Advice for renting a car in Europe?

Nov 8th, 2019, 04:28 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Nov 2019
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Advice for renting a car in Europe?

I am planning to rent a car on a trip to Europe. I do not have any experience in renting a car and would like to know how to go on about it. I've read tons of reviews positive and negative from different sites but I still don't know how to go on renting car and things that I need to careful when doing so. So I have a few questions but if you have another way of guiding me feel free.

What should I look out for when renting a car other than the price?

Which car rental company should I choose to rent a car in Europe?

What problems would I face when renting a car in Europe?

Do car rental companies provide information like road rules, tourist locations, maps?

Should I accept extra offers like fuel, toll passes, etc?

Having read all the negative reviews really made me think whether or not I should rent a car or just ride a taxi around but I do want some freedom when travelling and I feel like having a car is cheaper than riding a taxi from point to point. A bit more info I've been driving for 3 years in my country and currently reading a lot regarding driving rules in Europe.
guicon is offline  
Nov 8th, 2019, 05:28 AM
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Can you narrow down the countries you are planning to visit? Are you planning to drive through various countries?
Odin is offline  
Nov 8th, 2019, 05:30 AM
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Rule #1. Rent a car through AutoEurope (or their twin sister agency Kemwell).
Rule #2. See rule #1.

other points...
  • AE/Kemwell are a US based broker that lets you book cars from all of the major companies. They offer $0 deductible insurance so you are 100% covered.
  • Certain countries require you to get an International Drivers Permit (IDP). In the US this cost $20 through AAA (you don't need to be a member) and is simply a translation of your US drivers license. Find out how to get one in your country if you are planning to drive somewhere it is required. You may not be asked to show it, but in some countries it is a legal requirement.
  • Do not buy any prepaid fuel options - return the car full of fuel.
  • Beware of restricted driving zones in Italy (ZTL) , typically in historic town centers.
  • Beware of speed cameras - if you exceed the posted speed limits you may get a ticket sent to you in the mail/email 1-2months after your trip
  • Familiarize yourself with traffic signs and driving rules. They may be different than your home country. Issues I've seen are right-of-way signs (esp in places like Germany), speed limit sigtns, and no-entry/restricted access or no parking/paid parking signs.
J62 is offline  
Nov 8th, 2019, 07:57 AM
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When you pick up the car, take your phone and photo the whole thing inside and the control panel (to get mileage), when you take it back do the same. Let the staff see you doing this, what you want is complete evidence that you picked it up in State A and returned it in State A, or not. If nothing else if anything goes wrong and they come after you for "extras" you can give the photos to autoreurope who have this material as evidence.

Do learn the local laws and signs. Nothing worse than getting a speeding ticket 6 months later because you didn't know the local law

Which country?
bilboburgler is offline  
Nov 8th, 2019, 10:11 AM
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Normally, I’d agree with the AE advice but they are become less competitive.

Recently, I’ve used them as a market test and then gone directly to the operator they suggest, only to find a better rate with that operator. It’s worth double checking.

Insurance is always key and it has a large bearing on your decision depending on your country of residence.

I’d go further than J62 and say don’t speed.

There are cameras everywhere and I agree, the ZTLs in Italy are a large headache.

Last edited by BritishCaicos; Nov 8th, 2019 at 10:18 AM.
BritishCaicos is offline  
Nov 8th, 2019, 10:28 AM
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You need to tell us where you are going -- that can make a HUGE difference.

>>Having read all the negative reviews really made me think whether or not I should rent a car or just ride a taxi around<<

There are many options other than renting a car or taking taxis. For instance, if you are mainly going to be in cities and large towns, there are buses, trains, trams, metro/underground, and plain old walking. Or is you are going to be in cities and some small villages you can do a combo of the above plus renting a car just for the period you need one.

So where are you visiting and any other details you care to give us . . .
janisj is offline  
Nov 8th, 2019, 10:37 AM
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The first thing you should think about is whether you should rent a car at all or better take public transport(ideally trains).

Car vs. public transport has its pros and cons, but it least in most of Europe is a real choice unlike in the USA, where car is the only way to go to most places.

You have a lot more freedom even when taking public transport than you would think. You just need to adapt and get used to it a little and prepare well with information if this is a totally new mode of travel for you.Travelling by train is actually part of the culture of Europe.

Where do you travel actually?
BDKR is offline  
Nov 8th, 2019, 11:05 AM
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Riding a taxi around should not even be a consideration. Europe has excellent train systems in most countries and bus systems in many.

