To rent a car for your holidays provides a lot of freedom and flexibility. You can stop whenever you like, travel at your own pace and change your driving plan anytime.
Renting a car in Europe also gives you the opportunity to discover more places and also some hidden gems with difficult access and without public transportation.
We don’t own a car so we normally rent a car when travelling to certain destinations in Europe. There are some tips and tricks on how to get a budget rental car in Europe which we learned during our trips.
Renting a car might seem quite straightforward and transparent process especially when you travel frequently, however, there are certain things you should know before renting a car to save money and to avoid a big headache at the end of your trip.
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Choosing a car rental company
Apart from these major car rental companies, there are also low-cost or budget car rentals which usually offer cheaper deals however that does not always mean that they are the best choice.
To make it easy for us we recommend using AutoEurope. AutoEurope is a great search engine where you can compare the best car rental deals. Something like Skyscanner when you are looking for the best price for a flight, AutoEurope compares the best rates of all major and budget car rental companies.
Best Tips for Budget Car Rental
1. Travel destination
Before you decide to rent a car, the first question will be your travel destination. If you are planning a short trip or weekend escape in big cities like London, Rome, Prague, Amsterdam, etc, we would not recommend renting a car at all. Think wisely about each destination and check if there is good public transport.
Read more about Great Tours in London to discover new activities during your road trip.
If you are going to spend one week in Mallorca or Sardinia which are both islands, we definitely recommend renting a car due to the fact that public transport is not very reliable.
Read more about car rental in Andalucia Spain.
Renting a car in Sardinia for example also give you extra freedom to discover and explore beautiful beaches which you need to assess by car and usually walk to the beach.
We travel to Sardinia every year (Simone was born there) so here you can read more about the BEST BEACHES in Sardinia!
2. Rent a car in advance
Make sure you book a car in advance especially if you travel during the European peak summer season in July and August. We usually search for car rental at least a month in advance to make sure we can find the best deal for our trip.
Most of the major rental car companies offer discounts during the year, so if you plan your trip in advance, you can book your car with a great discount and save some money. Moreover, most likely there will be higher volumes of cars available for you to rent.
Extra Tip: Sign up to the newsletter of the major car rental companies to make sure you don’t miss any offer.
Most of the major car rental companies offer the possibility to pick up the car at one location and drop off in another country.
We agree that sometimes it makes sense if for example you are travelling through Europe and you don’t want to come back.
As we are giving you our best tips on budget car rental we usually won’t recommend this option and there is always an extra charge for this service. It can go from 70 EUR to 1000 EUR or more depending on the conditions and fees of the car rental companies.
The best is always to check the car rental website for more specific information in case you want to decide to drop off the car in a different country.
4. Airport/ Train station vs. City
There is a lot of discussions whenever is better to pick up the car at the airport, train station or in the city centre.
To rent a car from the airport or train station gives you a lot of flexibility with opening hours (usually open until 11 pm), higher volumes of cars and the convenient location when you arrive directly to the airport or train station.
We always choose this option as it is the most convenient for us and gives us this flexibility when arriving late to drop off the car.
Now the discussion is, which option is actually cheaper. We did a comparison of prices through AutoEurope when searching for car rental in Sardinia and to be honest there was no price difference.
We suggest comparing both options when searching for renting a car in Europe and see if there is any price difference when you change the pick-up location.
Make sure you book a RoamRight travel insurance before your trip to enjoy your holidays without problems.
5. Daily Quotes vs. Weekly Quotes
The rule is the longer you rent, the less it will cost you per day. When you search for weekly quotes for 7 days of car rental, you might find out that it is cheaper than renting a car for a weekend.
With Weekly Quotes, you most likely get a better car and sometimes even free upgrade as the car rental companies want to establish a long lasting relationship with these customers.
6. Crossing Border Fees
Most of the car rental agreements include extra charge if you drive their cars into certain countries. Driving in the countries of EU is usually covered in the rental fee, however, you can be charged extra if you drive into or between some of the non-EU countries.
It is always better to check to which country you can drive to make sure you don’t get a big charge at the end of your trip.
This extra charge for driving to a different country is also related to car insurance. When we were going from Spain to France for our skiing trip, we had to pay around 70 EUR extra fee for insurance to be covered outside of Spain.
7. Credit and Debit card
For many years we had no credit card so we were always searching for car rental companies which accept debit cards. To be honest, nowadays it is almost impossible to rent a car without a credit card, however, there are few companies which still accept debit cards.
We searched a lot and we discovered that nowadays there are only 3 car rental companies which accept debit cards: AVIS, GOLDCAR and CENTAURO.
However be careful, as the condition is to pay the full cover insurance otherwise you won’t be able to rent a car with debit card.
8. Car Rental Insurance
As mentioned above, if you don’t have a credit card you can still rent a car but with full cover insurance.
As we mostly rented a car with a debit card we always paid the full cover insurance. For example, the insurance cost of GoldCar car rent for 7 days trip was around 100 EUR. It was convenient for us as we did not have to check the car for any damages or scratches and just enjoy the ride.
Nowadays, most of the people have a credit card which gives you more flexibility to rent a car with any company in Europe. If you have VISA credit card, most of the time it provides the collision damage insurance so you don’t have to pay extra.
It is really your choice if you want to pay extra car insurance or just leave it to your credit card agreement which might be more convenient and cheaper for you.
9. Pick up Full & Return Full
When renting a car, you will probably see two different options, pick up full and return empty or pick up full and return full.
We definitely recommend the second option, pick up full and return full. This option is always cheaper as the rental car company don’t charge the extra fee for filling your fuel tank when returning the car.
So if you return the car with an empty tank, the company will charge you to refuel the tank + fee which might be around 20-50 EUR extra.
Extra Tip: Before you start driving away, make sure you check the local gas station so you know where you can refuel on the way back.
10. Unlimited Kilometers
Next thing to watch out is the condition of unlimited/limited kilometres.
Sometimes you don’t realize that there is a limit of kilometres per day, so make sure you read the conditions carefully. To rent a car with limited km per day is always cheaper than with unlimited km, so it is easy to make a mistake.
For a longer trip, we always recommend unlimited kilometres as you don’t have to think about it and just enjoy the trip.
11. Pay up front
When you are renting a car, it is always cheaper to pay for a rental car when you book rather than at the agency counter at the location.
Pay up front only after your travel itinerary is prepared, and make sure you also check the cancellation/modification policy carefully in case something change before the trip.
Do you have any other tips and trick for renting a car in Europe? Did we miss anything important?
Take some amazing pictures on the road by the professional photographers and keep the memory of your trip forever.