Everything You Need To Know Before Renting A Car In Europe

Renting a car in Europe and self-driving is a great way to experience the EU. But there are a few different things you should know before you embark on a European road trip.

Here are some important tips we learned from our MANY experiences renting a car in Europe, to help you save money and stay safe while driving here!

1. Should You Rent A Car In Europe?

Rent a car if you prefer the challenge of independent travel.

True adventure, with no set schedule or timetable. Driving around European destinations with the freedom to stop anywhere fun you happen to find along the way. Discovering places off-the-beaten path — that bus tours might miss. If that’s the kind of traveler you are, renting a car in Europe is the way to go! Sure, many parts of Europe have an excellent train system compared to the United States. But EuroRail passes can be surprisingly expensive, and they can also limit your options for where to travel.

Another nice thing about having a rental car was the ability to store luggage in the trunk, so you can explore cities with small travel backpacks rather than lugging a giant suitcase everywhere.

2. Where To Rent Your Car In Europe

The best site to book your car is MBS87. We search both local and international car rental companies to help you find the best possible price. This is the easiest way to rent a car in Europe.

3. Car Rental Insurance In Europe

Some of the rumors about driving in Europe are true, and the roads can be VERY narrow. Especially the back roads outside smaller towns. And some countries have more aggressive drivers than others. This is why I highly recommend getting full insurance coverage.

Typically, rental cars in Europe come with a basic Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), but this isn’t exactly insurance, and only covers the car for up to €1000-3000 EUROS worth of damage. This is the amount they hold on your credit card until you return the car in one piece. CDW typically does not include tire, cracked windshield, or undercarriage damage either.

While you can often save money booking your car with a travel credit card that includes car rental insurance, you REALLY must read the fine print, because many people wrongly assume their card covers them everywhere.

If you get in a wreck driving in Europe, declined full coverage, and you suddenly learn your credit card doesn’t actually cover the damage — you’re screwed. Then you won’t have to worry about accidents at all!

4. How Much Does It Cost To Rent A Car In Europe?

Renting a car in Europe is going to cost you around $30-$80 USD a day, depending on the type of car you get, and which country you rent it from. The typical compact 4-door sedan we usually rent averages about $40 per day.


We recommend renting a car with an actual trunk that can hide your luggage from prying eyes. It helps to prevent break-ins if thieves can’t see your stuff.

Gas Prices

Gas (petrol) prices in Europe might seem cheap to Americans, but remember that the rest of the world quotes gas in Liters, not Gallons (1 Gallon = 3.78 Liters).

Currently, gas costs about $7.14 per gallon (€1.55 per liter) in Portugal, $6.87 per gallon (€1.49 per liter) in Italy, and $5.93 per gallon (€1.29 per liter) in the UK. Diesel cars will often save you some money on gas.

Automatic vs Manual

Automatic cars are more expensive to rent than manual cars (but manuals are more common in Europe), and you must specify what type you want when booking.

If you’ve never driven a manual car before, don’t start in Europe! It’s safer to get an automatic, even if it costs more.

One-Way Rentals

There’s an additional fee for one-way car rentals in most European countries, which can vary by company. For example, if you want to drop off the rental car in a different city than where you started from.

These fees are even more expensive if you want to drop the car off in a different country — which can add a few hundred Euros to the price.

5. Rental Car Requirements In Europe

Each country has their own rules when it comes to driving. Canadians and Americans usually just need a driver’s license and passport to rent a car. However, some countries require an International Driving Permit (IDP).

Rules can change from place to place, but generally you’ll need an IDP if you plan to drive in the following countries: Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Slovakia, or Spain.

You can get an IDP at the American Automobile Association or Canadian Automobile Association. Expect to pay about $20 plus the cost of two passport photos.

Age Requirements

Age requirements to rent a car in Europe vary. Travelers over the age of 25 shouldn’t have any issues. Younger drivers may have to pay a fee or purchase special insurance, which could cost between $15-$40 extra per day.

Keep in mind drivers over 70 years old may have trouble renting a car in countries like Czech Republic, Great Britain, Greece, Northern Ireland, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Turkey.

Vignettes

In Europe, a vignette is a sticker placed on the windshield to indicate that you paid that country’s highway taxes. You can purchase one at a border crossing for €5 to €40, depending on the country. The vignette is usually good for a year.


Sometimes, you may get lucky and your rental car will already have a vignette sticker on it. This is more common if you’re renting a car from a city that is close to the other country.

Crossing Borders

Some companies don’t allow drivers to drive to certain countries, usually in eastern or southeastern Europe. Common examples include Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, and Montenegro. Or, you may have to pay a fee for crossing those borders (mentioned earlier).

If you plan to drive in Ireland and Great Britain from Europe, you might want to book separately. Taking cars on ferries or the Eurotunnel car train can cost a lot. Plus, you’ll have to pay high surcharges and drop-off fees.

6. European Driving Laws Tourists Should Know

Right On Red Is Illegal

Unlike in the United States, it’s illegal to make a right turn on red lights in Europe, with some exceptions in Germany as indicated by traffic signs.

Learn European Street Signs

Street signs in Europe can differ greatly from your home country, and even between European countries. Before you start driving in Europe, research the meanings of different street signs for the countries you’re traveling to.

Enjoy Your European Road Trip!

Exploring the small villages, ancient castles, lush mountains, and coastal areas of Europe in a rental car was definitely the right choice for us.

Self-drive road trips allow you to get off the beaten track to see things most people miss!


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