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Picking up rental car in Paris to go to Normandy

Picking up rental car in Paris to go to Normandy

Jan 16th, 2009, 05:50 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2004
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Picking up rental car in Paris to go to Normandy

We will be spending the first 6 days of our trip in Paris and then doing a circle tour starting with Rouen to Bayeux to Mont St Michel to Loire Valley and back to Paris.

I've read some advice saying that it's best to take the train to the first destination (for us Rouen) and rent the car there to avoid driving out of Paris. But given that there are 4 of us the train looks like it would run $100 - $125 so that doesn't seem to make sense.

1. Autoeurope lists a bunch of car pickup locations. My main criteria is ease of getting out of the city since we've never driven outside the US and we're a little nervous. Would the St. Lazare train station be my best bet?
2. Car models - there will be 4 adults, 4 suitcases. European car names are unfamiliar and I'm a little suspicious of the capacities on the rental sites since a Pontiac Vibe was listed as a car that could accomodate us when we rented in the US last summer (maybe if we had strapped DS on the roof!). So can anyone throw out some models that would be good for a group of this size?
3. GPS - never used one and I'm quite good with maps but maybe it would be a good idea. Opinions?
Pat_in_Mich is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 06:04 AM
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Strongly advise to stay away from AutoEurope-- better yet, look up the numeorus postings in this forum regarding the "fine print", specifically for French rentals.
I would train to the airport and rent Hertz. If need be, there is a HERTZ rental car office in the Louvre lower Level. Very, very convenient; no airport drop off charges.

As far as the aprehension for driving outside the US, just bare with it. You will very soon realize it is NO diffrent than drving in the US. Prepare so that you take that edge away; familizrize with French Traffic signals (guidebooks) and DEFINITELY GET THE GPS. After dozens and dozens of roads trips in Europe, we took our GPS to France and Spain. It worked beautifully; loved it.

Car Model-- get a small SUV, at a minimum. Word of Advice; always, ALWAYS have your trunk back door locked; we have young hoodlums on mini-bikes attempting to open the trunk while we were stucked on traffic. The obvious intent was to grab our bags and flee on the opposite direction.
Viajero2 is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 06:07 AM
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We rented a car through Hertz and picked it up at the Hertz that is right at Gare du Nord. Two right turns and you are on the street that leads to the Periferique. We made an easy left turn onto the P and were on our way to Normandy. We spent the first night at a B&B in Giverny. It was fairly easy and we had no GPS back then (2005).
nini is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 06:48 AM
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Isn't it more expensive to pick up a car at the airport?
Pat_in_Mich is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 06:56 AM
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Yes - every rental outlet that I know of charges a premium for train station or airport pick-up or drop-off. Now that I know that, I'll make it a point to send one in our party down the street to do business, and spend the $100 saved on something nice.

P_i_M - 1. Look for a rental office near, but not in, Gare St. Lazare.
2. Dunno. Our only experience was with a little Citroën that would be too small for 4. If you have the choice, get a diesel with manual transmission.
3. We've never rented a GPS, always relying on a laptop loaded with Microsoft AutoRoute. This is an incredibly cheap way to have full European coverage for as long as you need it. You can also create custom maps and download them to Pocket Streets on a Pocket PC running a Windows Mobile OS.
Robespierre is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 06:59 AM
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I also recommend Gare du Nord. We used it before. Easier and cheaper to get to than the airport. No extra airport car rental fees which often apply. Even if you want to return the car to the airport you should still be able to pick up at Gare du Nord. GPS is nice but not absolutely necessary if you don't already have one you can take with you or the car rental fee to have it seems too much. And as for size, yes European cars are often quite smaller than US cars. Browse the car rental websites which usually have a place where you can click and see how many "picticon" of people and luggage fit in any car in that class. And note, you only only reserve a "class" not a particular "model" and the example models are just that, examples, but don't guaranty what actual model you get within a class.
laurie_ann is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 07:05 AM
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laurie_ann - National/citer nailed us for a 43€ pick-up fee at Gare du Nord last September (after promising on a special promotion on the web site that it would be waived). I'd stick with off-airport/train rental locations, unless your chosen company's no-fee policy is explicitly stated in the voucher.
Robespierre is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 07:05 AM
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As for the GPS, why not just buy a portable GPS system? Make sure you can get European maps. Then you'll have GPS for all your future trips. And won't have to figure how to make the French car's GPS speak English.
Mimar is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 07:09 AM
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We've always used AutoEurope with great success. Last fall they shipped us a European GPS to take along.
HappyTrvlr is online now  
Jan 16th, 2009, 07:13 AM
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Hello Pat

Last spring, we rented at CDG thru National, and were immediately on our way (Versailles, Chamonix, Loire, Bayeux). The mid-size car fit our party of 4 adults quite comfortably, and there was a built-in GPS in the dash that was included, and very handy (we also had maps). We had four 21-inch rollaboards plus 4 satchel style bags, and it all went into the trunk, with room to spare for jackets, etc.

