Renting a car in Europe can be liberating or intimidating, depending on your comfort level driving unfamiliar roads. Having your own automobile can be your opportunity to see small towns and villages that are inaccessible by public transportation. It allows you the flexibility of schedule not often afforded by trains and planes, but there are a few things to consider before renting a car in Europe.
11 Things to Consider Before Renting A Car in Europe
We have rented a car in Europe almost every single time we have traveled abroad. There have been flawless rental experiences and ones we wish we could forget. Each time we visit, we weigh the pros and cons of renting a car versus mass transportation. Here are the major priorities we’ve learned should be considered before committing to a car rental in Europe.
1. What kind of car insurance do you have and what do you need?
This is going to vary from person to person, but we haven’t found a rental agency that will let you rent a car without insurance. Check with your insurance and credit card before you leave the United States to see what kind of coverage you have (you may be covered on your credit card) and what additional coverage you might need. Otherwise, you will be required to take the insurance from the rental agency.
2. What kind of gasoline will my rental car need and what will it cost?
The word for gas is different all over Europe. Diesel is usually diesel, or something similar, but you won’t see the word “unleaded”. Before leaving the rental car agency, be sure you know the type of gas your car requires so you’re not wondering when you arrive at the gas station. Also, gas prices are usually listed by the liter, and run the equivalent of $6-$10/gallon.
3. Will there be toll roads?
Depending on the country, you may encounter toll roads. Most will accept “chip” credit cards, but you need to have a PIN. Some toll roads will require a permit sticker. It’s best to carry a handful of Euro coins just in case you run into a toll road you weren’t expecting.
4. Will you need to pay pick up and drop off fees?
If you plan to pick up a car in one city and drop off in another, you will more than likely incur a drop off charge. If you plan on dropping off in another country, this can be very expensive. Planning your trip carefully so you can return the car where you picked it up (or nearby) is the best option to avoid extra fees.
5. How many people are traveling?
Depending on the number of people traveling with you, renting a car can be a cost efficient way of travel. Since we are a family of five, it makes sense to travel by car. It is far cheaper to pay for a rental car for a day than five one way rail passes. We used Auto Europe on our recent trip and found they had some great advice for finding the perfect family car rental.
6. Do we have a lot of luggage?
If you are traveling with a lot of luggage, it can be easier to have a car to transport all of your bags. Hauling suitcases up and down stairs, through train stations, and running to catch the next train, can be exhausting. A car just makes things easier.
7. What are the parking options where we are visiting?
If you are traveling to a smaller town, the streets can be narrow and parking can be limited, or even restricted. Often there will be parking lots on the outskirts of town or a property may have a private lot where you can park. Do your research before booking the hotel so you know you will have somewhere safe to keep the car.
8. Are we familiar with the driving rules of the country/countries we plan to visit?
This is easy enough to find on the internet, but familiarize yourself with the basics. Will you be comfortable with the requirements? Most countries have round abouts, so learn about those, and your children will need booster seats if they are a certain age and weight. Their laws don’t line up with ours in the United States, so plan on doing some homework.
9. Do you know how to drive manual transmission?
The majority of rental cars in Europe seem to have manual transmission instead of automatic. The manual also seems to be less expensive than automatic transmission. If you need to brush up on your skills, be sure to do so before heading overseas.
10. What will the travel time be between cities?
Road maintenance in Europe can often be different than what we expect. The unexpected sheep crossing, roads where only one car can pass at a time, cobblestone streets, you will probably encounter all of these. Pack a lot of patience and know that the estimated travel time is just that, an estimate.
11. How will you navigate?
We would highly recommend asking for a GPS with every rental car. They have been life savers on every trip. A Michelin paper map comes in handy too and can be ordered before you travel on a site like Amazon. If you are traveling with a portable WiFi, you can always use Google Maps as a backup, but its best to have multiple options.
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We would recommend renting a car in Europe when traveling with a family. Not only does it save money, but the flexibility and convenience it affords is priceless. Do you have any questions about renting a car in Europe? I’m happy to help.
Other Europe articles you might like include: Getting to Know Ireland with a Road Trip Along the Wild Atlantic Way and Winter Fun in Europe