Rental car insurance can be a complicated business, especially for international travel. For example, even the most seasoned traveler may be unaware that the auto insurance policy covering her car at home also extends to cover most rental cars. It's rarely necessary to buy rental car insurance over the counter at the rental agency. For those willing to do a little homework, there are always less expensive options offering adequate coverage.

Step 1

Examine your auto insurance policy, or call your insurance company. Your policy should offer coverage as good or better than what the rental car company offers, and you are already paying for it. Coverage may not extend internationally, however, so check your terms.

Step 2

Check with your credit card companies. Visa, MasterCard, American Express and Discover often provide insurance for rentals that are charged to those cards. You must completely comply with the terms to claim the insurance. For example, Discover requires that 100 percent of the rental fees be charged to the card, that a private car rental be for less than 31 consecutive days and that you decline any loss/damage waiver coverage offered by the rental car agency.

Step 3

Investigate third-party insurance options. A number of online companies, such as Travel Guard, provide insurance for those who either cannot use or do not want to use their existing auto insurance or credit card coverage. You can buy the coverage over the Internet; the terms are similar to what a rental car agency provides, and fees are usually 50 to 70 percent less.

Step 4

Look for online discounts offered by the rental agency. Sometimes car companies offer discounts if you buy insurance coverage online instead of over-the-counter. This form of insurance will still be expensive, but if the terms of the insurance are better--for example, the deductible is smaller and liability limit is higher--it might be worth it.

Step 5

Bring proof of insurance to the rental counter. If you bought third-party coverage or are using your auto insurance, the proof-of-coverage card is good enough. If you are using your credit card's coverage, go to the card's website and print out the coverage terms. If you don't, the rental car agency might force you to choose between not taking the car or buying its coverage

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