Renting a car in Europe

Travel Forums Europe Renting a car in Europe

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1. Posted by cmiles (Budding Member 6 posts) 34w Star this if you like it!

My husband and I want to come to Europe for a month or so and travel around. We love driving. Where is the best place to rent a car that we can take to all countries. Is there a CAR Share Ap - or what is the best option. The rental car companies are very costly. It seems it would be less to buy a car and use it and then sell it. Thank you.

2. Posted by berner256 (Moderator 1510 posts) 34w Star this if you like it!

Your best bet would be to take public transportation and then rent a car in places where you absolutely need it.

I've recently had problems with availability renting a car in the United States. Rental companies have reduced their fleets with fewer people traveling. So when I arrived to pick up a car that I had reserved, none were available. Six other people faced the same situation.

Please note this from Brian Kelly of The Points Guy: "One common misconception about rental cars is that making a reservation means a vehicle will be set aside for you. In reality, a reservation guarantees the advertised rate, but not that a vehicle will be available for you to rent. Surprisingly, this is true even of prepaid reservations, and while prepaying should give you priority over someone who hasn’t paid, it still may not guarantee availability. Rental car companies can overextend their fleets with impunity, since they don’t have the same obligation as airlines to compensate passengers for overbooking."

The rental situation in Europe might be different. But I suspect it's not.

As previously mentioned, travel during the pandemic isn't as easy nor as convenient as it once was. That's my experience on four road trips this summer totaling about nine weeks. I told friends today to expect continued disruptions to travel in 2021 and beyond. I also expect further and perhaps stricter limits on the ability to travel, particularly since there are few signs, if any, that the pandemic is ending.

3. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2325 posts) 34w 1 Star this if you like it!

Europe consists of 50 different countries. Which ones do you plan to go to? Some of them make cross-border travel with a car easy, others don't. In some cases taking your own car in would be importing it.

Depending what you're doing, a car may be a poor choice. If you're seeing the big cities a car is a pain.

When are you planning for? After the pandemic, right?

The only car share schemes I know of are intended for a day or two use at a time, and not cross-border. They're for city dwellers so they don't have to own a car. For a month, it's regular car hire. You say it's expensive, compared to what? Owning one carries a risk on the resale value you achieve. If you were doing a year in a country it would be an idea (but still has pitfalls like a local address for registration), but for a month it's risky.

[ Edit: Edited on 18-Oct-2020, 04:47 GMT by AndyF ]

4. Posted by Sander (Moderator 5616 posts) 34w Star this if you like it!

Can rental costs in Europe should be something like €30-€50/day, depending on size of the car, length of time you're renting for, etc. That's including all mandatory charges, but excluding upsells for limiting your liability to zero, extra drivers, and so on.
However, if you put in a route where you return the car to a different location then where you got it from - particular if that's in another country, charges will go up tremendously, so don't do that, but plan a circular route!
When renting in Western Europe, you're generally forbidden from bringing the car into Eastern Europe (checked up with GPS). e.g. from the Netherlands you can drive to Scandinavia, Germany, Austria, France, Spain, Portugal and Italy, but not Poland or the Czech Republic. I don't know if the same restrictions apply when renting in e.g. Austria, nor what the situation is when renting in Eastern Europe.

I agree with berner256 that your best bet for getting around Europe (after the pandemic) will be public transport. Trains will get you from city to city swiftly and efficiently - cars are a hassle within cities (all of which are walkable and/or have their own local public transport), and really only worthwhile if you want to head out into nature and/or smaller villages.

5. Posted by leics2 (Travel Guru 2711 posts) 34w Star this if you like it!

I'm going to assume that by 'Europe' (50+'s a continent!) you actually mean European countries which are either in the EU (27 countries) or in the Schengen Zone (26) or both (22).

>Is there a CAR Share Ap

Although common in parts of the US, the sort of 'car share' (e.g. Zipcar) you're thinking of doesn't really exist in EU or Schengen countries. There are country-specific carshare/liftshare sites which offer seats in a car from X to Y but they are unlikely to be of much use to you.

1. > is there a batter option?

I too think that it's much more sensible in terms of time, cost and the environment to use the excellent, safe European trains to travel to a location then hire a car to explore the area. There are a variety of Eurail railpasses available or you can just buy point-to-point tickets as you go. If the latter, booking tickets online in advance gives cheaper fares for the fast trains. Some routes have trains which travel at well over 100mph and, in my experience, all except the small local services travel much faster than US trains.