But yes, no one can answer with any useful information until you divulge where you're going.
StCirq is offline  
Nov 8th, 2019, 08:16 PM
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One of the best sources I know for general advice about car rentals in Europe is
I also make my arrangements through them, but that's a separate question.
kja is offline  
Nov 9th, 2019, 01:48 AM
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Without knowing which countries the OP is renting from, where they are driving to/from, which country they originate from (eg I would never book thru Kemwell as I am not from the US but use websites releavant to my own country of residence), only generic advice can be given.

I photo the fuel gauge if it was not completely full on pickup (last week's rental the fuel gauge showed it was not full when it should have been), mileage for me is not relevant as I always take a rental with unlimited mileage but if you take a rental with mileage allowance/per km charge (does anyone take this option nowadays?) you do need to have the starting/ending mileage recorded. As i pick up a few of my rentals in pitch black darkness at the moment and the keys are left because it is out of hours pickup, it is impossible to take photos of any existing damage but some rental companies are ok if you find damage next day and send photos in for them to update the damage report (if it was not on there to start with). With the fuel tank issue, I sent photos next day and again when I filled the car when I returned it (rental company said fuel gauge on the model of car I had sometimes has issues but actually it was the previous renter who had not filled it up properly), the rental company refunded some money. For small issues like this, I would not involve AE, they are usually resolved easily directly with the rental company, at least IME.

Odin is offline  
Nov 9th, 2019, 06:40 AM
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I will echo what most others have said in that it totally depends on where in Europe. For instance, driving on the left vs the right side of the road. If one is uncomfortable with what is different from what they are used to, extra insurance might help with peace of mind.

I totally disagree with St Cirq about taxis. They serve a purpose. I had an aunt that was a paraplegic, and there is no way she could use trains or buses. They lived in Europe for a few years. Yes, this is a bit unique, but it is just one case where a taxi or rental car is the only way to get around for some people.
mms is offline  
Nov 9th, 2019, 10:27 PM
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Well, there was no mention by the OP about anyone being paraplegic, or even handicapped in any way. So it's kind of irrelevant. Totally irrelevant.

BUT further to that, and in case anyone is interested, every national train system I have ever used in Europe has exceptional, and free, handicapped services that make using trains quite possible. I don't know about buses.

I've taken 6 train trips in the past 4 days in France. There was a paraplegic and a blind person on the first train that I took. On the third, there were two paraplegics traveling together. On the 4th, there were two blind people. On the last, back to our home town, there was a young paraplegic who needed to disembark the train in pitch-black, pouring-rain conditions at our home station. He was greeted in the freezing, driving rain by a young man who came onto the train, covered him up with a blanket and waterproof clothing, and got him off the train and into the (very lonely, tiny-town) shelter to await his ride.

There were even people designated to help handicapped people to use the trams in Bordeaux - we saw several blind people and one apparent paraplegic person in a wheelchair being assisted by personnel from the transport system in Bordeaux. I think you'd be quite amazed at the handicap services that France (and probably other European countries) provide for the handicapped.

ALL of these people were accompanied to the train and helped onto their spaces on it by SNCF personnel. Their seats were in open spaces either designated as handicapped spaces or just open spaces where their wheelchairs could be accommodated. The controlleurs were alerted to the situation and made sure they were looked after during the ride. They were met at their destinations by other SNCF personnel, who helped them down from the trains and onto wheelchairs and waited until they were picked up. I will add that passengers were beyond kind to these travellers, too, asking if they wanted something to drink or eat, making sure they were comfortable, etc.

All these people could obviously used taxis to ferry them around if they had the (enormous) funds to do so, but they didn't have to.

But <<but it is just one case where a taxi or rental car is the only way to get around for some people.>>

Rental car? That's what everyone is talking about. Did you mean private driver? Rental cars is what everyone here was referring to

At any rate, your argument falls flat. A taxi is never a good way to travel in Europe. You'd think that would be obvious.
StCirq is offline  
Nov 9th, 2019, 11:23 PM
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>>I had an aunt that was a paraplegic, and there is no way she could use trains or buses. They lived in Europe for a few years. Yes, this is a bit unique, but it is just one case where a taxi or rental car is the only way to get around for some people.<<

That seems really REALLY strange. Even in my totally car-centric US suburb -- the buses and light rail trains are totally handicap/disabled accessible and it is a lot easier to roll on/off a 'kneeling' bus than wrestle a full sized wheel char into a passenger car. And that is not even counting the door-to-door Paratransit services. And as StCirq says much of the transport in Europe is very handicap accessible and the accommodation services make it even better. (now the Tube and Metro is a WHOLE different matter. But the trains, trams and buses most places are very accessible.)
janisj is offline  
Nov 9th, 2019, 11:32 PM
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ZTL is only an issue if you insist on renting a car for those cities. Cities that are almost always well connected by trains and buses . Trains that are faster,cheaper and in general more comfortable than driving.

