How to Rent a Car in Europe: International Car Rental Deals
I’m smack-dab in the middle of planning a grand adventure in the Provence region of France–and for the first time ever, I’m going to rent a car. The Provence is best seen by bike or car, and I like the idea of just winding my way from one town to another at a leisurely pace. But to be honest, the prospect of finding a rental car and then driving it in a foreign country had me feeling a bit daunted.
But I’m pleased to say that I cracked the code on this travel challenge and thanks to a slew of new websites, anyone can handle renting a car in Europe. Plus, they drive on the right side of the road in France. Deep breath, deep breath. I can do this!
Here’s are my tips for renting (and driving) a car in Europe:
Skyscanner: For the first two weeks of my great car-rental search, I couldn’t seem to find a decent website to look up prices and pick-up/drop-off locations. Then I happened upon Skyscanner. Using this site, I was able to quickly compare flights, hotels, and car rentals.
No site was more effective at helping me research options–however, I frequently found that it didn’t have the absolute best prices. Use Skyscanner to research and then check other sites to ensure you’re getting the best price.
Holiday Autos: In the end, the absolute lowest price I found was on Holiday Autos, which is part of the Travelocity family of brands. I was so proud of our sister brand–and very pleased with the $150 it saved me. Plus, the site is easy-to-use and yet sophisticated enough to handle my request for a low-priced car with an automatic transmission that should be picked up in Lyon and returned in Dijon. Not an easy feat!
One Country, One Car: I had originally dreamed of picking up a car in France and returning it in Italy. Alas, this doesn’t seem to be possible according to my research. If you know a site or car-rental company that can handle this request, please leave that tip in the comments section below!
Research Your Pick-Up and Drop-Off Locations: I briefly considered picking up my rental car in Paris, thanks to the wide selection of cars at the Charles de Gaulle airport. However, before booking I did some research on Frommers and learned that driving in and out of the capital is a nightmare. Instead I decided to take the TGV (high-speed train) to Lyon and pick up my car there. Much easier–and cheaper to boot.
On Holidy Autos, you can choose to return your car to a different city than where you picked it up–so be sure to choose your city wisely. In my case, I’m heading to Venice afterwards and the only non-stop overnight train departs from the French town of Dijon. Dropping the rental there will be perfect.
Insurance: After settling on my pick-up and drop-off locations and finding an incredible deal on Holiday Autos, it was time to sort out the insurance piece. First, I called my car insurance provider, USAA. Unfortunately, my car insurance only covers me when I rent in the U.S.
Then I remembered that I’m an American Express Gold Card member. I got this card because of its incredible travel benefits so I crossed my fingers and hoped it would cover my rental in France. Sure enough! The American Express team was happy to report that I would be fully covered for my rental, so long as I put myself as the primary driver. The only thing they didn’t cover was liability, but that was included with my rental for no extra charge.
This nifty benefit saved me a whopping $50–meaning that my annual fee has nearly paid for itself now.
Automatic Scramble: Don’t drive stick? Be ye warned, then. I don’t drive stick either and popular European destinations are known for running out of automatic cars. Book in advance to ensure you’re not stuck scrambling on your vacation, trying to figure out another way to get around.
My name: Alison Presley
Nickname: Presbo, because I'm good police.
How I earn my keep: I'm the manager of Travelocity's Travel for Good program. Visit Travel for Good to learn more about our green travel and voluntourism initiatives!
What kind of traveler am I: I'm an intrepid food explorer. I usually starve myself on the plane (not that that's too hard to do) so that the moment my toes touch foreign soil I'm ready to sample new and exciting cuisine. I like to dine everywhere from hole-in-the-wall local secrets to Michelin Guide gems. Cannelés, poi, boiled peanuts, oxtail soup, poutine--there's no stopping this adventurous palate.
Greatest travel lesson I've learned: It doesn't cost a lot of money to do good. Offsetting your carbon impact only adds a few bucks to your trip, green hotels are very affordable, and volunteering locally during your vacation is a great way to give back and learn about the culture.