tips for europe by car
europe! do you prefer it by train, plane, car, or bus?
we are doing it all different ways while long term
traveling around right now, but in the past two
countries we’ve rented cars which has been so nice
to have our own schedule and adventures. it is a
little different to rent & drive here though, so here
are a few tips for renting a car in europe!
- book ahead. you will definitely find the best deals and most information by booking online from home ahead of your trip. all of the options and hidden fees can be confusing if you book while in europe! Bear in mind that you will have to consider other costs such as car maintenance and insurance. It’s also illegal to drive a car in europe with no insurance, so browse about before going. Remember online quotes are fast and free with no commitment so make sure you have time to get the best option before you head on your travels!
- book through auto europe. although there are some great rental companies here, auto europe has alliances with the main international car rental companies, which gives you the best options and prices. they understand the differences between renting in different countries and make things clear so that you’re not left surprised.
- be aware of rental periods. in europe, there are only 24 hour rental increments offered. this means that if you pick up a car at 10:00 AM and drop it at 11:00 AM the following day, you’ll be charged an entire extra day for the hour difference. plan to utilize the car within time periods that make the 24 hour rule worth it.
- decide ahead of time where you want to pick up and drop off. do some research and know where you’re staying, etc. so you can pick cars up at the most convenient location. note that some european rental companies charge airport pickup fees. if you don’t need a car immediately upon arriving, take public transportation into the city and rent from there to avoid the fees (just be sure to check the location & hours of the rental office in the city center!)
- don’t overthink your choice of car. europeans are very different about their cars – they are smaller and usually manual. go with the smallest size you can fit into, and embrace the differences.
- when shopping around, be aware of the full price – not just the initial price quotes. you’ll want to factor in the combination of rates (including all fees and any extras you need), service, and pickup/drop-off locations. this is where auto europe can also assist, so i suggest calling them to ensure your rental price is what you think it is before booking. basically, read the fine print! :)
- toll roads – these are the bane of my existence in europe! they are the one thing that take away from the carefree, freeing experience driving through beautiful europe. depending on the country, you’ll be stopped every so often for a hefty toll price. especially in certain countries like italy and france, add these prices into your trip budget so they don’t surprise you!
- consider weekly rentals. typically in europe, daily rates are cheaper the longer you rent. look at your itinerary and get quotes for week-long rentals. you might find that 7 days costs the same or even less than 5 days.
- ask ahead of time. whether you book on your own or use a consolidator like auto europe, be sure to ask about any extra fees as you are booking. many travelers are unpleasantly surprised by major fees at certain rentals or companies. read everything closely, and expect fees (large and small) for anything from a young driver fee to airport pick-up fee, etc. in ireland we paid about 30€ extra aside from the rental price, but in denmark we ended up paying about 100€ in fees (it’s just an expensive country in general). be aware ahead of time!
- brush up on your stick shift driving skills! as mentioned above, the majority of cars in europe will be manual transmissions – with automatic cars being scarcer and pricer. even if you do opt for an automatic, there’s always a chance that there’s a shortage and you’re stuck with a manual. be prepared!
- pay upfront. we like to pay ahead of time online before our trip for a few reasons. a) you’ll have one less thing to pay for and worry about while on the trip. b) you know you’re paying the quoted price in US dollars, and avoid paying a higher price at the desk when it’s converted. you’ll also save the foreign transaction fee on your credit card this way.
- be familiar with european car brands. there are of course some familiar cars to rent, but the majority will be the likes of peugeot, škoda, renault, opel, fiat, citroën, and seat. don’t worry about choosing exact models since they interchange a lot anyway – just choose the size.
- one way rentals can be tempting in europe, as they make itineraries easy. however, watch out for really high drop fees depending on the country. if you drop in two different cities in the same country it’s typically free, but if you drop in another country you’ll probably get a fee of a few hundred euros – and in some areas it can top €1000 just for the drop fee. one way rentals can still be worth it, but look into it and adjust your plans slightly to be able to drop where it’s not a crazy fee.
- we suggest renting a manual car in the smallest, least expensive size. this not only saves money, but makes it easier to drive on the narrow winding roads of europe. they are not suited for larger cars, and between parking and narrow turns you’ll find yourself wishing you had a smaller car a lot of the time. if it’s just two people and you pack light, this works the best!
- lastly, enjoy! renting a car in europe may have some extra stress points and costs, but it also has a lot of benefits. you get to be on your own schedule, find things you wouldn’t otherwise, you can stop off and discover small towns and areas, and be in control. if taking your own car around europe is more your thing, you need to make sure it is fully prepared for the journey. The tires will almost certainly need looking at or replacing, if this is the case you can go use Goodyear tire coupons to save money and keep your car in perfect working order. if you decide to rent a car, just sit back, put on some music and enjoy the ride. you’ll never forget it!
and if you’d like a little dose of the reality of renting a car here in europe,
(and a big laugh at us)… watch this vlog chase made of our first rental
in dublin. he never shows me a glimpse of these until they are posted,
and half the time i don’t even know he’s filming on the gopro … so this is
100% real life as we got to the airport and i had to be the one driving on
the left side of the road and right side of the car with no directions.. ha!
also, the beginning part about the car shows how hilar chase is. i cried
laughing at this one, so hope you enjoy :) it’s an entertaining one!
haha after watching that, on second thought… perhaps we
aren’t the best people to take driving tips from! ;)