Car Hire in Europe
If you are travelling to Europe and planning to rent a car for your trip, there are several things that you need to remember in order to keep costs low and ensure you remain on the right side of the law.
Some countries require you to sign a collision damage waiver. It's best to find out before hand what the price of this cover is and what the cost is for zero-deductible cover. Another consideration to bear in mind is that sometimes car rental companies will charge a rather large fee to leave the car at a different location from where it was picked up, so determine your pick up and drop off points. Find out beforehand what the cost of changing your drop off time or location will be in case of changes to travelling plans.
Some companies will deliver the rental car to the hotel for you. If available and cost effective this service is highly recommended. You will most likely just be off a long flight and attempting to navigate the roads of a strange country while tired is not always the best idea. Getting the car delivered lets you settle into your hotel and get some rest before embarking on your road trip. Hotel delivery is usually an additional charge so be sure to check the costs.
Some countries charge mandatory road taxes, or other local fees, such as fees for winter tires. Be sure to read the contract before you sign anything, and pay close attention to anything that mentions any other additional fees. If you are not sure what something in the contract means, ask for clarification to avoid incurring hidden fees or liabilities.
While all rental agencies offer basic insurance, their coverage and deductibles may differ. Find out what is covered under the basic insurance, and what additional insurances are available. Many rental companies offer extra features that may add an additional cost, such as automatic transmission, child-safety seats, Wi-Fi or GPS. Most rental companies also have restrictions on who can be listed as drivers, mostly based on age. The restrictions usually have upper and lower age limits and differ depending on the Country and the company. This article gives specifics for car hire in Francebut policies vary across Europe so as always check before you book.
Know the office locations, opening hours and phone number of the hire company in case of emergencies or changes in plans. Communication with the company is always important to reduce the risk of additional fees. Another thing to remember is that rental agencies in airports have to pay the airport for the space, and will therefore typically be much more expensive than renting from an office location.
European companies will advertise full size cars that are more upscale, but aren't much, if any, bigger than midsize vehicles. Also, remember to clarify what type of fuel the car you are renting uses. Most insurance policies will not cover mechanical issues caused by using the wrong fuel.
Check to find out where you can drive your rental car, as some countries will not let you pass borders in a rental car. Not knowing your driving zones beforehand can cost a lot of time on your trip and result in unknowingly driving in a location where the insurance policy is invalid.
Always know how many people in your group will be driving and plan accordingly. Don't forget that many countries in Europe require an international driving permit.
Remember that even if a company you use regularly in South Africa have offices in Europe, chances are good that their fees, car styles and features will be completely different. Do some research before deciding where and what to rent.
Road trips in Europe can be difficult to enjoy without a vehicle. Knowing how to plan your rental car purchase beforehand can take away the stress, and allow you to enjoy your trip with less hassle, and at a budget you can afford.