Tips for Renting a Car in Europe

Renting a car while traveling in Europe is a great way to explore many countries or get to smaller towns that may not be easy to travel to by train. If you want to travel by car for your next trip to Europe, you want to make sure you’re safe every step of the way. Not only will you have to look into the driving rules of your new roads, but you’ll also need to make sure you’re insured in case something happens.

In order not to get caught off guard, review these tips for renting a car in Europe. This way, you’ll have everything you need to drive safely and legally while traveling.

Renting a Car in Europe

When to Rent Your Car

While sometimes it’s fun to be spontaneous while traveling, you should try to book your car rental in advance. You can usually do this by phone or online, and sometimes within 24 hours of pickup. Why should you do it in advance? You’re more likely to avoid any unnecessary fees, and you’ll have more freedom to shop around. Booking in advance can save you quite a bit of money if you look in the right places.

There is a great forum on Tripadvisor focused on cheap car rental in Europe. It’s a great resource to find the current best prices and in-depth tips for renting a car in Europe.

Another important reason to shop early is if you need an automatic car. In many parts of the world, these cars aren’t as common, and finding an automatic rental can be competitive. Once you’ve found a car that works for you, try to pay for the booking prior to getting to the rental agency. Car rental companies are notorious for hidden fees, so paying in advance leaves less room for last-minute surprises.

Look for Discounts

Tips for Renting a Car in EuropeDo you have a travel credit card? If so, it may offer a lot of lesser-known discounts. Similarly, if you’re a part of any organization like AAA, frequent flyer programs, or some banks, you might have special deals with certain rental companies that transfer abroad.

In many cases, these discounts can be significant or can waive other fees. If you’re over the age of 70 or under 25, you might have to pay a higher charge to drive a rental car. Ask your rental agency if there are any discounts or waivers available.

Driving Permits

Most likely, you’ll be able to get by with your American or Canadian driver’s license if you’re in another English-speaking country. If you’re outside of the English-speaking world, you might need to have an International Driving Permit to rent a car legally. This is, essentially, a form that translates your driving license into 10 languages.

The International Driving Permit is issued by the American Automobile Association (AAA), and you’ll need to get it issued prior to leaving the country. Note that if you’re stopped by law officials abroad, you’ll still need to present your home license in addition to the International Permit.

Learning the Laws

Do you know the laws of the road of the country you’ll be visiting? It’s not safe to assume they’ll be the same as they are at home. Review the drivingguide.com for the driving rules for the country you are visiting, and research the specific laws of the countries you be traveling through.

Make sure you know which side of the road to drive on, who has the right of way, and when you can turn right. When in doubt, follow what the locals do, and avoid drawing attention to yourself on the road.

Here is another great resource to learn the rules of the road in different European cities.

Insurance Coverage

We all wish things would go according to plan, but sometimes we need a backup plan. Insurance is there to cover any problems or accidents. Your rental company will likely offer its own daily coverage, and it’s usually affordable. Most likely, your car insurance back home won’t offer international coverage.

Where you might be able to find unexpected coverage is through a travel credit card. Many of these offer minimal car insurance abroad as a perk. However, always check the country’s minimum coverage requirements before hitting the road.

Are you thinking of renting a car abroad in the near future? That’s a great way to explore a new place, but make sure you’re being safe. These tips above will help you have the perfect trip without getting into trouble or unexpected fees.

Related: 10 Things to Know When Renting a Car in Ireland