Most Detailed Guide on How to Rent a Car in Europe

Back window view

I read a lot of articles about renting a car in Europe. The most common questions are:” what do you need to rent a car?”,  “What are rent a car prices?”, “How to rent a car?”. I didn’t find any correct answers in any article. Moreover, I’m sure people writing these articles have never been in Europe. That’s why I will list all you need to know to rent a car and drive it in Europe. I will add photos of my rental cars from different trips or just nice views=)

Therefore, Rent a car in EUROPE today is not a luxury but one of the most convenient and economical ways to travel in those countries where public transport is incredibly expensive. To rent a car is much more profitable than to spend money on public transport. For example, one round trip for three in the Amsterdam underground will cost a minimum of 3*3*2=18 euro, while you can safely rent a car for the whole day for this money! It is a great way to save money! In addition, the more people travel together, the more tangible the benefit of renting a car becomes. And you don’t need to talk much about the convenience of traveling by car. In other words, I think that everybody understands that there is no more convenient way to travel on your own!

Take car keyTake key and drive!

How to rent a car

Look for the Best Deals in the Chosen City for Your Dates.

It’s best to do it online in advance. This way it is always much cheaper.

Read Terms and Conditions Clearly

You can find a lot of hidden conditions about the second driver, young driver fee or child seat

Book a Car on the Site.

It is a very simple process.

Pick up the Car at the Designated Place at the Agreed Time.

Prepare a smartphone with your email address and show your car booking. Here you will need to READ and sign a contract, leave a deposit from your credit(or even debit card), carefully search for the damage on the car. You should note all founded damage in the car checklist. I recommend make sure to record a car video where you show each scratch, snatch, pump, etc. This video shows your watch and a place where you make a video.

Enjoy Your Trip.

Rent a Car at the end of the Rental Period

Rental car deskRental desks

What do you need to for renting a car

A Valid National Driver’s License with Name and Surname 

The age of the driver must be more than 18 years old (depending on the rental office and the country, in most cases from 21 years). If the driver is under 25 years old, a rental car company can make an additional charge. They call it “young driver fee”.  

Driving Experience is at Least 1 year. 

Suppliers can require driving experience of at least 2 or 3 years. It can happen for luxury or sports renting cars. Read car company terms on conditions and search for young driver fees and required driving experience. It is very important.

Passport in the Driver’s Name

Prepare documentsPrepare your passport and driving license 

Personal Credit(or Debit) Card With Embossed Numbers and Name of the Main Driver

Prepare credit cardMake Sure to Take Your Credit Card

By the way, Debit cards are not accepted at international rental companies to block the deposit(Make Sure to Check T&C) 

At the back of the bank card search for the word: ”Debit”. If you can’t find this word — your card is credit. It is a very stupid rule.  Some local (not international) rental car company can accept a deposit in cash or passport. My advice is never to leave cash or documents deposit. A rental car company can check the car for a really long time. In this way, you can miss your flight.

Voucher, if You Booked a Car on the Website.

You will get the voucher with rental information on your mail account. 

Passport, driver’s license and credit card MUST be in the name of the main driver

Types of Rental Offices.

New carWe taking Nissan Micro(2019) from Turisprime Office in Lisbon

There are four types of renters in the world from which you can rent on car:

World-Famous Car Rental Companies (HERTZ, SIXT, AVIS, Europcar, Budget, ALAMO, etc.)

Rental Car Companies Websites(dealers, brokers) of these international renters.

(On one site there are a lot of international rental offers at once) There are a lot of such rental car companies, but I use the best, repeatedly tested by me (in different countries, not only in Europe): Rentalcars, Economybookings, DoYouSpain. You should not treat them as ordinary intermediaries, often the prices here are even lower than when renting directly, and the site and booking system is much more convenient. 

Local (local) rental offices. Each country in Europe has its own

Rental Car Companies With Local Rental Offices (this is the most uncommon group)

Example in Montenegro, Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus and the Czech Republic – Myrentacar

Each type of tenant has its own characteristics. As for local tenants and their dealers, they are very common in southern (resort) countries of Europe, but in Central and Northern Europe it is more profitable to use international rental companies and their aggregators.

Car damageNew car with Scratch

What is a Rental Car “Aggregator”?

