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10 Tips for Getting a Rental Car in Europe

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While it’s usually more convenient and eco-friendly to use public transportation in many European cities, there are some places where renting a car is the most viable option. Having a rental car in Europe gives you more flexibility with your itinerary outside the cities. It’s easier for day trips and usually cheaper than tours. We’re far from experts but we have learned some lessons while renting cars in Iceland and Germany. Here are our tips for getting a rental car in Europe:

Shop around

We’ve used consolidator sites like carrentals.co.uk or Kayak to compare rental car prices from many companies and have found great deals. Search for online promo codes for additional savings.

Check the hours

While it’s fairly common in U.S. airports to have 24-hour desks, that’s not always the case overseas. Ensure that you make arrangements when you land outside of the car agency’s business hours.

Make sure you have basic insurance

Check your car insurance’s current coverage before your trip to confirm if the policy will cover you overseas. Check the credit card you will be using to see what added coverage it can offer for you.

Get premium rental car protection

Our American Express card has a policy for about $20 that provides primary coverage for the duration of the rental. If you file a claim, it won’t involve your insurance, which can result in a possible insurance premium increase.

Will you need an international driving permit?

Check with the tourist boards of the countries you are visiting to see if you will need an international driving permit. We didn’t need it in Germany but needed it during our day trip to Austria. We got ours from our local AAA office, and it was valid for one year.

Learn the local traffic signs and laws.

Although many of the road and traffic signs are universal, it’s always a good idea to print out unfamiliar and local signs. Check for apps that can also be downloaded on your smart phones. Study them with your navigator.

Use your own GPS

Since it’s small enough, pack your own GPS for familiarity, to avoid the fees from the rental car company, and for easy automatic Metric-to-English conversions. Update your maps beforehand. Save your favorite attractions and hotels before you leave.

Bring your own car seats

You can save on additional fees and ensure that you’re not compromising your child’s safety. Who knows what car seat you’ll end up with or if the rental agency will even have one available? You may end up with a dirty car seat, one that have been recalled, or one that has gotten into accidents with no visible signs of damage. We’ve always brought our own car seats no matter how bulky. Bring them on the plane, gate check or check them in for free.

Check the car thoroughly after pick-up

Take pictures of its current condition especially any obvious dents and dings.

Fill ’er up!

We don’t usually get the pre-paid gas from the agencies since it’s more expensive. Mark the nearest gas station to the airport on your GPS after pick-up. This will make it easier to return the car with a full tank. Always ensure you’re putting the right type of fuel. Have local currency handy because some stations may not accept credit cards.

Many of these tips are also applicable for rental cars in America, as well. We’ve found getting a rental car in Europe to be a great experience and we hope these tips will help with your next road trip. Safe travels!

Have you gotten a rental car in Europe or elsewhere overseas? Any tips to add?

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Mary lives in San Diego, California with her husband, 13 year-old daughter and 10 year-old son. She was born in the Philippines, grew up in the U.S. territory…

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