01/30/2015 08:16 EST | Updated 04/01/2015 05:59 EDT

Tips for Booking a Rental Car in Europe

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Traveling around Europe and Great Britain is simple thanks to a network of fast and efficient trains and plenty of low-cost airlines. But if you really want to slow down, see the countryside and explore more deeply, renting a car is the only way to go.

I have fond memories zooming thorough the Irish countryside in a fabulous rental car (semi-automatic). Enamored by the lush green colors, dramatic ocean-side cliffs and charming farms and villages, I blindly followed my GPS.

It was only when I realized that the road I was on was becoming much too narrow for vehicles, and my only companions on this road were sheep, did I take my eyes off the scenery to focus on properly reaching my destination.

Once I got my bearings, I realized getting lost is sometimes part of the adventure. The scenery was well worth the diversion in this case.

If you're planning on renting a car in Europe, here are a few things to keep in mind.

Pay Attention to Insurance

Most auto insurers offer a basic RTA (Road Traffic Accident) level of protection. Consider purchasing incremental insurance through a local car insurance company like Lancaster Insurance. In the event you need to make a claim, a company with knowledge of the local market will ensure a speedy and positive response.

And if you're a British citizen, don't travel without your green card. British motorists traditionally need a Green Card document as proof, as their insurance coverage overseas. To avoid any difficulties on your trip, it is highly recommended that you do carry your Green card no matter what country you travel to.

Be Sure to Consider All Costs Not Just Base Quote

When shopping around for rental cars in Europe, be sure to go beyond simply comparing initial price quotes from the typical sites of Expedia, Kayak or CAA. Consider which company quotes the best combination of rates, including all fees and any extras you may need, service, and pickup and drop-off locations for your trip. Don't forget to check office hours for pickup and drop-off, as many car rental agencies inexplicably work with limited hours.

European cars are rented in 24-hour periods, so think carefully about selecting your pickup and drop-off times. For example, if you pick up the car at 9 a.m. on the first day and drop it off at 11am on the last day, you'll be charged a whole day's rental for just those last two hours.

I generally find a wider choice of pickup and drop-off locations when booking through a larger company. The two major Europe-based rental car agencies include Europcar and Sixt. With these companies, if something comes up with your car a local office and a replacement car are more likely to be nearby.

Choose the Right Car for the Best Experience


In Europe, you can expect most cars to have manual transmission, less passenger room and minimal trunk space. Cars with automatic transmission are more expensive, usually by as much as 50 percent more, and may only be available if you upgrade to a bigger, pricier car.

To avoid the extra cost, I'd suggest brushing up on your shifting skills and go with the manual transmission option. Not only will this save you money, but also larger cars are not as easy to maneuver on Europe's winding, narrow roads, as I found out trying to park my car in a Dublin Garage.


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