 In fact, it is an intermediary between the renter and the client. It is a site where all offers from rental offices in a particular region collected. In my experience, I have made sure that on such websites, the price is usually lower.  Furthermore, it is important to compare insurance policies included in the price.

Sites-aggregators work at the expense of commission from each order. The more cars they have rented out more money they earn. Large resellers have quite a substantial discount from all rental offices, so they can put the rental price lower than the usual rental car company.

It is convenient to use a single currency to compare prices on different sites. Since we renting a car in Europe, it is best to use the euro currency. Websites may not correctly show the price in USD.

mercedesOur Mercedes A-200(2018) from Sixt(Berlin)

GoldCar Renter

I strongly discourage the use of this rental company. They operate in many European countries and are the worst rental company of all. They brazenly “divorced” us by 1065 euros. And we are not the only ones, there are a lot of such reviews on the Internet. There will be an article later, and in the meantime a video about our sad experience:

Now there are a lot of negative reviews about GoldCar on the Internet, there are whole communities (for example, a group on Facebook of 1600 people), so GoldCar started using other names, for example, Rhodium or InterRent:

Renter GoldCar disguises itself as InterRent

So be careful not to mess with them.

Nice viewBeautiful Sparta

I also plan to disclose in detail the topic of car rental in France and Spain.

In general, there is a significant difference in terms of car rental in southern resort European countries (Montenegro, Croatia, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece) and the countries of central and northern Europe (Germany, France, Poland, Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Holland, Belgium, etc.). In southern countries there is a very large number of local (local) renters, who often offer better options than large international car rental firms. But in Central and Northern Europe, the best offers are usually in large international car rentals.

Let’s Look at What Types of Insurance Available: 

Liability insurance – insurance of civil liability (compulsory insurance). In case of an accident, the insurance company will pay for the damage to the injured party.

Fire Insurance – fire insurance (compulsory type of insurance).

Rental car Renault ClioRenault Clio 2016 in Porto

Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) – Insurance against damage with franchise (compulsory insurance). The franchise is the amount that you risk losing in case of damage. Anything above this amount will be paid by the insurance. The amount of the franchise is specified in the contract as Collision Excess and may vary from €300 to €800 or more, depending on the country, rental office, and brand of the machine.

Theft Protection (TP) – theft protection (compulsory insurance). There is a possibility of a franchise, the contract specifies the amount as Theft Excess, usually the same as Collision Excess.

Includes Refundable Excess – additional insurance for your franchise. In case of damage to the car, the renter will deduct the amount of the franchise. Then, the aggregator reimburse this amount to the tenant.

Wheels, Glass, Roof, and Undercarriage Damage Coverage – Wheels, glass, roof, and chassis. All of these items are not included in the standard CDW damage insurance. This additional insurance covers all of these items.

Peugeot 2008Peugeot 2008(2016) from Weeze airport Europcar

Deposit and franchise are different concepts, but very often the amount is the same. The deposit blocked on a bank card. Franchise is the amount which the tenant risks in case of damage to the car.

If an insured event occurs and the car is slightly damaged, the tenant doesn’t pay entire amount of the franchise. But only the part that is needed to restore the car. 

If you have little driving experience, doubt in your abilities, you should buy full insurance (without franchise) at the desk when you pay for the car. The deposit is either not blocked on the card at all, or blocked a small amount( up to 100 euros). as a deposit for gasoline. But in this case, the cost of car rental will increase 2 times (or even more). The cost of full insurance may vary from 13 to 25 euros per day or more, depending on the type of car, time of year, etc.

One of the most important things you should do before you leave the lot with a rental car is Read T&C. Please note that there are exceptions, even the most comprehensive insurance. If the driver was intoxicated or the car was damaged intentionally, no insurance is valid.

Fiat 500Fiat 500 from Athens airport

Pay Attention to:

  • The longer the rental period, the lower the cost of a car per day.
  • In most of cases, you can’t rent a car longer than for 90 days
  • Check insurance difference

When comparing prices on different sites be sure to pay attention to what insurance is included in the cost of rent, the price with and without standard insurances can vary very significantly, in 1.5-2 times.

