European car rental - what don't I know?

Discussion in 'Community Discussion' started by macquariumguy, Apr 9, 2013.

  1. macquariumguy macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2002
    Location:
    Sarasota FL
    #1
    I'm planning a month long European road trip for my wife and I next summer and would like some practical advice concerning car rentals. Seems like there are more Europeans here than the other forums I visit, so I'm asking here.

    Anyway, I've been googling and getting price quotes from some of the bigger players in the biz. The prices for a car plus insurance seem expensive, but not unaffordable, but then I started reading travel advice sites and saw more than a couple warnings about unexpected rental costs in the form of fees, taxes, etc. I very much prefer no surprises on a trip like this, so any shared experiences would be greatly appreciated.

    The plan for now is to arrive in London and leave from Rome about 28 days later. From what I've seen, no one will rent a car in England for drop off out of country, so I'm thinking we'll pick up our car in France when we get off the train or ferry. So, the car will be needed for about 25 days and ~2500 miles as we make our way south. Staying in France, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Italy and leaving it in Rome at the end. Combination of highways and back roads, not spending a lot of time in major cities.

    So, what don't I know? I know what the car rental place is quoting me and I have a rough idea what fuel costs will be. I assume there are toll roads but I can't imagine they would add significantly to the overall price of the car. What else is there?

    Thanks in advance!
     
  2. b-rad g macrumors 6502a

    b-rad g

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2010
    #2
    Are you going to want GPS? When we were in visiting Ireland we used a GPS unit from the car rental company and they charge by the day so if you are wanting that then be sure to add that in to your costs. But for us the benefit of turn by turn GPS far outweighed the cost.
     
  3. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus

    robbieduncan

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    Jul 24, 2002
    Location:
    London
    #3
    Watch out for speeding fines: they will be sent to the rental company who will charge your card. Depending on time of year watch out for winter tyres/snow chains. These may be required but may not be included in the cost. Finally be ready to pay way more for fuel than you are used to.
     
  4. juanm macrumors 65816

    juanm

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    #4
    Yes, it might be cheaper to buy the Tomtom Western Europe app.
     
  5. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus

    robbieduncan

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    Location:
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    #5
    Or if you already own a TomTom buying the maps for it. I did that with a European TomTom in Texas a few years back.

    Edit to add: Don't know where you've been searching for prices but I always use http://www.carrentals.co.uk/ to rent in Europe.
     
  6. Plutonius macrumors 603

    Plutonius

    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2003
    Location:
    New Hampshire
    #6
    I have only rented cars in the US and I always bring my own GPS along with me to use in the rental (I never get one from the rental agency). Is there anything preventing you from using your own GPS when renting a car in the UK (assuming the GPS had the correct maps) ?
     
  7. b-rad g macrumors 6502a

    b-rad g

    Joined:
    Jun 29, 2010
    #7
    No, you are free to use your own GPS, just be sure to download the correct map for where you are traveling to.
     
  8. Phil A. Moderator

    Phil A.

    Staff Member

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    Apr 2, 2006
    Location:
    Shropshire, UK
    #8
    That doesn't surprise me - it's probably because cars in England have the steering wheel on the right whereas the rest of Europe has it on the left

    You can get a list of current French toll charges from here: http://www.autoroutes.fr/en/key-rates.htm (some of them can be pretty expensive)

    That website contains other valuable information about using the autoroutes in France, including speed limit information (there are different speed limits for fine and bad weather for example)
     
  9. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus

    robbieduncan

    Joined:
    Jul 24, 2002
    Location:
    London
    #9
    You also need a set of spare bulbs and a hi-viz vest for everyone in the car. I would expect a hire car to only come with one hi-viz vest so take some with you...
     
  10. woolyback macrumors regular

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    England
  11. macquariumguy thread starter macrumors 6502a

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    Sarasota FL
    #11
    Holy crap, that's complicated for someone who doesn't speak French. How are the tolls paid? Is it a transponder in the car and it "just happens"? That would be okay.