Eurail pass info:

Times, details and fares for all EU trains, except a few private and commuter lines, on the excellent DB site in English. You can also buy tickets through the site if you wish:

2. All multi-national EU/Schengen area-based car hire companies will allow travel within the Schengen area but many do not allow travel to non-Schengen EU countries e.g. Croatia, Romania, Bulgaria.

Smaller hire companies (i.e. independent locals and national chains) may restrict hire to their own country and, possibly, adjoining Schengen countries.

3. One-way hire of any distance is only available from large multi-nationals (e.g. Hertz, Avvis, Europcar, Budget, Thrifty). Even then you won't be able to just leave the car wherever you fancy: there has to be a branch in that location.

One-way hire always carries a hefty premium. Returning a car to the same base makes much more financial sense.

4. Parking can be difficult and expensive. Some roads have tolls and in some countries you need to buy and display a 'vignette' before driving on the motorways (freeways).

There are vehicle restrictions in the historical centres of most EU/Schengen cities. You may not be able to take a car at all, you may only be able to do so within certain time limits or you may have to pay to drive within a city. CCTV cameras are often used to monitor vehicles and fines are automatic. They'll be sent to the hire company who will, eventually, take them from your credit card (with additional admin charges).

You need to research this aspect carefully beforehand. There's always clear signage about restrictions but it's not...obviously...always in English and, without prior research, it's easy to find yourself in the wrong lane and unable to avoid entering a restricted area. Fines can be quite substantial.

5. >The rental situation in Europe might be different (in terms of car reservations being honoured)

It is, at least within EU & Schengen countries. EU consumer laws mean that if you have reserved a car you'll get it. If the model type you reserved isn't available you'll be offered an alternative at the same rate.

[ Edit: Edited on 18-Oct-2020, 08:38 GMT by leics2 ]

6. Posted by Teoni (Travel Guru 1632 posts) 34w Star this if you like it!

There is no car rental that will allow you into every country in Europe, not even every EU country. They all have restrictions. The first thing you want to do is figure out where you want to drive otherwise it is hard to give advice. If you plan on only visiting cities then the above advice is correct for most of Europe, public transport is best however if as you say you love driving and you are looking for great drives then Europe does have some stunning roadways and great off the beaten track destinations. But that is what you need to decide where you want to go and then you can start working out logistics.

7. Posted by Beausoleil (Travel Guru 1744 posts) 34w 1 Star this if you like it!

Hi. We usually go for a month and we lease a car. It's a brand new car and it is yours for the lease period so you can take it nearly everywhere. It is a French lease so we usually pick it up in the French city nearest where we want to go first and drive from there. They have pick up and drop off places all over Europe and usually if you drop it in another country there is a high fee but because of the virus, they've dropped nearly all fees so you could drop off in another country. We drop off back in France because we fly home from France.

I've written a blog entry about leasing you can check and it has links to a couple lease web sites. We usually use and get a Peugeot but have gotten a Renault a few times. Both are very nice cars. Everything is paid before you go so no surprises and you have full insurance. Check the blog at click here for Beausoleil's blog on leasing a car in Europe

I will add that if you are spending most of your time in cities a car is an expensive nuisance. Rent locally and use public transportation to get between cities and around in the cities. We never get a car when we're staying in cities.

Post 8 was removed by a moderator
9. Posted by cmiles (Budding Member 6 posts) 34w Star this if you like it!

Thank you everyone. Some very good advice. We aren't big city people and we love to wander without a plan and not knowing where we'll end up. This might not be as easy as we think. It sounds like we'll need a little more of a plan/route. Thank you again. Very helpful!

10. Posted by leics2 (Travel Guru 2711 posts) 34w Star this if you like it!

>we love to wander without a plan and not knowing where we'll end up

It's easy to do that in one country and it's pretty easy to do it with your own vehicle (though it may be pricey in insurance terms).

But each of the EU and Schengen countries have their own cultures, their own laws and their own driving norms so, in terms of insurance and hire company risk, each EU and/or Schengen country is not the same. The company may not allow vehicles to be taken into certain countries (e.g. taking a Schengen-based vehicle into a non-Schengen country) and even if they do allow it they will need to know which countries you intend to visit because the legally-required insurance which is part of the hire charge may vary, including in price.

The European rail system is so extensive (and, in many cases, faster than driving) does mean that it usually makes more sense to hire cars locally than try to do a multi-country trip with a hired car. When you're pondering costs, remember to factor in the cost of fuel (which is very considerably higher than the US everywhere), the cost of tolls/vignettes, the cost of parking (never cheap in cities) and the potential for automaticc speeding and 'prohibited area' fines.