No matter how efficient Europe’s public transport is, renting a car to hit the road is simply magical. Exploring Europe by road is said to make the expedition more worthwhile and memorable. You can unravel the less explored countryside Europe, which is almost impossible with a tour package or by Euro Rail. Take, for instance, Norwegian Fjords, England’s Cotswalds or France’s Normandy Beaches, having your personal set of wheels definitely opens better avenues for you.
However, rental cars are considered to be a costly affair in the continent. Also, the whole process is not so much of a breeze. The convoluted road rules and insurance charges can ruin the whole fun. Rental Cars in Europe demand some pre-planning, especially if you are not planning to get tricked or splurge out unnecessarily.
Across the land, rental rules differ from country to country, company to company and time to time. For instance, rentals in Germany are said to be cheaper than other countries. Likewise, Italy comes under more expensive countries offering car rentals. As for car rental agencies, the same company could be offering cheaper rates in one country than in another.
Therefore, in order to rent a car in Europe, you need to take care of a list of things that I am going to mention here. But before that, let’s take a look at the basic costs incurred while renting a car in Europe.
Basic Expenses while Renting a Car in Europe
The basic quotes offered to you will almost always include unlimited mileage, VAT and legally required third party liability insurance.
Tax: Tax generally comes around 18-25%. Although almost always covered in the quoted rent, it’s wise to cross check. Other taxes like Road tax or Eco Tax/ Environmental Charges may or may not be included in the basic rent. Ask the agency. Road Tax comes around $5 a day, while Eco tax may vary between $5-10 per day. Like I mentioned earlier, these rates vary from country to country.
Insurance: This could be the most potential additional cost while renting a car in Europe. There are chances that your Credit Card may have covered this fee, but double-check. If you purchase the insurance from the rental company, you would be paying about 30% extra, say $10-30 a day, for an accident damage waiver supplement.
Extra Driver(s): This could range between $5-25 per day, depending upon what car you pick, what place you are in, etc. If you let an unlisted driver take control and some mishap takes place, it is not covered under insurance.
Fuel: You can drive around 700 miles with $140 per week. Prefer taking Hybrid or Diesel Cars for cost-cutting on fuel.
Toll Tax: Freeways will actually br free, like in Germany. Central Europe expects you to buy a sticker ‘Vignette’. Other than that, expect to pay about 12 cents per mile as toll tax.
GPS: Often included in more expensive rides, be prepared to pay about $10-30 a day for this device.
Child-Safety Seats: Be ready to pay about $15-70 per day if you forget to bring a child seat from home.
Parking Fees: Parking is pretty pricey affair, especially in the big cities. You could be paying almost $35 a day for parking there, more if you are in London or Paris.
Now that you know enough about the pricing, here are a few cheat sheets on how to avail reasonable car rental services in Europe.
16 Car Rental Tips for Europe
Always Make Your Bookings in Advance
Often, language barriers, rush at the counters or such other impediments make things difficult at the last hour. So make sure you are well-prepared in advance.
Rental Cars are mostly higher priced at the counter than on phone or online. You can ask for weekend specials, seasonal discounts and such other questions to know your deals better.
Drive what the locals do. Go for manually shift vehicles instead of those fancy automatic drives. They are cheap, more convenient and offer you a better control on the machine.
Get an International Driving Permit and other Papers
Although it is not mandatory in every European country, getting one just in case, is not such a bad idea. Other than that, read the Rental Company’s policy and pack in all the necessary documents required to hire a car.
Prefer Buying the Basic Package
The add-ons offered by Rental companies may seem fancy, but are often absurdly expensive. You can cross-check your rent between online agents as auto-europe.co.uk and major players like Hertz, Sixt, Avis, Europcar and Budget. Go for whichever offers cheaper rates.
Bring your Own SatNav and Child Car Seat
This can save you more than a hundred dollars a week. SatNav can cost you about £75-100 a week, while Child seat about £60-80. Total waste of money. Booster seats for kids can be purchased for less than 10 pounds in UK. Just imagine the overpriced seats these rental companies offers. Also, if you are fly in low cost airline as RyanAir, you wouldn’t have to pay more than £10-12 for a child seat, anyway cheaper than the rental companies.
As for SatNavs, you can avail one on eBay at discounted prices. Just be watchful.
Video or Photograph the Car for Previous Damages
Thoroughly check the exterior and interior of the car to avoid any false accusations later on. Don’t forget the spare wheel either. Even after you have returned, take its pictures and save the paperwork, as the rental may not be over yet.
Fight Any Extra Charges
Look out for any spurious claims made by the rental company, and fight your battle against it instead of giving in easily.
Avoid Calling Rental Cars at Airports or Major Train Stations
It may cost you a fortune and jeopardize all your budget. ‘Premium Station’ can cost up to 15-20% of the total rental bill or flat charges between $35-80 in expensive countries like France, Ireland and Spain. Instead pick up your rented car from its downtown office.
Also, don’t rush into hiring a car from the airport itself. You may have to incur many additional airport taxes. Try to cut as many corners as possible to save money.
Say No to CDW
Collision Damage Waivers often leave a hole in your pocket, while not being of much use. You can instead use the insurance your Credit Card provides you. Obviously you need to verify your Card first.
Opt for Diesel Engines
Diesel is low prices than gasoline and offers better mileage than the latter. So a win-win situation basically.
One-way Rentals is a Bad Idea
International One way rentals are exorbitant, costing almost $1500 extra. Unless you are in Europe only to go bankrupt, don’t think about the one way rental.
Beware of Your Travel Route
Western European countries often charge additional fees if you are planning to take the car to the Eastern side. Discuss in advance, your plans with the rental company, so you don’t get victimized by hidden charges.
Learn the Euro Road Signs
No matter how good you are with directions, you could lose the track if you are not good enough with the road signs. AutoEurope provides you a list of pictorials that you can understand and learn before heading on for Euro Trip.
Know about the ZTL’s
Make sure you are well-informed about the Limited Traffic Zones (ZTL’s) of various cities in Italy, if this country is a part of your itinerary.
Prefer Paying with a Credit Card
Never let them dip into your bank account with your Debit Card details. Go for the more secure Credit Card instead. When it comes to paying, insist to be charged in local currency. Many rental agencies convert it into Sterling and charge exorbitant exchange rates.
Don’t Worry About Maintaining The Vehicle
The nice thing about renting cars is that you don’t have to mess around with choosing the right diesel fuel or anything else like that. The car is supposed to come ready to use. If you rent it for awhile, you may need to fill up something like the window washer fluid and return it with the same amount of gas you purchased it for.
Always, Always Follow the rules
This goes not just for Europe, but every place you drive in. Follow the speed limits or be prepared to receive a penalty note at your address (The Rental Agency has it). Don’t mix drinking and driving; the penalty fee will be potent enough to stave off your hangover. Be prepared with some local currency in hand, just in case you get charged unknowingly while driving.
Holidaying in Europe, that too with your own rental car describes one amazing vacation. People often tend to let their guard down while holidaying. Well, don’t do that while driving, be a responsible traveler and abide by the road rules.