Car Rental in Europe

Discussion in 'Europe' started by East_Yorker, May 11, 2011.  |  Print Topic

  1. East_Yorker
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    East_Yorker Gold Member

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    Off on a trip to Europe next month, arriving in Zurich, but then heading to eastern France. I'm looking for advise on car rentals (deals, tips, things to watch out for).

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. MSPeconomist
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    MSPeconomist Gold Member

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    I always go with a major company, usually Hertz. Be sure to understand all fees and taxes. Do not be intimidated into accepting insurance that you don't need but don't be uncovered either.

    Your contract might not allow the car to leave the country where it is rented or to enter certain countries (for example, Italy or Eastern Europe). Be sure to check this in advance and have the contract modified in writing if necessary.

    Check in advance whether your credit cards or auto policy cover rentals for the countries you will visit and check on any vehicles (luxury, exotic can have specific definitions that you would not have guessed) which are excluded.

    Get an international driving permit, even if you don't think it's required, to make it easier at the foreign rental agency when you arrive to pick up your vehicle. IIRC it's $10 and a passport photo at AAA, good for a year,

    If you're more comfortable with an automatic, be absolutely sure that this is confirmed on your reservation.

    Cheap cars may not have AC. Also, some don't have radios (huge rate of breakins and radio theft in some parts of Europe), power steering, power windows, etc.

    Rental cars generally don't have maps, although you might be able to beg one from the agency staff.

    If you rent under a special or prepaid rate, in many cases you must have the paper certificate with you to get the special terms.

    Business day rates are exorbitant, although sometimes you can rent by the hour. Rates might not include unlimited miles.

    Expect gas prices and tolls to be high. Diesels get good mileage; consider a Smartcar or similar for city driving, but you might not feel comfortable on highways in small and light vehicles. Some countries (Switzerland, for example) require a sticker or device to use the good roads.

    Except perhaps in Holland and Scandinavia, people drive fast and aggressively. Especially on expressways, do not expect to be able to drive and see the scenery or carry on much of a conversation; driving will require 100% of your attention. Heavy trucks can be very slow, so expect a wider variation in highway speeds of other vehicles than you're accustomed to. Learn the European road symbols in advance. Priority from the right isn't universal (within Paris, for example); learn to look for the signs indicating that you're the main road.

    Navigation tends to be in terms of a sequence of cities and intersections, not route numbers. If no direction is indicated for your destination or sequence, continue straight. World like centre, Zentrum, etc. indicate the way to the center of a city; all directions or other directions frequently is the way out of a city.
     
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  3. viguera
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    viguera Gold Member

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    Biggest thing to watch out for is manual transmission if you don't know how to drive stick... :)

    Other than that, other people are significantly more experienced in the area so I'll defer suggestions to them.
     
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  4. BurBunny
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    BurBunny Silver Member

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    I'm a big fan of AutoEurope, and not just in Europe (I've used them in Europe, Aus/NZ and recently even domestically). They're a consolidator, and often the best source for one-way rentals all over the world. Every time I've done price comparisons with the car agencies direct vs. AutoEurope, AE comes in way ahead. Pretty good web site, clear options (for nav systems, auto vs. manual transmission, etc) and no surprises. You do rent through the major agencies, pre-paid, but refundable, and AutoEurope is even easy to work with for rate reductions.
     
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  5. I think your best option would be to use a comparison site to find the lowest price for car rental across all suppliers, then negotiate from there. I've used http://www.carrentals.co.uk in the past. They are a global search company so should be able to find a match.
     
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  6. Get a Michelin Atlas Routier if you plan on driving on anything besides major roads.

    I was looking at a 6 week rental earlier this week. The lease prices were quite high, in the €2,400 range.
     
  7. Redcap
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    Redcap Silver Member

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    Chose the big companies, not the smaller ones. Avis, Budget, Hertz and even Europecar.
     
  8. Gardyloo
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    Gardyloo Gold Member

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    If you're staying longer than 2 or 3 weeks (which seems to be a break-even point) then have a look at one of the lease-back programs like Renault's - http://www.renaultusa.com/ - which have competitive rates, but no add-on charges. If you took the train from ZRH to the Basel airport, there would be no pick-up fee. Do some price comparisons. We've done this on several occasions and have never been disappointed.
     
  9. lili
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    lili Gold Member

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    EconomyCarRentals.com has good reviews on the internet and I was very pleased with their service. They originally set me up with Targarent which had many negative reviews on the internet (so bad I believe they were fradulent reviews, as confirmed by EconomyCarRentals.com.) However, they easily changed my reservation to Sixt which was only a few Euro more and I felt more confidence. Their prices were well below AutoEurope and other places I looked at.

    Be wary of small, underpowered cars if there are more than one of you. Even the mild terrain outside of Rome required extensive use of second gear when there were three of us in the car, slightly better with only two.
     

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