South of France: Car rental size

Jan 21st, 2019, 03:43 PM
  #1  
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South of France: Car rental size

We are the family of four (two large teenage boys) going to France end of April. We are picking up our rental car in Aix (and dropping at Marseilles airport) and heading to Cassis to hike and then to St. Remy as our base to explore. One guide said to get a very small car because parking will be impossible. Realistically I don't see how we can go smaller than a mid size with 2-3 bags and basically 4 adults (3 over 6' tall). Heck with a roof rack we could go compact but I don't see that as an option. We will try to pack light since we will be able to do a wash... but seems the weather can be all over the place with rain and cold wind at that time of year??

Advice on Parking? Will we dread having a midsize car? Thanks so much.
RubyTwins is offline  
Jan 21st, 2019, 04:08 PM
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Get a mid-sized car.



We spend 2 months in France every year, and the two of us rent compacts or mid-sized cars. Compacts we have rented can barely accommodate 2 smallish checked bags & 1 carry-on in the trunk. We've never had trouble parking the car - but after spending well over 3 years "on the ground" in France, we know not to drive into a small villages & try to find a place to park. We park outside the village & walk into it. Often there are parking garages (which have narrow parking spaces) - but it works. The cars in France are larger than they were 20 years ago.


Stu Dudley
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Jan 21st, 2019, 04:53 PM
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When we drove in Denmark and Germany in 2017 we had two compacts. Here are their trunk sizes:
Michael is offline  
Jan 21st, 2019, 07:51 PM
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Michael, great idea to take photos of your trunk. Makes me wonder why I’ve not thought to do so as it really helps to see how much room you have in whichever size car.
tracilee is offline  
Jan 21st, 2019, 08:46 PM
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The compacts we rented in France last year had much less trunk space than Michael's had.


Stu Dudley
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Jan 21st, 2019, 08:58 PM
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A 25" (26" with wheels) suitcase will not fit in the trunk of a Fiat 500! Ask me how I know! LOL!

I rented a compact, they wanted to give me a delivery truck! "Nothing else available." After going back and forth for a while while the line of customers was building, they suddenly had the Fiat available. Should have gotten a break on the cost!!!

Micheal, what are the sizes of your luggage, please?

Last edited by joannyc; Jan 21st, 2019 at 09:03 PM.
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Jan 21st, 2019, 09:01 PM
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Originally Posted by joannyc View Post
A 25" (26" with wheels) suitcase will not fit in the trunk of a Fiat 500! Ask me how I know! LOL!
A Giat 500 ;wil take 2 22: suitcases, and that was a few years ago. Since then the car may have spread into middle age.
Michael is offline  
Jan 21st, 2019, 09:16 PM
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There was no way, no how that my suitcase would fit in the trunk. It ended up riding strapped in the passenger seat! Certainly, limited my stops along the way, unfortunately.

Your pic makes it look like my suitcase should have fit. But, I could not get it in there no matter the angle. The hatchback would not close.

Last edited by joannyc; Jan 21st, 2019 at 09:21 PM.
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Jan 21st, 2019, 09:48 PM
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I am not claiming that a 25" suitcase would fit, just reaffirming that two 22" suitcases did fit when we rented a Fiat 500, which would not help the OP anyway.
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Jan 21st, 2019, 09:53 PM
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We usually rent a compact. All of them could have accommodated four of us with luggage. We carry 20" wheeled luggage with soft shell - 20x14x8. But I think issue for you have are the passengers. It greatly depends on the model you end up with.
>>>We will try to pack light
This can mean anything. What is the numerical size of the luggage?
>>> but seems the weather can be all over the place with rain and cold wind at that time of year??
That is pretty much any time of the year. If you carry a lot of single purpose slow drying clothes, your luggage will bloat.
>>> One guide said to get a very small car because parking will be impossible.
It really depends on where you are going. On market days, it is hard to park regardless of the size of the car. If you find a parking space, if you can park a compact, you can probably park a mid-size. The parking spaces are narrow. We used several parking structures at Aix. All of the lot required all but the driver to get out before pulling into a parking space. If your driver needs to open door wide to get out, you have a problem.
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Jan 21st, 2019, 10:07 PM
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We drive all over the south of France in a SUV (mid-size SUV). No problem parking except in very rare cases. There's this parking with a lift in Haut Cagnes that only takes small cars - easily avoided though.

