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Car rental in Scotland

Hello! Very tentatively planning a trip to Scotland for August 2021 but regardless of whether it happens then or sometime in 2022 I have a question about car rental in Scotland, and specifically insurance/liability coverage. I will be renting with my American Express card (the usual secondary coverage) and I also have their Premium Car Rental Coverage (primary coverage for collision damage and theft). Will I need additional coverage beyond that? It's my understanding that car rentals in Europe, by law, include liability coverage (anything that gets damaged that is not the car or passengers inside the car) BUT, now that the UK has left the EU, I suspect that a European law will no longer be apply to the UK. Can anyone help?

Thank you!

Posted by
3709 posts

My experience in another country was that EU car rental regulations covered EU residents only and were not extended to foreigners renting in EU countries. So expect no change to the UK rental process.

Using credit card insurance is a fraught topic here. Many would be satisfied using it, just make sure you don’t authorize repairs be made to the vehicle with your signature. The rental agency has no incentive to submit insurance paperwork to get payment for repairs if you have already authorized funds to do that.

Some liability is always included with the rental. You may be offered the option of buying supplemental liability.

I’m not an AutoEurope fan but renting from them doesn’t combine well with the automatic billing aspect of the Amex premium policy.

Note that the primary/secondary double insurance coverage condition only occurs domestically. Overseas you will only have the Amex Premium policy in effect so nothing else to be secondary. There are some countries that require as a minimum on every rental a high deductible insurance policy be purchased from the rental agency and this can trigger double insurance coverage, but Scotland isn’t one of them.

Since you are posting from Minnesota, the fastest and usually cheapest way to Scotland is Icelandair to Glasgow, about 10 hours. Delta, Air France, or KLM will require flying over the UK and doubling back from either Amsterdam or Paris. I don’t think there’s a way to fly nonstop to London on Delta and connect to a Scotland flight on one ticket, and flying to London then heading immediately for a train to Scotland is simply dumb. There are also connections available to Scotland via Dublin, JFK, Philadelphia on other airlines that may make sense. US Immigration returning from Europe via NE US airports can mean a long wait.

Edit: There are a lot more nonstops from North America to Scotland than there used to be: Boston, Chicago, Dulles, Newark. is offering good prices and times from MSP to Edinburgh for next August on Star Alliance flights (Air Canada, United).

Posted by
7 posts

Thank you for your helpful information! All aspects of planning this trip have proved fairly straightforward...except for the car rental insurance coverage situation, haha! Is there a reason you don't prefer AutoEurope? Which car rental agency would you recommend fo Scotland?

Posted by
181 posts

We used Hertz in Scotland and were very happy with them. I ended up getting the extra insurance through them because I got a good, inexpensive rate for it and it was worth the peace of mind and the few extra dollars to not having to even think about any issues.

Posted by
514 posts

Avoid Green Motion Car Hire. They are cheap but feedback on places like Trip Advisor is dire and customers have had all sorts of problems with them. Chose Arnold Clarke or Hertz.

Posted by
3709 posts

We used Enterprise at Glasgow airport, inexpensive rate for a large automobile with automatic transmission, and used ordinary credit card insurance (no cost). This worked out well as we didn’t have too much damage. The left side mirror hit a parked truck and broke into pieces but it all snapped together without a mark and was still functional. Upon returning the car the guy in dressy clothes dropped to the pavement (both sides) to inspect the undercarriage which I’ve never experienced before.

AutoEurope: this is a middleman/travel agent. You must prepay the rental and this charge won’t be coded as a rental car so the Amex premium policy won’t kick in automatically. You have to call and have it added. Then if there are additional charges after the rental like a one way charge, GPS, tolls, transponder charges, administrative charge for processing a speeding camera fine— each of these transactions will trigger the full charge for an additional insurance premium so you will have to call Green Bay somewhere and get them removed. It can also be hard if you purchase insurance thru AutoEurope to see in advance the actual policy that you will get when you arrive at the rental agency. The one time I used AutoEurope the policy provided by them included additional liability, but this coverage was not provided in the actual rental contract.

