Car rental insurance in the UK (and paying US rates for the rentals!)
March 23, 2015 10:16 AM   Subscribe

I'm a US citizen with a US driver's license, currently living in London. I don't own a car and I don't have car insurance. I'm planning to rent cars on holidays in the UK and elsewhere in Europe a few times this year. How do I do this without buying the typically exorbitant insurance coverage from the rental agencies and not relying on the limited coverage that my US credit card offers?

Is there a good, inexpensive way for a non-car-owning resident of the UK to buy insurance for collision, theft, vandalism, acts of nature, etc. as well as liability to others for injury or damage, that would cover my occasional car rentals in the UK and elsewhere in Europe?

Most of the searching I've done has turned up "car hire excess insurance". But what I'm looking for is a policy, either yearly or one-off, that would allow me to decline all coverage offered by the rental agencies and would approximate what a typical car-owner would have as an insurance policy.

A related question that I'd like to be clear on is if having such insurance would allow me to book cars in the UK by using US (.com) sites like Kayak or Expedia, as they tend to offer much better quotes than the versions of the same websites. I think this because the quotes from the US sites don't account for the CDW/LDW coverage that's mandatory in the UK, right?
posted by theory to Travel & Transportation around Manchester, England (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
We usually use and use their excess reimbursement insurance. It's much cheaper than what the companies will charge you directly. So you get the basic insurance bundled with the car hire, and any damage due to accident or theft is covered by the excess policy from Argus. The downside is that the rental company will block their entire excess on your credit card when you pick up the car. This is because the idea is if you have a problem the rental car company takes the excess from you and then you get it back from Argus. The upside is that so far Argus has always given us the best rental price by far, often much less than going to each company directly, so it works out very economically.

We have been renting cars all over Western Europe with both non-Eu and an EU license (because we had to swap at one point) and have no other automotive insurance. For us at least, this has worked out much better than buying a whole policy on it's own.

EU rental car companies are notorious for giving different prices based on where you book from for no reason other than that they can, btw. The exact same car will generally cost us €5-10 less booking with my German address than using my husband's Irish one even when every other detail is the same (including the driver). So that may be why you're seeing different quotes for .com vs
posted by shelleycat at 10:45 AM on March 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh and you're seeing these things advertised as 'car hire excess insurance' because that's what it's called. It covers everything not built in to the base rental price. Based on my experience that's actually what you want.
posted by shelleycat at 10:46 AM on March 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm a US citizen with a US driver's license, currently living in London

When did you move to London? Your US drivers license is only valid for 1 year after you move to the UK. After that you need to get a UK license.

This may figure in your plans.
posted by vacapinta at 11:14 AM on March 23, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you know already now that you are planning to hire several times, you may negotiate a bulk deal, both for the hire and the insurance. Car hires are always negotiable.
As someone who had a hired car smashed by robbers, I always make sure my insurance covers any possible event.
posted by mumimor at 11:32 AM on March 23, 2015

I use insurance4carhire, £40 for a years coverage in the UK and Europe. Far more comprehensive cover than the rental companies overpriced "insurance".

I had to make a claim two years ago and they paid promptly without any discussion.
posted by DelusionsofGrandeur at 1:02 PM on March 23, 2015

As always, with UK questions about consumer rights, money, insurance, utilities, etc., you want MoneySavingExpert.

Alternatively, get a better US credit card based on the elite Visa or Mastercard options, e.g. a Chase Sapphire Preferred.

For what it's worth, I'm British, I always declined all offered rental insurance in the UK, I never owned my own car, and never had any other insurance. As far as I know I was driving legally.

As vacapinta notes, however, you may be driving illegally because of your US license. This is a technicality that only matters exactly when you want insurance to be valid, but it matters a lot then. I live in the US and I just took a US driving test for precisely this reason.
posted by caek at 6:36 PM on March 23, 2015

Like shelleycat said, the base rental price covers all insurance except the first £750 or so. It's £40-£60 a year for coverage from someone like insurecarhire to cover that excess (depending if you need worldwide coverage, car club coverage, etc), but the most you'll be out of pocket in a collision without it is that £750, so it's not a huge issue.
posted by ambrosen at 1:25 AM on March 24, 2015

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