Price of Convenience
When renting a car in Europe, disbelief is a common reaction among consumers when the international one-way fee is revealed at the last minute.
Europe is a continent known by most American tourists for its ease of travel, with several culturally unique countries within a few hundred miles of each other. It’s easy to see why traveling Europe by car is appealing, but high drop fees can often affect the way Americans plan their trips abroad.
Despite the proximity of foreign nations, the short driving distances between major cities and the relative ease of border crossings, different countries still have their own laws, regulations and insurance standards that can make getting a car back to where it came from expensive for the rental car owners.
There are no standardized fees for one-way rentals. As a result, the amount due in excess of the actual car rental rate can vary greatly. Therefore, consumers are recommended to work with European car rental specialists who can advise them about pick-up and drop-off locations and assist with other changing variables.
“One-way fees are part of the industry,” says Kirk Larkin, Auto Europe’s vice president of operations. “Rental cars have to be registered and licensed to a specific country, and they have to be returned to the country where the rental originated from. We trust that travelers understand this and see it as our responsibility to provide accurate quotes detailing ahead of time what fees they will be responsible for paying.”
Certain countries are hot spots for international one-way travel, incurring steep fees for drivers who plan to cross borders. Italy, for example, is notoriously expensive when it comes to both incoming and outgoing transnational rental car traffic. This is mostly due to the fact that the country has statistically higher rates of theft and vandalism and national laws that make full insurance coverage on car rentals mandatory.
Any country in Eastern Europe also poses difficulties for one-way travel in a rental car. The area’s history with political instability (despite today’s milder political climate) yields one-way fees between Eastern and Western European countries, which can be higher than average.
Great American Road Trip, Europe Edition
The complex realm of one-way car rental fees creates a tricky booking process for U.S. travelers to navigate. While similar domestic fees in the states are usually minimal (if applicable at all), driving just a few hundred miles through Europe can bring a driver across multiple borders, incurring significant additional fees.
Most Americans renting a car in Europe don’t expect to pay large fees to drop off a rental car a few hours away from its origin. As a result, many customers feel misled when hit with a charge far above what they anticipated.
Renters can mistakenly assume no additional fees will be incurred beyond a quoted rental price, even if one-way fees may be required upon pick up.
Alternately, if one-way fees are included in a quote or prepaid rate, a renter may not realize that a large portion of the total bill is made up of supplementary fees — opting to book with another company who doesn’t include the fee in the prepaid rate (but may, in fact, charge more at the rental desk).
It’s no secret that customers appreciate honesty, especially when it comes to information that can help them save money or, even more importantly, prevent their trip from being ruined by surprise fees.
One-way car rentals in Europe — and the significant fees associated with these rentals — give rise to many situations where transparency during the booking process should be a priority in the industry. Do right by the customer, and the customer will reward the company with brand loyalty.
As an industry, we have a responsibility to be transparent about costs and allow travelers to make informed decisions. One-way car rental fees are an influential factor in the price of traveling in Europe — and that isn’t going to change anytime soon. It is up to the service providers, from brokers and consolidators to direct rental companies, to properly disclose all fees.