Traveler Experience
10 Tips for Renting a Car Abroad

10 Tips for Renting a Car Abroad

Samantha Shankman

10 Sep 2019
11 minute read
Blog Image // 10 Tips for Renting a Car Abroad

Business travelers should be empowered to make their own choices.

One employee might enjoy the down time on train rides; one might appreciate the hustle of a morning commute in a new city; and another might prefer to take the wheel literally into their hands with a rental car.

Renting a car abroad comes with certain challenges and requires some extra preparation. With Navan, business travelers book their work trips in an average of six minutes — compared to the industry average of 60 minutes — and can quickly and easily add a rental car to their travel plans alongside their flights, trains, and hotel accommodations.

Navan makes renting a car simple with pick-up and drop-off available anywhere in the world whether a business traveler needs a Mercedes van for six in San Francisco or a mini Peugeot for two in Amsterdam. While car rentals are usually the last part of a business trip to get booked, Navan makes it easy to complete the booking in a few clicks and provides global, proactive 24/7/365 live human support throughout the journey no matter where the business travelers starts and ends.

From securing international driving permits to finding the correct liability insurance, these 10 tips for renting a car abroad guarantee that business travelers are prepared for every situation in any country while keeping costs low and arriving with the wind in their hair and a smile on their faces.

Here are 10 tips for renting a car abroad:

1. Prepare an International License

Review the rules for licenses and paperwork when driving in a new country.

The basic rule is to always carry a government-issued driver’s license and passport when driving in a new country. There may also be additional paperwork required.

For example, business travelers from the United States can use their government-issued license in some English-speaking countries, but they will need an International Driving Permit in other countries. An IDP translates your driver’s license information into 10 different languages and is recognized by more than 150 countries. Note: It must be issued in your home country.

There are only two organizations that are authorized to issue IDPs in the United States — American Automobile Association or the National Auto Club — and it can take 4-6 weeks to process. An IDP costs approximately $25 and is only valid for one year so always check the expiration date before departing on a new business trip.

Business travelers arriving in the U.S. from abroad must have a valid driver’s license and some states require an IDP in addition to the license from their country.

If a business traveler is uncertain of the rules, they should always check with the consulate or embassy of the countries that they’re planning to visit to find out its policies on international drivers.

2. Secure Insurance

Most personal car insurance plans do not cover drivers abroad so it is important that business travelers research and select an insurance plan before they depart.

The simplest and usually the least expensive way to secure insurance is through a credit card. Business travelers should check whether their preferred travel card or corporate card offers auto insurance for renting a car abroad. Many credit card companies offer some kind of car rental insurance as a card benefit.

If not, business travelers can purchase insurance through the rental car company. They should ask about the basic insurance coverage and understand what it includes.

It is also worth looking into zero-deductible collision damage waiver (CDW) coverage, which will provide business travelers with extra coverage and support if there’s an accident or issue on the road. There is also loss and damage waiver (LDW) insurance and theft protection, which are both good additions in countries where crime and theft are more common.

Navan provides an extra level of support for business travelers who rent a car through our platform. Our global, proactive 24/7/365 live human support gets users access to support agents on average in 60 seconds or less no matter where they are in the world. In case of an accident or issue, Navan users have immediate support which can connect them to the car rental company or the appropriate back-up in the country where they are traveling.

Insurance laws vary in each country, so be sure to check what’s necessary before arrival. The New York Times recommends carrying a printed copy of the auto insurance policy in writing.

3. Get Ready to Fuel Up

Filling the tank will be a part of all business travelers’ car rental adventures. But fuel prices vary greatly across the world.

Business travelers can start by checking the average fuel prices in a destination and then crafting a general budget for gas expenses. There are websites like GlobalPetrolPrices which provide a quick price check on country fuel prices. In addition to budgeting, it also helpful to have a general idea of prices to avoid outrageously expensive petrol stations.

Rental car agencies often require drivers to return a car with the same amount of gas as when they left. Business travelers should take note of petrol stations near the rental center if they plan to return the car from the same place where they picked it up.

Business travelers should make sure that they have local currency or the appropriate credit card to pay for the fuel, and always keep all receipts. It’s also good to understand the customs of fueling up at a petrol station as they can vary from country to country, and even region to region within a country. For example, in many states in the U.S. like in Washington state and California, self service refueling is an option, and often less expensive than full service (or having a petrol station attendant fill your tank for you). But in Oregon -- the state in between Washington and California -- it is illegal to pump your own fuel.

4. Rent the Right Vehicle

What car comes to mind when thinking about the drive from San Francisco to Los Angeles on Route 101? What about the car for driving on the Autobahn from Munich to Berlin? Or the car that comes to mind for navigating the crowded streets of Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo?

The standard rental car changes from country to country and is probably different from what business travelers are used to driving at home.

Manual transmissions are more common that automatic transmission in Europe, and cars are usually larger with more room for luggage in the United States. A car with manual transmission is the default option in many countries outside of the United States so business travelers looking to book an automatic transmission will need to book earlier and can expect to pay more. Cars are usually smaller in Europe so business travelers should take into account how many of their colleagues (and their luggage) will be in the car before booking.