    I'll definitely need a GPS. I'd like to stay off the highway whenever it's reasonable to do so and see the countryside.
     
  12. jsolares macrumors 6502a

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    Land of eternal Spring
    #12
    Are you dead set on car rental? the trains are rather good in Europe.
     
  13. MACelmore macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Mar 11, 2013
    #13
    I work for Enterprise here in the States, but alot of the rules over the pond are similar to the US branches, and I'm assuming most rental car companies have similar practices.

    2 main factors of price:

    1) When you book. The further away is sometimes better, but sometimes prices will drop so the company can get more cars on the road. If you're really price-conscious I would book it soon, then check prices every couple of weeks. If you see a lower price, book it then cancel the first reservation.

    2) Insurance. YOU DON'T NEED IT! Rental car insurance is so expensive when bought from the company. Ask your credit card company if they have rental coverage. If they do, check the terms and conditions. There are sometimes limits on the amount of consecutive days you can rent a car and use credit card coverage. If you don't have a credit card, get one! If they won't cover you overseas, you can buy third party insurance for your rental car that is soooooo much less expensive than over-the-counter insurance. Buying directly from the rental company should be your last option. I know there is a third party company that has awesome rental car coverage, but the name escapes me right now.

    Besides that, I definitely would not rent a GPS for 28 days. You'll pay US$~200.

    Maybe consider if you would want to upgrade the car size if you get there and it's too small. (European cars are much smaller in comparison to cars in America).

    Seems like you have everything else considered.

    Good luck!
     
  14. tingiminn macrumors newbie

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    #14
  15. Phil A. Moderator

    Phil A.

    Staff Member

    Joined:
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    Location:
    Shropshire, UK
    #15
    There is a tag system (called Liber-t) but it's generally only available to French (and British) citizens - I don't know if hire companies can provide them or not, but I suspect not. Apart from that, it's credit card or cash payment at toll booths
     
  16. robbieduncan Moderator emeritus

    robbieduncan

    Joined:
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    Location:
    London
    #16
    They are not needed in Germany for LPG (cars) or Austria for non-Autobahns...
     
  17. macquariumguy thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Jan 7, 2002
    Location:
    Sarasota FL
    #17
    Yeah, I know, but we are not inclined to "travel light" for this kind of trip and the thought of dragging large suitcases around train stations doesn't appeal.

    I will check into that. We have more than enough lead time to find the best CC for the job and then acquire one if we don't already have it. It might even be worth getting one of the annual fee AmEx cards that have lots of such benefits.

    If it's better than what I could buy for $200, then I might as well rent. We use our iPhones for GPS duty here, but I'm not sure that will be an option for us overseas.

    As long as we can get our suitcases in the car, it'll be big enough for us. I would prefer a small car for ease of parking and general getting around. Not Smart Car small, but a Fiat 500 would probably be fine.

    I was disappointed to find that no one had a little convertible for us or even something a bit sporty. Seems those are reserved for local and in-country rentals.

    Jebus... I lived in Germany for almost 3 years in the middle 70s. I had a car and drove all over the place. Things are much more complicated now!

    This is my draft map for our route.

    http://goo.gl/maps/OFofc

    I expect we will spend less time at the beginning (London, Paris) in favor of more time to the middle (Alps, Riviera) areas, but everything is subject to change.

    Thanks for the suggestions and tips so far.
     
  18. SpookTheHamster macrumors 65816

    SpookTheHamster

    Joined:
    Nov 7, 2004
    Location:
    London
    #18
    Don't rent a GPS, and I wouldn't even bother buying the TomTom app.

    I regularly travel with work and have to drive rental cars, so I just download the NavFree maps for whatever country I'm travelling to. I haven't had any problems with any of the maps, and there's no data requirement. GPS can take a long time (10 mins+) to lock on when you arrive in a new country though.
     

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