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European Car Hire

Hiring a Car or other Vehicle in Europe

European flagsIf you prefer not to use your own vehicle while driving in Europe, there are thousands of companies that rent vehicles - including cars, caravans, motorbikes and vans. Vehicle hire companies vary from small local firms to huge multinational organisations with branches in most European cities and probably one local to your own.

The cost for hiring a vehicle will vary widely, with local companies generally cheaper than the multinationals, so it pays to shop around and get some quotes. When comparing prices, it can be difficult to analyse the quotes, as what is included in the price varies considerably between firms, and even for the same firm in different countries. It is worth checking what is included in the price, from equipment to number of insured drivers.

As well as going directly to the hire firms, vehicle hire brokers can often be cheaper. Hiring from airports is often the most convenient option, but they tend to be more expensive than branches elsewhere. In most cases you can usually reserve a type of vehicle, but not the specific model, which can be a problem if you have difficulties with certain vehicles.

Hire Hints and Tips

  • Check carefully what is included - if you need items like baby seats, roof racks or similar these are usually an extra charge, which can be considerable. Many firms will not guarantee their availability, so if it is critical (such as a baby seat), you may want to consider bringing one. Some car hire firms will offer Sat-Nav as optional extras but being prepared can help you avoid additional costs as many UK Sat-Nav will include European maps or have them available to download cheaper than renting one.
  • The damage excess can be considerable, and almost all car hire firms offer top-up insurance (often called Collision Damage Waiver or CDW). Check the cost of this if you plan on taking it out, and consider purchasing a private CDW policy separately from the car hire, as it can be much cheaper, especially for annual cover.
  • Extra charges may apply for younger drivers, and few companies allow drivers under 21 at all and charge extra under 25. Some place restrictions on those over 75 as well. Additional drivers are at an extra cost for most firms.
  • Check whether you have to return the vehicle with or without fuel - getting it wrong can be costly. Some hire companies now charge much more reasonable fuel charges, which can be worth paying to save the trouble of locating a petrol station just before returning the vehicle.
  • European Travel Kit with Spare bulb Kit Even though you are hiring the vehicle, as the driver you are responsible for complying with all local laws, such as tyre tread, warning triangles, spare tyres, hi-vis vests, first aid kits and spare bulbs. Check if these are required for the country and included with the hire, the necessary equipment varies between countries so check HERE for what you need in each country you intend to travel through as you may have to supplement what is provided. This is especially true if hiring in the UK and driving to Europe. A Full European Driving Kit will cover all European requirements when traveling in Europe in your rental car.
  • Most hire agreements have restrictions where you can take the vehicle, so if you plan to drive out of the country check with the hire firm first, there may be an additional charge with some companies.
  • Many companies wont accept pets so it is worth calling in advance, similarly checking the requirements when Taking Pets to Europe
  • Many of the larger vehicle hire firms allow you to drop the vehicle off at a different branch to the one you collected from, at an extra charge
  • When you collect the car, van, motorbike or other vehicle, check carefully for damage both internally and externally, and ensure even the smallest of marks is noted on the hire sheet BEFORE it is signed. If you fail to do this, you may be blamed for any damage. Taking pictures oh the vehicle is also advised just for additional piece of mind. If the vehicle is too dirty to properly check, do not sign the hire agreement.
  • Vehicle hire contracts are not an exciting holiday read, but it's important to know what you are signing, so at least read it quickly. If they are not able to supply a contract in English (or a language you can read), it's best to go somewhere else. Booking in advance can be helpful if they can provide the full contract in advance.

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