This is a guest post from Hans Ericcson of Auto Europe, a car rental broker specializing in the European market. They have a best price guarantee and excellent service. I’ve used them exclusively for my own rentals over the past eight years. When I’ve had issues, they’ve addressed them immediately — a much preferred scenario to chasing a local rental office for resolution.
I asked Hans to provide tips that are essential for families renting cars in Europe. This is outstanding information. Thanks Hans!
Roadside sunflowers in France
Is your family thinking about traveling to Europe? As an industry insider, there are several things it would be helpful for you to know. Here are things that all families should be aware of when renting a car in Europe.
One Way Fees
Watch out for “one way” fees. When you pick up your car in one country and drop it off in another, you will pay a one way fee. Sometimes the fees are charged within the same country, but not always. Generally, the farther you go from the original destination, the more the one way fee will be.
To get around a fee, sometimes you can find a town so close to the border, you can literally take a taxi to the next country. Take a look at Freilassing, Germany, and Salzburg, Austria. There are tales of people lucking out and getting a car that needs to be returned, so they don’t have to pay the fee, but the chances of that happening are fairly slim in most cases, and it’s not something that anyone can guarantee.
Child seats are pretty straight forward. If your child needs a baby or booster seat in your car at home, they will need one in Europe. You can bring your own, it should work just fine.
If you need to get one, book it in advance and ask about pricing. It may be worth changing suppliers (yes, they can run that high). If you have a toddler/infant who needs a child seat/booster seat, the rental car companies generally won’t let you leave until you have one, as it’s dangerous not to use and a liability to them.
Everyone needs their own seat belt. The rental companies can not allow you to “double up.” Make sure you let your car rental supplier know just how many people you have in your party to avoid this.
Know your gas policy. Full/Full is the most common, just keep your receipt after you’ve filled up. If you need to return it empty, the car should have an estimator that tells you how many miles you have left. Make sure you know how this before you leave the counter. You definitely do not want to fill a tank that is supposed to be returned empty!
International Driving Permit
An International Driving Permit is a translation of your license. It is not a single card but rather a booklet that has to be used in conjunction with your regular license (by itself it does nothing).
According to the US State Department, International Driving Permit may officially be purchased from two places if you are an American citizen: AAA (American Automobile Association) and the NAC (National Automobile Club). The booklet has a description of your license, and provides proof that you are who you say you are.
While most companies do not require you to have one in order to pick up a rental car, you can potentially face a fine if you get pulled over without it, especially if the officer does not speak English. It can also come in handy if you are buying something with a credit card and are asked for ID.
Manual vs. Automatic Car
If you can’t drive a manual transmission vehicle, make sure you rent an automatic. You would be shocked at the amount of people who think that they can just learn this skill on the fly while in a foreign country.
If you want to save some money and you book your trip far enough in advance, you might be able to learn. Ask your friends who drive manual would be willing to teach you in exchange for a dinner, or babysitting. It’s not always a big difference, but in some locations because automatics are so sparse, you will pay double or triple what you would for a manual.
It is a little tricky to get used to those Irish, Australian, and UK car rentals, regardless of your transmission, and isn’t something you can really practice at home.
Photo courtesy of Amie O’Shaughnessy.