Advantages and Disadvantages of Renting a Car in Europe


To get the most out of a once-in-a-lifetime experience, many travelers to Europe decide to rent a car rather than use the public transportation. Most of the car rental agencies you are familiar with in the United States are available in Europe, as well as several large Europe-wide agencies such as Sixt and Europcar. Before you opt to rent a car on your next trip to Europe, though, you need to be aware of the advantages and disadvantages.


When you rent a car, you are not bound by the schedules and route limitations of local transportation. If you are planning to visit sites outside the main cities, a car gives you the necessary mobility. Renting a car gives you the freedom to create your own itinerary and change it at whim if you find initial destinations unsatisfactory.


Renting a car allows you to travel with more luggage. When you rely on trains or buses to go from place to place, you are forced to travel light, as whatever you bring you need to lug from station to station. When you rent a car you can simply pack all your luggage into the trunk, where it is safe and secure.

Border Crossings and Documentation

Once you enter the European Union, you can cross borders with ease. You can take your rental car wherever you like in Western and most of Eastern Europe. Most countries require only your passport and U.S. driver’s license, but if you obtain an International Driving Permit from the AAA, you have the documentation you need to go anywhere in Europe. The AAA website points out that the permit translates your personal information into 10 languages and is valid in 150 countries. Some car rental agencies in Europe require it. Obtain one before you leave, in person at an AAA office or by mail. You need two passport-type photos and a $15 fee.


According to the European trip-planning website Rick Steve’s Europe, one of the drawbacks of renting a car in Europe is the expense. To save money, book your car in advance through one of the large car rental agencies or a booking site such as AAA, Travelocity or Expedia. Remember that whether you book beforehand or in Europe, the basic rental fee is only the beginning. You must also consider add-on fees, taxes and insurance. Fuel costs are considerably higher in Europe than in the United States. Many countries charge tolls according to the distance you travel on freeways. Most car rental agencies charge extra if you pick up your car at the airport and a significant surcharge if you drop your car off in a different country from which you picked it up.

Type of Car

Manual transmissions are ubiquitous in Europe, so most rental cars have them. Automatic transmissions are available in some models of larger cars, but you pay extra for the privilege. If you are not used to a manual transmission it can be awkward to use at first, but compact cars get better mileage and are more manoeuvrable on small European roads.

All in all, renting a car in Europe allows you to move freely from place to place, cross borders with ease and carry large amounts of luggage in the trunk. However, fuel and road tolls are expensive. You need to watch out for hidden fees and possibly get used to using a manual transmission.

Ralph Carlson is a freelance writer based in Carson City, Nevada. Those considering renting a vehicle in the near future should take a peek at Protect Your Bubble affordable car rental insurance.

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