How Car Hire Works in the USA, Canada, Caribbean, and Americas

American Car Hire simply explained. Hiring a Car in the USA, Canada, Caribbean or the rest of the Americas can be very confusing, I aim to make it very simple here!

Mark's Top Tip

Make sure what you are buying in the Americas - its very different from European Car Hire

American Car Hire Explained

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Why is American Car Hire so different?

It you rent a car directly in the US - maybe walking into a car rental office over there, or on a US or Canadian website (a .com / .ca addresses site that charges you in the local currency) the chances are that the car hire firm will offer you a packaged designed for a citizen of that country.

And the big difference that means is that Stateside residents are able to 'transfer' their normal car insurance policy onto a rental car, rather than having to buy an insurance inclusive package as is the case in the UK or Europe.

This means that although the price might look lower the package is too, leaving you with the responsibility of finding separate Collision Damage Waiver cover, and in most cases Supplementary Liability Insurance which will top up the often inadequate third party cover provided locally.

Alternatively you can buy your car hire through a UK based company or website, where it will be assumed that you are going to need the additional cover and you will find they are already invariably packaged in.

When you book American Car Hire through a UK website

What most agreements include

  • Collision Damage Waiver
  • Supplementary Liability Insurance (SLI) - this can also be termed Additional Liability Insurance (ALI), and tops up the any mandatory local third party insurance.
  • Taxes and Airport Fees

What most agreements don't include

  • Normally there are no excesses in the US, but they are the norm in Canada
  • Damage to the tyres and wheels, glass and windscreen, underbody and roof.

Watch out for

  • An upsell at the desk for Personal Accident Insurance, which may well be included in your travel insurance already
  • Additional Breakdown Cover - tends to be expensive and excess insurance policies can cover this at lower cost

Top Moneysaving Tips

  • Buy standalone excess insurance to cover the tyres and wheels, glass, underbody and roof as well as providing wider breakdown cover (guide price £3 per day)
  • Prepaid packages which include extra drivers and a tankful of fuel generally workout cheaper than adding these in separately.

When you book American Car Hire through a US, Canadian or International website

What most agreements include

  • Your rental car
  • Standard Breakdown cover

What most agreements don't include

  • Normally there are no excesses in the US, but they are the norm in Canada
  • Damage to the tyres and wheels, glass and windscreen, underbody and roof.
  • Concession, Tourism, Transportation and Airport Fees
  • Tax

Watch out for

  • An upsell at the desk for Personal Accident Insurance, which may well be included in your travel insurance already
  • Additional Breakdown Cover - tends to be expensive and excess insurance policies can cover this at lower cost

Top Moneysaving Tips

  • You can sometime save money going down the locally purchased route, but do your sums carefully and contact your hire firm if you are not sure of what is included.
  • Prepaid packages which include extra drivers and a tankful of fuel generally workout cheaper than adding these in separately.

Additional Country Specific Information

The USA

  • Watch out for one way hire fees - they tend to be by the mile and really add up unless you are travelling a well worn route such as LA to Vegas.
  • If you are looking for a roadtrip and are flexible look at Autodriveaway which relocates cars around the country. Also consider a 'Driveout' deal - between April and June every year car hire firms offer really cheap car hire to drivers who are will to 'rebase' cars from the Florida up to northern states. Google 'Florida driveout' for details which normally start appearing around March each year.

Canada

  • Canada faces real extremes in temperatures which means its easy for a small chip in a windscreen to creep rapidly (watch out for all the cracked windscreens on the roads to emphasis this point!) - covering your glass with a excess insurance policy makes a lot of sense.

Caribbean

  • The Caribbean Islands have a real mix of car hire rules - part American due to their close proximity to this major market and part European due to their colonial past. Check what is included or not carefully as its not always clear, going back to car hire firm if necessary.
  • Third party liability limits in the Caribbean can be very low - protect yourself with SLI if required

Mexico

  • If you are looking to drive into Mexico from the US ensure you check your rental agreement covers this - many do not.
  • Excesses (locally they are called deductables) are the norm, and often are a percentage (say 10%) or the value of the car.

Any questions? Why not 'Ask Mark'?

This content was last reviewed on 26/07/2014