Questions from a reader regarding car rentals...Have policies changed due to COVID-19?...

My bathroom in the 300-year old stone holiday home we rented in Boveglio, Tuscany, Italy in 2013. Tom took the smaller bathroom in our master bedroom.There's no tub and the shower was small but it served its purpose. 
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Today's photos are from June 19, 2013, while in Boveglio Italy. See the link here for more details.

We've been receiving tons of email messages from our readers, which has been such a support to us over the years and now, especially so, during this lengthy lockdown in Mumbai, India. 
The authentic Tuscan kitchen; no dishwasher, no microwave, no small appliances, no electric coffee pot but otherwise well-stocked kitchen with items used for making pasta, bread and sauces. 
As mentioned in the past, we make every effort to respond to each individual message. Many of your comments inspire us to write a new story as is the case in today's post, as prompted by this message we received yesterday.

I've removed the name of the kindly person who wrote to protect their anonymity. In the past few months, we've seen similar requests and thought we should address it in today's post. Perhaps, renting cars in times of COVID-19 has changed and we will address this as well. See the email below:
The TV wasn't working again at first but, the owner's parents stopped by to install a new cable box. We never used it once during our three months in this property.
"Hi, Jessica and Tom,

I have been reading your posts for several years now.  My sister and her son met you on an Australian cruise and introduced me to your posts.  Recently, I introduced you to my traveling companion who reads you every morning and has written to you a couple times.  Thank you for the wonderful travel tips and information.

For years I have wanted to rent a place in Europe for a month.  You both have made me feel that this is possible. Posting your expenses helps so much. I'm loving the pictures you have been posting lately and loved the ones today (home in Italy).   

Can you maybe post information that you have learned about renting a car overseas?  Do you have any problems driving? Do you usually rent from an airport? I assume you buy the company's insurance. I also assume that you are keeping your U.S. Driver's license current. Have you ever had an accident (fender bender) and how was it handled.  I'm sure you can think of information that wouldn't even enter my mind.

I hope your antibiotics are working for you. You haven't mentioned your tooth lately.

Keep the faith. You were so blessed to have found this hotel when you did."
The master bedroom had a comfortable bed, good pillows, and blankets. With no AC or fans in the entire house and no screens on the windows, we had to open the windows at night for some cooler air. As summer progressed and it became hotter each day, we were plagued with endless numbers of huge flies and mosquitoes.
In response to our readers' questions, one by one (our responses are in bold type):

1. Can you maybe post information that you have learned about renting a car overseas? Obviously, one of our top priorities when renting cars throughout the world is getting the best possible price for a car that meets our criteria: ample room for our luggage; air conditioning; four doors; must be in good condition; and be available for rental in 30-day increments (see below for reasons why on this point). We often stay in countries more than 30-days. We now only rent in 30-day increments to ensure our credit card insurance will pay when it only covers the first 30 day period. (See point #4 below).
Walking onto the patio required serious maneuvering over the side of a flight of stone steps, an action not for the faint of heart. The garden boxes provided us with herbs and some vegetables all summer long.
2. Do you have any problems driving? For me, yes. I have trouble driving on the opposite side of the road while maneuvering a stick shift with my left hand when the driver's side in most countries is on the right side of the car, not the left as in the USA. It boils down to a lack of coordination on my part, although I know how to drive a car with a manual transmission. As a result, Tom always drives under these circumstances.

3. Do you usually rent from an airport? Yes, we prefer this. At some airports, it's necessary to take a shuttle to the car rental facility. In each case, we've had better luck selecting the most popular car rental companies as opposed to unfamiliar resellers which we'd highly discourage.
Me and a Pinocchio statue outside of a children's shop in the quaint town of Collodi where Carlo Collodi (pen name) created the much-loved character which has endured for well over 100-years.
4. Do you buy the company's insurance? No, our credit cards provide insurance on the first 30-days. Adding the rental car facility's insurance can double the cost of the rental. If you have car insurance in your home country, check for the coverage included for rental cars in international locations. Most rental companies require an amount "on a hold" on your credit card to cover the "excess" which is everything beyond what your insurance will cover. Make sure they aren't charging huge amounts that may tie-up your credit during the rental period and beyond. If you don't have any type of insurance for car rentals, it's suggested you find some means of insurance before booking the rental.

Important Point: Take photos of the exterior (and interior if any damage) of pre-existing damage using a camera with a date stamp to show dates photos were taken. Make sure the rep notes all the pre-existing damage on the rental forms.

5. Are you keeping your U.S. Driver's license current? Yes, we keep our US, state of Nevada (our state of residency), driver's license up to date. Some states allow online renewal. In our case, Nevada allows an online renewal every other renewal period. Some travelers acquire an international driver's license, assuming it will be in place of a license from your home state/country. This is not the case. For more details on international drivers licenses, please click here.
Another statue of beloved Pinocchio in Collodi, Tuscany, Italy.
6. Have you ever had an accident (fender bender) and how was it handled? We haven't had an accident although we did have a minor "fender bender" a few years ago and paid the rental car company out of pocket for the repairs. After we'd dropped off the car, pointing out the damage, they contacted us a week later with the charges which they applied to our credit card. We didn't need to dispute the amount since it appeared reasonable.

Please see the following link for a post we uploaded in September 2019 for reviews and some of our experiences with car rental companies. There is some valuable information at that link outlining some issues we've had, particularly in Ireland with a reseller, located far from the airport.

Botticino, the little town where we purchased gas for $6 a gallon.
Also, we had quite an outrageous experience with a rental car company in Costa Rica, a franchised office of Europcar (which we've had good luck in other countries) which gave us quite a run-around. 

Since it wasn't a corporate-run location, we didn't discontinue working with Europcar. The issues were entirely due to the manner in which rental cars are handled in Costa Rica and Ireland which is very different than in other parts of the world. They wanted us to prepay INR 685913, US $9000, on our credit card. No way would we allow that sum to be charged to our card for a car rental! We used taxis for the remainder of our time in Costa Rica. Please see this link for this important information.
 Driving around Collodi on one-way streets.
The point remains, each country has its own policies and conditions. When booking a car regardless of the reviews and ratings on the rental car company, it is important to carefully read the conditions of the rental.

The easiest and most affordable location where we've rented cars has been in South Africa, one more reason we're partial to visiting the country.

As for changes after COVID-19? At this point, we expect prices to increase, partially due to the bankruptcy of Hertz and other companies suffering financial losses during this period. 

 The road as we were leaving Collodi.
Also, when renting a car after others have rented it, make sure you thoroughly clean and spray the interior with disinfectant products and disposable wipes. Although many sources are stating the virus doesn't remain on surfaces for extended periods, there could be particles in the air of the car and on all surfaces both on the interior and exterior. 

We'll be asking how long it's been since any particular car has been rented for added peace of mind and yet still conduct the disinfecting process, regardless of the date.
Houses high in the hills in Tuscany.
We hope we've answered our readers' questions enhanced by including links from past posts. To answer the thoughtful question regarding the status of my tooth, the pain continues but is manageable with Paracetemol/Tylenol taken daily. No dentist in India is willing to work on it due to my heart condition and COVID-19. When and if we get to South Africa, we'll have it addressed as quickly as possible. 

Thank you, dear reader(s), for your inquiries and thoughtful messages. We all continue on in our goals of making our way through these trying times!

Be well.
Photo from one year ago today, June 18, 2019:
Ruins of a castle in Connemara, Ireland. For more photos, please click here.


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