  • You never book even car brand

In international rentals are not booked a specific car, but the type or class of car. For example, if a Mazda 3 or similar specified, the tenant can get a Ford Focus. Or instead of Honda Civic — Toyota Corolla. Typically, replaceable cars of about the same level, sometimes give free car above the level. But sometimes, usually in the high season (summer), when there is a shortage of cars, some unhelpful companies may give a car below the level, and say that it is the car of the same class. We had this situation in Portugal in July 2018. When we got an Opel Astra 1.0 instead of a Peugeot 2008 or Citroen C4 Cactus crossover. Such situations are rare.

Old carOld school=)

  • Pay attention to the deposit.

This amount will have to be frozen on your bank card when you rake a car. Sometimes deposit amounts are very high(depending on the car hirer and brand, for example, 1000 – 2000 euros). The amount is frozen on the card and returned to the card within 3 to 30 days after the car is delivered.

Some companies have a mileage limit. For example, Europcar in Denmark gave me an offer with a mileage limit of 630 km per week. This is not enough. And they wanted a deposit for a Ford Focus 1000 Euros. 

I use for trips around the world only 2 absolutely free programs, which are installed in my smartphone: Google maps and maps.me. I use Google maps as a navigation program in my car, and maps.me as a detailed map for hiking in unfamiliar terrain. All sights and hiking trails are marked there in most cases. Before the trip, I download to my smartphone the maps I need, so that these navigation programs can work without the Internet. You can do this on the “Offline Maps” tab:

Mobile Internet in The Road

By the way, If your smartphone or tablet is connected to the internet as a navigation device, the navigation program will show you the route with traffic jams in mind. This is very important, especially in large cities.

It is convenient to use the universal Orange Mundo card to get the Internet in Europe.

It will cost 7 euro for 7GB or 10 euro for 10GB of internet in Germany (4G), Austria (4G), Azores, Åland, Belgium (4G), Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia (4G), Denmark (4G), Slovakia (4G), Slovenia (4G), Estonia (4G), Finland (4G), France (4G), Greece (4G), Guadeloupe, French Guyana, Gurney, Gibraltar, Netherlands (4G), Hungary (4G), Ireland (4G), Iceland, Spain (4G), Italy (4G), Latvia (4G), Liechtenstein, Lithuania (4G), Luxembourg, Malta, Martinique, Madeira, Mayotte, Norway (4G), Poland (4G), Portugal (4G), United Kingdom (4G), Czech Republic (4G ), Romania, Reunion, San Martin, Sweden (4G).

Mercedes with bullet marksIn Sparta, I found a very old Mercedes with bullet marks

European Driving rules

Moreover, There’s no big difference to the usual traffic rules. In Europe, everything is logical and clear. Good quality roads, there are markings and lane directions in most cases. If you turn to the left, there is a separate lane for that. As a result, from all the European countries where I was, I felt a little uncomfortable in the small streets in Italy, Greece, Netherlands, and Switzerland.

In addition, in most European countries the use of a dipped beam is mandatory for the whole day.

max. speed in the city – 50, in the country – 80-90, on motorways – 110-130 km/h (depending on the specific country)

These are only the main features of European traffic rules, I recommend always carefully read traffic rules for the country where you are going

Car and dogPeugeot 508(2014) with Corgy(2015)

Motorway Features

Furthermore, there are countries in Europe where motorway payment is made for a certain road section (Poland, Italy, France, Greece, Croatia, Portugal). At the entrance to the motorway are special checkpoints, where you pay by bank card or cash.

There are countries where the highways are free of charge: Germany, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, partly Spain, etc.

After that, there are countries where all expressways are paid for at once for a certain period of time: a week, 10 days, 2 weeks, a month (Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland). In the latter case, you need to buy the so-called “vignette” and glue it to the windshield (or the number of the car is entered in the database when paying). You can pay at the first filling station when you enter the motorway. In Portugal now there are still highways with only electronic payment. Drivers pay using special transponders called “Via Verde”.

Basic rules of traffic on European motorways are the same as the USA highways.  

In conclusion, there are several options for fuel policy when renting a car, but the best is when you get and rent a car with a full tank of fuel. If it is possible to choose, I recommend this option. In this case, you will pay only for the fuel that you have used.

Nice carOne more view of Mercedes A-200(2018)

All You Need is Love!

With respect, Leo Harris

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