On the other hand, the Amex premium policy provides medical insurance for crash-related injuries to passengers of your car and that can’t be purchased from the local rental car agency. It also includes theft coverage of belongings which is always an extra charge from the local rental agency on top of super CDW.

Note that super CDW may exclude vandalism, tires, or glass while credit car insurance may cover these items at no charge. The free insurance included with Chase Sapphire and Chase United airlines Visa cards is quite comprehensive, covering “all damage,” in all countries, for rentals up to one month.

Posted by
2949 posts

We used Hertz in the UK and got their extra insurance coverage. We were glad we did, because on our very first day someone put a scratch on the passenger side door while we were parked at our hotel. And the next day a scratch was put on the driver's side while we were parked somewhere else. (Arrrghgh!!) When we returned the car at Glasgow airport, the agent said not a word about the scratches and Hertz never charged us or contacted about them at all.

Posted by
7 posts

So, it seems like Hertz is a fairly solid company to go with. And, probably not a bad idea to purchase any additional coverage for whatever my AmEx premium car rental coverage doesn't cover?

Posted by
3709 posts

probably not a bad idea to purchase any additional coverage for whatever my AmEx premium car rental coverage doesn't cover

Alyssa: It's one or the other in Scotland, you have to refuse the CDW to activate the Amex policy, even if paid for, is not in effect unless you refuse the CDW and can prove it. Note that there are all kinds of activities that can void either insurance, drinking and driving, letting an unauthorized person drive, leaving the keys in the car, speeding, etc, there's no truly worry-free choice.

There's no advantage of choosing one international car rental brand over another.

These topics never resolve, because the people like me who use credit card insurance are happy and the people who buy the CDW are happy, and no one has much experience using both systems to compare. It's like the old argument about whether toddlers should drink 1% milk or 2% milk, they both work so there's no resolution to the argument, no best choice. Whatever you pick will work out. Caveat: using a credit card that has insurance that covers 100% of damage and then buying the cheap insurance with approximately $1800 deductible is stupid because you have paid for the insurance and then have voided the free coverage by doing so, getting the worst of both systems: paying for insurance and then also paying for the repairs up to $1800. Either learn your credit car policy and follow it, and carry it with you, or buy the super CDW.

A few warnings about driving in Scotland:

The driver sits on the right side of the vehicle so if you get a shift you will use your left hand to shift the transmission.

The main highways in the highlands have a lot of 1-1/2 lane bridges with tourist coaches and trucks bombing down the middle and taking up the full width of the bridge, the sign for this is oncoming vehicles in middle of road. The upper sign is showing the lane constriction at a bridge or underpass.

Things you will miss driving internationally:

Using a center yellow stripe to separate directions of travel, this North American norm is used in Norway, but not the UK or mainland Europe. So there's no quick way to check if a road or street is one-way while you are using it, so be sure to read the signs before entering the roadway. People park on the wrong side of the road so the direction the parked cars are facing can't be used for this purpose.

The most common damage to a car is scraping the hubcap on the curb while parallel parking, and while this type damage would be ignored in the US as normal wear and tear but there's no guarantee that will happen internationally. Also, the rolled-face curb that's universal in Minnesota and prevents this damage from occurring (the curved face lifts the tire up and leans the hubcaps away from the curb face) is not so common outside the Midwest, and rarely seen internationally where curbs are usually vertical, so don't rush parallel parking to get out of the traffic stream and stay clear of the curb because it is unlikely to have the forgiving design that you are used to.

Posted by
77 posts

I used Celtic Legend auto rental and they were so extremely helpful and quick to respond to emails. Their website has great info on insurance and general driving in Scotland tips. I picked up my car at Glasgow airport and dropped at Inverness and felt they had a competitive price and the car was actually from Arnold Clarke, but Celtic Legend was my contact. I loved driving in Scotland and I highly recommend contacting Celtic Legend as part of your research. I will use them again next time I go to the UK.