Global Operations Toolkit

Process for Purchasing & Using Vehicles Abroad

The Global Operations Working Group on Purchasing Vehicles abroad created this information to assist University of Minnesota faculty and staff in using transportation and renting or purchasing vehicles abroad.

1. Hire a Local Driver

The University encourages faculty and staff to use a vehicle with a local driver as it is often the most efficient, safe, and reasonable option to travel in-country. The benefits of utilizing a local driver include (1) no direct cost of vehicle maintenance, insurance, or taxes, (2) reduced liability (accidents covered under the vendor’s insurance), and (3) no need for you to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) and contend on your own with unfamiliar traffic laws and practices. Please contact your local partners for recommendations on driving service providers. Only use local drivers who can demonstrate that they have the appropriate licensure and insurance documentation.

2. Rent a Vehicle

If hiring a local driver is not possible, faculty and staff should rent a vehicle. It is recommended that you use a University contracted vendor for car rental in order to take advantage of discounted rates and to ensure you have all the required insurance. The benefits of renting a vehicle through a contracted vendor include (1) discounted rental rates, (2) information on the in-country license requirements, and (3) trusted vehicle quality and safety. Please contact Beth Tapp in Travel Services at 612-624-5255 or bethtapp@umn.edu to discuss your options.

Some items to consider when renting a vehicle abroad:

  • University insurance coverage will only apply to vehicle rentals for University business taking place in the United States. For international rentals, faculty and staff must purchase the optional liability and physical damage insurance from the rental agency, such as Collision Damage Waiver and Personal Accident Insurance. Vehicle insurance expenses are generally reimbursable, depending on the conditions attached to departmental, grant, or contract funds.
  • You may need to obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) in order drive abroad and to rent a vehicle. You may visit the website or any office of the Automobile Association of America, regardless of your membership status, to obtain an IDP. Your rental company may be able to help you with the license requirements for that country.
  • Insurance, your IDP, and the rental contract will allow only you to operate the vehicle. In addition, University policy does not permit students to drive vehicles abroad.

3. Purchase a Vehicle

If renting a vehicle is not an option OR you have a strong case for long-term financial benefit, purchasing a vehicle abroad may be an option in certain situations. The option of purchasing a vehicle is used in extremely rare circumstances. The purchase may be subject to many approval and limitations, which may include departmental, college and campus approval, University purchasing policy and limits; limits imposed by the funding sources (ie grants); insurance and security availability in-country; in-country tax and purchasing laws; and licensing, registration and visa requirements. If you feel you need to purchase a vehicle to carry out your international activities, please contact Global Operations to discuss your options. Be prepared to discuss the following:

  • Have you exhausted all other options in terms of renting or doing without a vehicle?
  • Does your sponsor allow you to use project funds for the purchase of a vehicle?
  • Do your department head and college dean support the purchase?
  • Are you able to comply with the country and the funding source’s insurance requirements (this is often more expensive than originally thought and may require accepting personal liability)?
  • Do you know and meet the in-country licensing requirements?
  • Are you able to purchase a vehicle under your current permit or visa? Would you be able to secure the visa or permit needed to purchase a vehicle?
  • What are the security recommendations in the local culture (e.g., locked garage, alarm)? Are you able to find and fund this security?
  • What are the country’s laws with respect to registration of title and any taxes that apply to vehicles (such as license plates or sales of vehicles)? Can you legally pay such taxes as a non-permanent resident?
  • Does purchasing or owning a vehicle indicate a legal presence in country (assuming no legal presence already)? Are you able to purchase a vehicle or pay the required taxes without a legal presence?
  • What sponsor requirements will apply to the disposal of the vehicle?

Finally, please be aware of the following issues associated with owning a vehicle abroad:

  • Restrictions on Personal Use – You will need to ensure that all use of the vehicle is specifically for the funded project or University business. When required by the sponsor or your department, keep a vehicle log that includes daily movements, mileage, and the purpose of each trip. The absence of these logs is an easy audit finding. Reimbursement to a sponsor for unauthorized personal use of a vehicle may be required. We recommend a periodic check of math to ensure the mileage logged corresponds to the amount of fuel purchased.
  • Fuel – Know what kind of fuel the vehicle takes and locate a reliable place in-country to purchase fuel regularly. Talk to your local partners about reliable, trustworthy fueling sources.
  • Vehicle Repairs – Talk to your local partners about honest, reliable service centers and have a plan for vehicle repairs before purchase. When you have to take a vehicle to a mechanic, make sure to get what you pay for, and be wary of efforts to sell you unnecessary labor or parts.
  • Insurance – You will need to ensure that the appropriate insurance is available in-country and within your price range prior to purchase. Ensure the insurance covers the vehicle, driver (not just the owner), and passengers. Understand how the deductible works and who is responsible for paying what when (individual, department, etc). The Office of Risk Management can help you with some benchmarks of insurance coverage in the country you are working in but does not approve or certify insurance policies.

If you have further questions about purchasing and using vehicles abroad, please contact Global Operations through the online form or through Katie Van Geem (see contact info on right).


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