Car Rental Tips

Car Insurance

American Express (AMEX) Premium Car Rental insurance offers great coverage for an amazing price when you rent a car for a month in all European countries except Italy and Ireland.

  • First you need an AMEX Card.
  • Then you need to register with AMEX for Premium Car Rental coverage. Once registered, every time you rent a car – for 1 to 42 days – your card is charged $24.95, total. Expensive for a one- or two-day rental. Amazing for a 30-day or more rental.
  • If you rent a car and don’t want AMEX Premium Car Rental coverage, simply use another credit card when you provide your credit card to the car rental company’s agent.

When you decline collision coverage from the rental company, AMEX provides damage and theft coverage for up to $100,000 ; however, it does not include coverage for liability, uninsured or underinsured motorists, or disability. See the AMEX Premium Car Rental site for details and conditions:

So what happens if you have a problem?

I unfortunately had a problem during two of my three trips to Europe. When I went to Turin, Italy, I rented a car in Nice, France to circumvent the Not Available in Italy clause (you can drive in Italy, just not rent/originate in Italy). I hit a post backing up on a winding road (another story/memory), and I got caught in a tremendous hailstorm while driving back to Valencia from Spain’s Costa Blanco.

In both instances:

  • The rental company charged my AMEX card for the damages.
  • I contacted AMEX Premium Insurance upon returning to USA, and was told to dispute the damage charges on my AMEX card.
  • AMEX Premium Insurance then worked directly with the rental company (Avis in France and Hertz in Spain), requesting confirmation of fix and actual fix costs. (Rental car companies charge you ~25% more because they estimate fixes to make your check-in process easier. AMEX waits to get actual costs before paying for damages.)
  • In about three to six months, the rental company refunded my charged damage costs, allowing me to remove the dispute for the charges.

Big vs. Small Cars

Most of us like big cars/SUVs. And these vehicles can be rented in Europe.

But remember: You need to park your rental car in parking spots that are small. Really small! And you need to drive in underground parking garages, where you’ll encounter narrow, winding tunnels.

The size of your rental car should meet two objectives:

  • Large enough to provide comfort for the number of people traveling
  • Large enough to accommodate your luggage to/from the airport

After living in Europe for a month, you appreciate why Europeans drive smaller cars. (Reasons also include petro/gasoline costs.)

But ensure the selected car primarily meets your basic comfort requirements.

I have rented SUV-sized cars during my three trips because friends visit for a week and we take short side trips together to a city a few hundred miles away.

Again, comfort is the bottom line here. Parking often makes me question my choice.


Unless your apartment provides parking, you can spend 20€ or more per day in a public parking lot – that’s 600€ for the month.

It may be possible to get a monthly rate, but still expensive.

It’s critical to have a parking strategy, as some popular cities (like Barcelona and Paris) or even 2nd-tier cities, have limited private/apartment parking.


Having a GPS is invaluable: You will not find your apartment from the airport without one. It can even help you find your apartment during the first week when you’re walking around town.

Obviously you need European GPS maps. I purchased a refurbished 4.3” Garmin Worldwide GPS on Amazon for $80 with lifetime updates. Renting a navigation system from your car rental company costs upwards of 80€. So it’s a break-even-plus to bring one. (And you can use it during your next European trip.)

International Driver’s License

You may never need to use it, but it’s best to have an international driver’s license if the police stop you. Also, you need one if renting from EuropCar. (Hertz and Avis don’t ask for it.)

You can obtain an international driver’s license from any AAA office. Bring two passport photos, signed on the back. It costs $20 and is good for one year. AAA specifies the start date for the year’s duration per your request/actual departure date. Access the link below to print the IDL form: