International Car Renter Insurance FAQs

by | Oct 29, 2018

As a visitor to the US, it is a confusing process to understand insurance coverages while renting a car. Hopefully, this FAQ will fill in some of the gaps. This guide is not meant as a definitive resource for all rental cars- just renting a car through Explore Rentals.

Question: Why is Primary Coverage Insurance required? 

Answer: In a nutshell, so you don’t trash a rental car and leave the country. What this means is that you have insurance will act as primary in the case of an accident, so if you hit a deer, we know the insurance will pay for the damage.

Question: Will my foreign person auto insurance cover any damages? 

Answer: Highly unlikely. In 10-years of business we have had only one non-US renter have verifiable Primary Coverage Auto insurance in the US while they are renting a car.

Question: Will my travel insurance provide primary insurance coverage?

Answer: Most international travel insurance policies do not provide primary coverage for rental cars. They only offer secondary or tertiary coverage, as in they will pay the deductible (excess) but not actual damage to the vehicle. This is generally no good for me (the rental car company) and you, the renter.

Question: What insurance coverage is included when renting with Explore Rentals? 

Answer: Explore Rentals insures our rental fleet commercially, like all other rental car companies, to the industry standards of state required liability minimums. What this means is that you are completely legal, but do not have great coverage especially for the most common accidents, like hitting a deer or a snow bank. This is why we require the renter have some form of insurance that acts as primary coverage in case of a collision; it makes it a heck of a lot cheaper for you to pay for damages and easier for us to make sure damages get paid for.

Question: Why is it so difficult to rent a car as a non-American?

Answer: Americans and their insurance companies are insanely litigious. It is easy for most US-nationals because as individuals we have full-coverage insurance on our personal automobiles that extends primary coverage to rental cars. Your personal auto insurance in the UK, Australia, Japan, or wherever you are from likely wants nothing to do with a car accident in America.

Some international personal and corporate insurance policies extend primary coverage to rental cars in the US. If you have one of these policies, you will know it.

Question: What are my options to get primary coverage insurance and to rent through Explore Rentals? 

  1. Purchase an international travel insurance policy that provides PRIMARY rental car insurance coverage in the US. This is often expensive, but can be more affordable to those individuals renting cars for extended periods of time. You will need to present proof of your primary coverage insurance prior to driving away with one of our rental cars.
  2. Purchase RCP Insurance. Renter’s Collision Protection insurance. This is available at the beginning of your rental or at the time of booking. Price is $21/ day. Which is not cheap, but is a requirement unless you can prove your current insurance policy will act as primary coverage. RCP provides collision coverage for up to a maximum payout of $20,000, with a $250 deductible (excess). Example: you hit a deer, it causes $1,500 worth of damages to the car. You pay Explore Rentals the $250 deductible and do a little extra paperwork (like accident reports), we get the car fixed, you go home; no-harm-no-foul. RCP does not provide liability coverage, or Loss of Use coverage, or cover towing. RCP Benefits Brochure.

Note: RCP is the best solution we have found, but it is not a perfect system. Example: Last year an international renter fell asleep at the wheel and drove the car off the road in Yellowstone National Park. Although it looked like fairly minimal damage, he drove over a number of stumps effectively ripping the guts out of the Outback. Fortunately, he was fine. Although he had RCP, we ran into a number of issues which made it an unfortunate event. 1) The car had to be towed out of YNP to the repair center- at his cost. RCP does not cover towing, and this was a long tow. 2) The car was a total loss. RCP paid out the full amount ($20,000 total), but the car was worth more than $20k, so we had to bill the renter for the difference. 3) We (Explore Rentals) had to cancel multiple weeks of already booked rentals during the time it took to receive insurance settlement and replace the vehicle- so we had a significant loss of revenue (let alone the upset renters we had to cancel on) so we were forced to charge Loss of Use- which RCP does not cover either. In conclusion, this was a crappy situation for all involved, and don’t fall asleep at the wheel.

RCP Insurance does not cover liability, towing, or Loss of Use. We have not found suitable solutions to extend liability coverages beyond state requirements as provided by our commercial policy. Sorry.

Towing and Loss of Use: with everything in life there is some inherent risk. We do not offer a product that absolves a renter from responsibility.

Question: What is the best way for a foreigner to rent a car through Explore Rentals? 

Answer: There is no perfect solution, and there will always be some risk. Here are your best options if you elect to do business with Explore Rentals:

  1. Purchase RCP insurance. This reduces exposure to $250 in the case of Collision. RCP Insurance does not provide any liability coverage.
  2. Choose one of our less-valuable Roadwarrior or Super Roadwarrior class vehicles. These vehicles are closer to the value of the $20,000 max payout with RCP. The value of many of our standard class rental cars exceeds $60,000- leaving a big gap if something really bad happens.
  3. Make the booking with a premium credit card that offers secondary coverage to auto rentals in the US. You will need to check your card coverage, but it is possible. This secondary coverage MAY cover the potential loss of use, towing, and other charges.
  4. Purchase travel insurance that provides US rental car coverage. Secondary or tertiary insurance can help with the worst case scenario, and you will want health insurance coverage for the US anyway while you are traveling.

Question: What are the actual odds of getting in an accident while renting a car through Explore Rentals? 

  • 2.4% of our renters incur an accident during their rental period.
  • 95% of those accidents, damage has been over $250.
  • 25% have been the result of ice/ slippery conditions, 45% have been contact with an animal, 15% backing up into a stationary object, 10% have been bad judgment, 15% miscellaneous.
  • Average repair amount to a vehicle: $1,700.
  • Very fortunately, we have had only had 2-accidents where people needed medical attention, this is .0095% chance of happening to you!


Nobody wants or tries to get in an accident, but it happens. At Explore Rentals we require international renters provide proof of insurance that provides primary rental car coverage in the US, or they purchase the RCP insurance. This is to protect you, the renter, and us, the company.

It is the renter’s responsibility to know their own insurance coverages and limitations.