Ok, so our car wasn’t actually stolen. Or even broken into. What happened to us is officially called: attempted car theft. At least that’s what’s stated on our police report, because yes, we had to visit a police station.
But the truth is that, even though the numbers are decreasing, car crime in Italy is still common. The most “popular” is car theft, which varies considerably from region to region: basically, the more south you go, the worse it gets. However, theft of and from cars is widespread in the big cities, like Catania, Naples, Rome and Palermo too.
According to statista.com the most frequently stolen model of the car in Italy is Fiat Panda, which is funny, because when renting a car in Italy, this is the one you’ll most likely get. Theft of small items, like: radios, luggage, mobile phones, cameras, sunglasses and even cigarettes from parked cars happens as well. In the south, it can occur by smashing windows, even if you’re actually in the car.
Ok, ok, stop! I feel like I might have scared you and put Italy in a bad light. Car crime in Italy is generally around average for Europe.
But there are things that you should keep in mind when renting a car in Italy. And there are some ways that help you, maybe not prevent a theft (because it might just happen), but minimise the chance of getting your car stolen or broken into.
First things first: what did actually happen to us?
Like I said our car wasn’t stolen, nor broken into. So why did we have to visit a police station?
During our road trip in Puglia we visited several cities/towns finishing with the amazing Matera. We never parked in some dark alleys, but now when I think about it, once or twice we might have left the car in not so safe spots. And since it was a road trip, we usually had our luggage left in the boot, at least while sightseeing in the daytime. We tried not to show off the contents of our car, but maybe someone was watching us…. Haha, no, nothing that dramatic happened… I think.
It was the last morning, when I noticed that the handle in the driver’s door was kind of pulled out. My boyfriend tried putting the key in and it wouldn’t go, so we both came to the same conclusion:
someone tried to break in.
The car had not been opened and nothing was stolen, but it was obviously damaged…not so good if it’s a rental car. Our moods went down, but we continued sightseeing Matera. However, all this time we were considering all the possible options:
– go to the police station and report it;
– pray that the rental company won’t notice;
– play dumb if they notice;
– pull “The Fugitive”.
After checking the insurance policy, we decided that we have to report it to the police. And I’m glad that we did, because the rental company of course did notice the damage. The funniest thing was, that the car was parked literally 20 meters from the Matera police station! Cheeky or what?!
But we actually don’t know where and when someone tried to break into our car. Using only the electronic fob, we never paid close attention to the door locks.
One officer at the police station was speaking communicative English, so with his help and Google translate we managed to receive the “attempted theft report” valid for the insurance. Everyone was so nice and friendly and it all went way faster than we expected – 20 min and we were done.
So visiting an Italian police station can be checked off from my “things to do before you’re 50” list.
The damage was evaluated for just over 100 euro and this amount was taken out from our deposit. Luckily after filling in lots of forms we did get all the money back from our insurance company.
What did we learn from this story?
If visiting an Italian police station is also on your “things to do before you’re 50” list, do a road trip in Puglia. And Basilicata.
But on a more serious note, well, regardless if it’s your own car or a rental car, you just have to be careful.
What do you have to consider when renting a car in Italy?
Renting a car in Italy doesn’t differ from renting it in any other country. You need to be 18 (although some companies won’t rent to anyone under 21), you need a driving licence (International one if you’re from US), you need a credit card and insurance. For road tripping in Italy, I’d really recommend renting a car from one of the bigger European rental companies like: Avis, Budget, Hertz or Sixt. While using a smaller, unknown company might be cheaper, I wouldn’t like to be in your shoes when something actually happens. Just read the Trustpilot reviews.
And last but not least: insurance!
You can’t leave a rental car park without it, because you literally legally have to have it! In most countries, including Italy, any rental car comes with 3 kinds of insurance: damage cover, theft cover and third party cover. So technically, you’re covered. But in case anything happens and you have only insurance that comes with the car, you would have to pay excess for any damage. So in our case, if we only had regular insurance, we’d have to pay those 100 euros ourselves. That’s why it’s always better to buy additional insurance that covers your excess. Most rental companies will try to sell it to you anyway, so you can either buy it from them or buy your own in advance from specialist rental insurance companies. We always use MoneyMaxim and so far it’s worked. And it’s cheap.
I’d also recommend taking pictures of all the damage that has been already done to the car. It’s better be safe than sorry.
Alright, so you have your car now and you’re ready to hit the road.
What can you do to minimise the chance of getting your rental car stolen or broken into?
Safety tips for driving in Italy:
- don’t leave your car unlocked. Ever! Even for a second.
- don’t leave your car keys unattended and don’t hand them to unauthorized staff.
- avoid parking on the street at night and use only attended parking areas in major tourist cities like, Naples, Rome, Catania, Milan, Bari and tourist places, like: Pompeii.
- in general, don’t park in remote and suspicious areas. Even if you have to pay a euro or two, it’s better to leave your car in a proper parking zone.
- don’t leave any valuables, or really anything, on show in the car. It’s better to put everything in the boot or hide stuff under the seats. But be aware of people around you while doing it.
- try not to leave your luggage in the boot. Of course, during road tripping it’s not that easy and I just said to better put everything in your boot, but try to limit opening the boot and showing what’s in it.
- don’t let strangers help you with luggage. When someone is trying to distract you by offering help, someone else might be stealing your belongings.
- always make sure that you locked your car and the boot!
Uff, that’s’ a lot of don’ts and dos.
I know, some of them sound ridiculous, like: “How would I ever leave my car unlocked?” But during our road trip in Tuscany, we started driving with our boot open, so you know…things happen to the best of us.
But sometimes, even if you’re super careful, someone might think that your Fiat Panda is irresistible and will try to break that lock.
What to do when your car rental is broken into or stolen?
First of all, don’t panic.
Ok, if someone stole your car, you can panic a bit, but everything can be taken care of.
No matter the crime, first thing you have to do is find a police station and go to report the crime. A police report is a vital document for the insurance company or in the case that your documents were stolen, in recovering from any type of account fraud. If your credit cards were stolen as well, you have to immediately notify your bank.
I’d also recommend taking pictures of the damage done. When compared with pictures taken before you hit the road, it can help you claim your insurance back.
If the damage is so serious that you can’t drive the car, or if there’s no car to drive, contact the rental company. Some insurance policies will provide you with a courtesy car.
In general, if the situation is serious, I’d recommend following the police’s advice and getting in touch with the rental company.
In our case, receiving a crime report was enough.
Don’t forget to collect all the receipts and documents from the rental company. You’ll need them to claim on your insurance, when you’re back at home.
Hope I didn’t scare you. Renting a car in Italy and driving through Italian spectacular scenery is a great way to see the country. And you should definitely road trip in Puglia – it’s a really beautiful, yet not so touristy Italian region.
If you have any question, hit me up on Instagram.
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