It's easier to fit soft bags in a car; try to pack some of your stuff in a soft bag, rather than only hard suitcases.
Tulips is offline  
Jan 21st, 2019, 10:52 PM
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Oh boy, four of you will exceed any car compact or mid-size, we two had a great Fiat 500, with hatchback kind of like shown above. We were happy that when closed the luggage did not show to outsiders. Regardless, be sure that your max bag is the allowable carry-on size here in the States, i.e., 21" and make sure it's soft sided. Another option is the eBags 'Mother Lode' which is technically a backpack but has ziparound & handle like a 21" carryon. I am loving my small Lipault bag which is even lighter and softer sided than my Lucas. Cassis was fabulous in September, and on a previous trip we too based in St. Remy. Enjoy! Stu's advice is good as to not trying to park in these small villages -- the car size will not matter, parking always tough to come by.
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Jan 21st, 2019, 11:07 PM
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Originally Posted by Michael View Post
I am not claiming that a 25" suitcase would fit, just reaffirming that two 22" suitcases did fit when we rented a Fiat 500, which would not help the OP anyway.
Yep, I understand that. I am just surprised that the pic of your trunk looks like it should have fit my suitcase.
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Jan 22nd, 2019, 01:26 AM
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The notion that parking is impossible must come from someone with very little experience. Yes, on market days in big towns it can be difficult, but if you're smart you either go early or late. Otherwise there should be no issues at all with a mid-size car unless you pack too much. We live in a village with insanely narrow lanes to navigate, yet all of our neighbors drive station wagons, SUVs, or the ubiquitous white Renault work trucks. It's just not an issue. OTOH, we own a compact and if we were to travel around with large pieces of luggage, it would fill up quickly. We never have anything bigger than a 22" rollaboard, often a 21".

Get the mid-size.
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Jan 22nd, 2019, 03:44 AM
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We've managed to park our 6metre Campervan in pretty much every town we visited, except for a couple which banned them or had height restrictions on parking.
When we go away in our Focus Station we can park it anywhere. One son goes off in a big old Volvo station and has no problems with it, another in an old Land Rover, without the benefits of power steering and still finds parking spaces in the south of France.
Get a car you will be comfortable in, parking will be possible, though you may have to walk a bit further.
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Jan 22nd, 2019, 04:38 AM
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There are usually only two of us, and we travel with only small carry-ons to meet European strict budget airline standards. We do a lot of driving in Italy ,where it seems everything is narrower. So, we always go for a Fiat 500 or similar. We generally say no to upgrades, but were given an SUV once in Rome, and the walk back to the rental desk was just too far. We took it with some trepidation and, even though we were in small villages and narrow roads of Campania, our worries were exaggerated even there. In France, our driving, and even parking, seem closer to what we find in the US, so we also would have no problem with the larger car, which you will need. There will be limitations, of course, so it is advisable to check with lodging places ahead of time.

Last edited by whitehall; Jan 22nd, 2019 at 04:51 AM.
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Jan 22nd, 2019, 08:30 AM
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I'd say Italy has narrower narrow roads in it than France. I'd go medium-sized and might look for an estate or shooting break (or whatever you call it in the US) as width is the critical issue, not length. I would also only take enough stuff. For most kids that includes, laptop, phone, kindle, chargers, USB, extra memories and power plug bars. Limit it to one phone each and a France to USB converter. Then throw out any natural fibres that never dry, then take out all the cosmetics they don't need and the extra shoes they just to have (fly in walking boots, take slippers, that is all they need). Then start counting Ts as well as overshirts, let them have one T per four days, PJs one set, towels no, socks for four days, shirts for four days and introduce them to the washing machine, two trousers tops, one light one heavy, one close-fitting hat and let the coat (fly in that) have a hood hey you know what lay it all out on a bed and photo it all to send to us and we will cross out the things you don't need ;-)
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Jan 22nd, 2019, 03:50 PM
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Originally Posted by bilboburgler View Post
I'd say Italy has narrower narrow roads in it than France. I'd go medium-sized and might look for an estate or shooting break (or whatever you call it in the US) as width is the critical issue, not length. I would also only take enough stuff. For most kids that includes, laptop, phone, kindle, chargers, USB, extra memories and power plug bars. Limit it to one phone each and a France to USB converter. Then throw out any natural fibres that never dry, then take out all the cosmetics they don't need and the extra shoes they just to have (fly in walking boots, take slippers, that is all they need). Then start counting Ts as well as overshirts, let them have one T per four days, PJs one set, towels no, socks for four days, shirts for four days and introduce them to the washing machine, two trousers tops, one light one heavy, one close-fitting hat and let the coat (fly in that) have a hood hey you know what lay it all out on a bed and photo it all to send to us and we will cross out the things you don't need ;-)
I may hold that to you! But isn't the weather iffy in April? We will be four days in Paris and the rest SOuth of France. I feel like we need hiking stuff AND something decent to wear in Paris.
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Jan 23rd, 2019, 04:33 AM
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Decent in Paris....only if you are going high-end, the rest of the time unless you are clothes-fixated you will never dress as well as the "best" Parisians and the rest will dress for the climate. So I'd not take Paris too seriously.

It will be April, not January. I'd do a 10 day forecast before you fly out and decide final selections before you fly, but take layers.
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Jan 23rd, 2019, 06:00 AM
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With three big adults over six feet, I would rent a full size car. We always rent a full size car and has
never had problems with parking. Good luck!
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