If the business traveler plans to drive between major cities, a different car may be needed than if they’re planning to drive in a crowded city. It seems like a simple decision but the make, model, size, and engine of the rental car chosen are some of the most important factors in a successful business road trip.

5. Review Rules of the Road

This is one of the most important tips for renting a car abroad.

While there are some obvious rules to review such as which side of the road to drive on, there are also more nuanced and detailed differences to driving in different countries. The goal is to keep everyone safe in the car and on the road.

Business travelers should review whether they can turn right on red, which lane to use when passing other cars, and who has the right of way in a traffic circle. It is equally as important to review common street signs, speed limits, and seat belt laws.

Besides safety, understanding local road rules helps avoid surprise fines.

Be aware that some countries have a minimum and maximum age for renters. Drivers under the age of 25 or over the age of 70 may face surcharges or not be permitted to rent at all.

We recommend never getting behind the wheel after a drink -- even if it’s a glass of wine over a business dinner. Business travelers who occasionally drink alcohol should absolutely review the permitted blood alcohol concentration levels regardless. These laws change in every country. Make sure that one celebratory drink after the deal is signed doesn’t land a colleague behind bars.

6. Plan Ahead for Directions

So the red SUV is booked, the insurance policy printed, and the local road rules reviewed. What’s next?

It’s important that business travelers plan ahead so they have all the tools necessary to navigate the new terrain. While most people rely on their smartphone’s maps app, this might be difficult to use without an international phone plan and access to 4G coverage. If you do have strong coverage, Waze is a great option that outlines traffic hazards, nearby police, and more.

If the driver is most comfortable with their smartphone’s maps app then be sure to have more than enough data and a sufficient coverage plan. If not, a good option is renting a GPS from the car rental company. These companies often have the newest and most advanced GPS technology available for a daily rate.The GPS will work in multiple languages and fit the specific car, making navigation and following directions even easier than on a smartphone.

7. Protect Luggage and Valuables

It might seem silly to include ‘protect luggage’ among the top 10 tips for renting a car abroad, but one small mistake could have disastrous effects on a business trip.

The first step to avoiding theft is awareness. Consider the city where the car will be, and its reputation for theft. Drive a car in Cape Town, and every local will recommend to park in a public garage with a trunk cover hiding any luggage. Drive a car in Amsterdam, and locals will say that it is safe to park on the street as long as luggage is covered and out of sight.

A good general rule of thumb is to put all luggage and handbags in the trunk with the retractable trunk cover in position if a hatchback, wagon/estate or SUV. Drivers should always ask that a trunk cover is included at the car rental company.

A public garage space is usually worth the cost, but business travelers should always be on the lookout for savings. The service SpotHero helps drivers find a public parking garage at a seriously discounted price. It is available in dozens of cities across the United States. Not only will drivers save, but they’ll know the exact location to put in their GPS when arriving in a new place.

Most business travelers stay at a hotel, and can inquire about public or valet parking spaces ahead of arrival. Not only will it be easier to have the car where they stay, but they know that everything -- including those important files -- are safe.

8. Book in Advance

Never wait to rent a car after arriving in a new city. With Navan, business travelers can rent a car alongside their hotel and flight in just six minutes.

Rental rates are almost always higher at the counter than they are online, even just 24 hours before pickup. We recommend business travelers complete the booking and payment -- as well as these 10 tips for renting a car abroad -- before leaving home.

In terms of timing, business travelers should also be aware of pick-up and drop-off times.

Returning a rental car late or early, or at a different location than where the vehicle was picked up, can also result in additional fees. The best way to remedy a change in the schedule is to stay in contact with the car rental company as they often organize their garages around set times and dates. Some rental car companies charge a fee if drivers return a car at a different time than initially agreed on without contacting them beforehand. Many rental agencies begin charging for each 24-hour period from the time of rental, and will bill a full day for cars returned after an extra 24-hour period begins.

9. Stay Alert for Other Extra Costs

Renting a car can become a business travel battleground of potential fees and unexpected costs.

For example, drivers are responsible for paying tolls. Business travelers should plan ahead by having local currency ready to pay the fees or a credit card which is accepted in the country where they are driving. Drivers can also ask the car rental company whether they offer electronic transponders for digital tolls and pay the total at the end of their trip.

Traffic and parking tickets become particularly expensive when driving a rental car. Companies will often charge an extra service fee for any ticket fees that happen in their vehicles.

Some car rental companies will charge business travelers a daily fee for each additional driver whether or not they actually drive. So, it might be a good idea to select one person as the designated driver if traveling with a group of colleagues.

Equally as valuable, stay alert for savings. Business travelers should always inquire about potential discounts from AAA, credit card programs, and frequent flier memberships.

10. Bring an Aux Cord

Most modern vehicles have a USB slot front and center. Business travelers can bring an aux cord and enjoy their curated hype list before the big business meeting -- plus keep their mobile phones charged for getting work done on the go when the driving stops.

Navan is here for business travelers every step of the way. From booking to support, we have business travelers’ back when renting a car whether they are middle management executives driving from New York to Philadelphia for the first time or entrepreneurs taking a road trip through Europe to raise an investment round.

Remember these 10 tips for renting a car abroad and enjoy the hustle.

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