Upon our return to Paris 3 weeks later, we turned the car into Gare de Lyon, rather than the airport, as we were spending another week in Paris without a car.
swisshiker is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 07:32 AM
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Driving out of Paris is not as bad as people would make you believe.
You are never that far from the

Look at the options to pick up a vehicle that are closest to where you are staying. Make your choice then plan your route out of town using viamichelin.com or maps.google.com As others have noted, watch out for extra train station fees.

I bought a TomTom One before our trip to France last summer, complete with European maps. I have driven in Europe many times but having a GPS was amazing. Buy one and take it with you... you may get charged a rental fee if one comes with your car and if it's your own you'll have time to learn how to use it before setting off into traffic!

We rented from AutoEurope and had no complaints. They say they will match any price you find elsewhere. When I had a problem picking up the right car a phone call to AutoEurope straightened out the rental agent quickly. Having the leverage of AutoEurope behind me helped I am quite sure.

We had a Passat wagon diesel for 3 people that would have been good for 4 as long as you don't overdo it with the luggage. You don't want anything smaller than that though.

Bon voyage!


ParisAmsterdam is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 08:55 AM
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I was surprised someone on here would say to avoid AutoEurope as they are usually recommended.

I would say avoid Europcar.
hopingtotravel is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 09:10 AM
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Regardin what kind of car you need, it depends on how big are the suitcases you have. Last fall we were in France and we rented a compact 4-Door and we got a Hyundai i30. It was big enough to fit 4 adults with reasonable comfort, and the trunk fits 4 carryon-sized suitcases but nothing more.

In our prior experiences, bigger cars are a pain to have, because in the small towns and villages the streets are very narrow, as well as parking lots at hotels in towns. It was challenging to maneuver a big car through these small towns.

And yes, it was Europcar that gave many people lots of headache this past fall. Here is the "Beware of Europcar" thread:
yk is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 10:58 AM
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It might be confusing but AutoEurope is not exactly a car rental company. You book through them and they assign you a rental through an actual company, like Hertz or Avis or whatever. I have used them for rentals in many locations and been pleased with their rates and ease of using their website to book one way rentals. Others on Fodors have praised their customer service when the actual rental company gave them trouble. I don't know that it is universally one rental company or the other that gives trouble. Sometimes its the individual counter person or the local agency that's a "bad apple". That's another reason to book through Auto Europe who can help you sort out problems as they have the ongoing relationship with all the companies.
laurie_ann is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 12:38 PM
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AutoEurope is a broker; Europcar is one of the venues they represent in Europe. I have used AutoEurope many, many, many times in the past, both personal and business trips. I WOULD NEVER USED THEM AGAIN. Nowhere near the company it used to be. I will be forever thankful to the Better Business Bureau; you can look up past posts if you need details. Enough said.

Just to reiterate getting a GPS; get familiar with it prior to the trip. Definitely a wise investment.
Viajero2 is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 12:55 PM
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AutoEurope charges me 0€ for train station or airport pickup in Paris, using the French AutoEurope site. I have 3 rentals scheduled this month, all provided through Europcar. I am also picking one car up at Gare du Nord and leaving it a CDG and another one for CDG pick up with drop off at Gare du Nord. No charge for any of this.

AutoEurope continues to be exceptional for customer service as far as I am concerned. In November I used them to rent a car in Texas and when the rental company overcharged me, they arranged the refund within 48 hours and my credit card was recredited within a week. Perhaps the North American customer service is not as good?
kerouac is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 01:53 PM
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We have always rented from Hertz because I had a corporate plan with them but DH used Sixt with great luck during his several years of commuting between the states and Germany. We always get a Navigation system - have not tried using the blackberry version since we just upgraded our handsets in August. You'll be driving at rather high speeds and trying to read roadsigns which will have multiple destinations on them (stacked vertically), the names are obviously in french and lengthy. Better to have a calm voice telling you which exit, how far it is, etc....but that's just been my experience.
cmeyer54 is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 02:06 PM
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100+ rentals through AutoEurope here and ZERO complaints.
StCirq is online now  
Jan 16th, 2009, 02:19 PM
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We always rent through autoeurope (we did in oct in the uk and may 2008 in france) and no complaints.
jamikins is offline  
Jan 16th, 2009, 02:31 PM
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We were a group of four adults , each with a 22" suitcase and a small carryon. We fit into a Fiat Corso wagon with the luggage hidden in the rear compartment.
HappyTrvlr is online now  

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