It's hard to imagine why a tourist would want a car inside of Rome,Florence or any of the other major cities with ZTLs. You rent a car to go off the beaten track.
Traveler_Nick is online now  
Nov 10th, 2019, 03:38 AM
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my mother travelled the world as a blind person on her own and would have thought it a moment of weakness to use a taxi, still, she was a tough egg.
bilboburgler is offline  
Nov 10th, 2019, 07:56 AM
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St Cirq--No, my argument does not fall flat. I responded to your blanket statement about taxis. Also, IME, one does not need "enormous funds" for using taxis. I certainly would not suggest that for going long distances, but for getting around within a city they can work well. As far as traveling for handicapped people, yes, Europe and most everywhere has definitely gotten better over the years, but I also know about 10 years ago when I suffered and injury there, taxis were a lifesaver for me. As far as my aunt was concerned, she would never have made other people wait because of her, even if it were just a few minutes delay. So a car is what they used to get around. I leave here at this. I trust my aunts own personal experiences over other peoples observations of a handicapped person.

Janisj--She had been dumped out of her chair on several occasions from those little ramps, so that is definitely an issue that most people do not realize. Using a passenger vehicle was much easier for them.

So again, these are just her experiences, but certainly a case where taxis are helpful. I was addressing the blanket statement regarding taxis.
mms is offline  
Nov 10th, 2019, 09:20 AM
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And the blanket statement about taxis stands. It's a ridiculous way to plan to get around Europe, and anyone who lives here or travels here frequently knows that. Taxis are insanely expensive here - case in point, 21 euros for us to go 4 kms from our house in St-Cirq to the train station in Les Eyzies; 250 euros to to from Les Eyzies to Agen when the train went on strike. Taxis in France outside major metropolitan areas are difficult to procure and horribly expensive.

I don't see that you have any recent, relevant information about taking taxis in Europe, which is what the OP needs, so all your ancient tales about a paraplegic aunt and being dumped out of her chair are just silly, irrelevant anecdotes. Your paraplegic aunt, for example, had she qualified for social security benefits in France, as she should have if she were a legitimate resident with the right papers, would have had free help to get her to train stations, get her the help she needed there and on board trains, same for getting off them and getting to where she was going, etcetera, etcetera. Your story doesn't hold water.

I take taxis in France on occasion. I took one the other day in Bordeaux because there was a driving rain and I wanted to get to a specific restaurant miles away from my hotel and taking the tram would have involved a long walk. It was 21 euros for what was essentially a 4-km drive. That's expensive. I think it is beyond responsible to suggest to anyone who's got no handicaps to traipse around Europe in taxis when there are so many obviously better alternatives.

When were you last in Europe?
StCirq is offline  
Nov 10th, 2019, 09:54 AM
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mms: Taxis for short trips around a city can make a lot of sense . . . But touring by taxi is almost never a good idea.
janisj is offline  
Nov 10th, 2019, 10:12 AM
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We haven't heard back from the OP, so it's anyone's guess as to where he is traveling in Europe. In Belgium taxi's are very expensive; 50 euro or more for a 10km distance is not unusual, especially in the evening or weekend. To travel between cities, a taxi would be extremely expensive. You could rent a car, but traffic can be terrible and parking is expensive. The train is perfect for travel between cities.
Within cities you walk or take public transport; many one-way systems and car-free areas make it hard for cars or taxis.
If you want to visit the countryside, renting a car is the best way to go.
Tulips is offline  
Nov 10th, 2019, 10:48 AM
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Renting a car is a great idea if traveling around the countryside. If you are cost conscious, then it's usually a cost saving to rent a manual transmission and ask for a diesel car; They get better gas mileage. (The diesel engine in the same car will probably be a bit bigger and help you going uphill in mountainous areas as well.)

For me, there are some moments when hopping in a taxi does save a lot of time which could be valuable. So don't rule it out completely.
shelemm is offline  

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