerve wracking, and an oddly rewarding learning experience. Here are 6 important things I learned.
1. Choose stick or automatic: The first and most formidable obstacle was the scarcity of rentals with automatic transmissions. Availability and the best prices await travelers who can drive a stick. Manual transmission vehicles rent at a significantly lower rate than their automatic counterparts.
2. Begin your search early: If you are like me and a stick is out of the question, I would strongly encourage you to begin looking for a rental car at least two months in advance. What I have learned is that only in the United States, Canada, and Australia do automatic transmissions reign supreme. Not to worry though, a limited number of rentals with automatic transmissions are in stock for us Americans, but when they’re gone, they are gone. The ambience of casually touring the Italian Riviera will not be the same from the backseat of a taxi or from a tour bus.
3. Understand insurance coverage and options: The next lesson I would learn was the difference in the rental insurance requirements and mandates. In Italy, Collision Damage Waiver Insurance is mandatory. It is almost always included in the rental price quote. If this insurance is not a part of the quote, it will be added before payment is made. It cannot be declined.
Excess Insurance is an optional insurance to cover payment of “excess damage assessments” should dings, dents, scratches, or any other type of damage be found outside of what is included in the Collision Damage Waiver Insurance. This is the insurance we never really think we will need, but we are afraid not to get. For this trip the optional insurance was purchased, but not through the car rental company.
4. Shop around for optional coverage: Many car rental companies will try and convince buyers that they will not accept third party excess damage insurance. Do not fall prey to this tactic. Third party companies such as iCarhireinsurance.com sell this optional insurance at a much cheaper rate. Frequent road warriors may purchase it annually and their coverage is available globally.
After much back and forth deliberation, I booked an automatic transmission vehicle, which was covered by the mandatory CDW and the optional Excess Insurance through the third party company, rentalcars.com. Finally, I breathe a sigh of relief, feeling empowered with the accomplishment of navigating an international car rental. I could just picture us cruising along the Italian Riviera.
5. Check for holidays that may affect your visit: A few days before leaving the United States, I contacted rentalcars.com to verify the booking. Everything was confirmed, the reservation had been booked with Thrifty and I was told there was no cause for worry. Despite this assurance, I felt very uneasy, I tried but I could not shake the feeling that something might go wrong. Not having a car in the US is one thing, but to be without a car, or without one with an automatic transmission on a foreign continent would be a disaster. Perhaps my tension was further fueled by something I have not mentioned. The day we were to pick-up the car was a national holiday and most major rental outlets and other businesses across the entire country would be closed.
6. Confirm your reservation with the pick-up location: I needed relief from the awful feeling within me, so I called Thrifty and to my dismay the representative informed me that there was nothing in their system for me. After countless hours on hold, more than four representatives, and several transfers, not one representative could find my booking. Panic set in, but I quickly called rentalcars.com and explained the situation. To my relief, a very knowledgeable agent told me exactly why there was no need for all my anxieties.
To get the best prices, rentalcars.com collaborates directly with the car pick-up location. Therefore the confirmation number was specific only to the Thrifty location in Florence, Italy, where I would receive the vehicle. In my final attempt to be assured that we would not be on foot during this vacation, I loaded $10 onto my Skype account and called the Thrifty pick-up site in Florence, Italy. When I asked about a reservation for Kaylah Burks, I heard the sweet sound of, “Si, Signora Burks, we have your car rental reservation in our system.”
For more information on international car rentals, check back for my next article featuring great tips on must have gps options, the pick-up process and pumping gas.
~ By Kaylah Burks, an athlete, who enjoys traveling the world while staying health conscious. Follow her on Instagram @jadenlie