How to Properly Insure Your Italian Rental Car

When renting a car in Italy you must purchase collision (CDW) and theft insurance. Declining this insurance is not an option and the price you are quoted will always include it. Sounds good except there's a catch: the insurance comes with a substantial deductible or excess, usually in the €1000 to €3000 range. That means if there is damage to your rental car, or if it stolen, you will pay the first €1000 to €3000 to repair to replace it.

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So how do you cover the deductible? There are three ways:

  1. Buy Super CDW/theft insurance at the rental counter. This reduces the deductible/excess, often to zero. Disadvantages are that it can be expensive and may not cover everything on the car. Insurance offered by car rental companies often does not cover such items as wheels, glass, side mirrors, lamps, interior, undercarriage, locks and roof.
  2. When booking a pre-paid but fully cancelable rental...which is advisable...ask for a zero-deductible rate. But keep in mind the price will be higher and the insurance may not cover all items on the car.
  3. Pay with a credit card that covers the deductible. Here’s where it get a bit tricky. Most credit card insurance offers “secondary” car rental coverage, meaning that if the driver already has CDW and theft insurance...which means all rental car drivers in Italy...the credit card bows out of the insurance picture. Cards that provide secondary coverage require the renter to decline the rental company’s offer of CDW/theft, an impossibility in Italy. We are aware, however, of one exception to this rule. Even though Visa cards typically offer only secondary coverage, in Italy most Visa cards will reimburse the cardholder for the deductible portion of damage and theft charges not covered by other insurance. (Please note that this is our interpretation of Visa’s benefit rules (PDF), making it essential that you confirm with Visa that your account offers this coverage.) Beside free insurance, the great advantage of credit card insurance is that it covers virtually all the items excluded by rental car insurance, wheels, glass, side mirrors, etc. We thus recommend Visa as the best option to cover CDW and theft excess/deductible on rental cars in Italy.

We have been unable to confirm that MasterCard provides deductible coverage in Italy and American Express offers no coverage there at all. Discover card is not accepted by rental car companies in Europe.

Two final items: your home auto insurance (at least for North Americans) won’t cover rental cars in Europe. Third-party liability insurance is the responsibility of the rental company and coverage extends to many millions of euros. It is included in virtually all car rental quotes.