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Top 11 Europe Car Rental Tips: How to save money on your holiday car rental

Road trips in Europe are one of the best ways to see the many beautiful countries of this continent, and if you’re new to the car rental scene in Europe, then we can help you out. Read our handy guide, so you learn everything you need to know about hiring a car in Europe.

What are the main European car rental companies I need to know about?

There are lots of different European car hire companies that you can choose from, with the largest and most famous being:

  • Hertz
  • Sixt
  • Europcar
  • Budget
  • Avis

However, you’ll find there are plenty of other trusted companies that you can rent a car from in Europe, with many offering things like eco initiatives or luxury model cars if you’re after something different.

So then what are our other tips to hiring a car in Europe?

1. You should compare the different European car rental companies

Okay, so comparing things is kind of our *thing*, but before you book a car, you should check out what your price options are. With our car hire search tools, you can look over the cheapest European car rentals, and with our review system you can see how other users have fared, allowing you to choose a deal that suits your needs.

All you need to do is type in your pick-up and drop-off locations, your dates, and voila! You can also amend your search. Don’t want to drive a manual? Look for automatic cars. Need some help with directions? Add GPS.

2. Book your preferences in advance

If you want to drive an automatic car, need a child’s car seat, want GPS, or just a larger model car, then you should book as soon as you know your dates. Features like automatic transmissions can be limited, so make sure you secure your booking early.

3. Choose your pick-up and drop-off locations wisely

Many European car hire companies will allow you to pick up and drop off your car in a different country if you wish, but this is often subject to fees. If you’re on a tight budget, stick to the same pick-up and drop-off location.

Also picking up a car in the city centre versus at an airport or train station can save you between 25-100EUR ($42-166).

4. Get an International Driving Permit

If you want to hire a car in Europe you’ll find that you’ll likely  need an International Driving Permit (IDP), as it is recognised internationally and translates your license into multiple languages. 

You will need to apply for this before you depart, allowing up to 14 days for it to process. An IDP costs $20-30NZD depending on whether you apply in person or online. You can apply through New Zealand’s Automobile Association

5. Double check that you can take your car across borders

You’ll need to check that your European car hire company allows you to take your car across international borders. With some car rental companies you may just be subject to added fees if you decide you’d like to visit another country, but with others, it may render your insurance invalid.

6. Speaking of insurance…

We always advise getting insurance, as no one wants to deal with an unexpected bill on holiday, and you’ll want to be covered in case anything goes awry. As we’ve mentioned, you can invalidate your insurance if your car hire company or third party insurance company doesn’t cover international crossings, so if you plan to do this, make sure you’re fully covered.

7. Check if you need a Green Card

Some European countries, like Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Montenegro require you to go a step further and purchase a Green Card.

This card is a specific insurance policy that covers these countries, and you’ll need it if you’re driving across the Balkan Peninsula. Your European car hire company should issue these within this region. 

8. Know your tolls

There are lots of tolled routes across Europe, and you don’t want to get caught out, especially if the tolls are electronic and you don’t know how to pay them.

Some car hire companies will provide you with a device that can pay the tolls, and then charge your card. However, most tolls operate their payments online. This guide can be useful on where and what the toll roads are in Europe.

9. What about vignettes?

Vignettes are stickers that indicate that you’ve paid your highway taxes, and many countries in Europe require this. If your European car hire company does not supply these stickers, or you’re driving across multiple countries, you should be able to purchase them at the borders, or nearby petrol stations.

European countries that require these vignettes are:

  • Austria
  • Bulgaria
  • Czech Republic
  • Hungary
  • Romania
  • Slovakia
  • Slovenia
  • Switzerland

10. Get to know the local road rules

Yes, yes, we know – obvious, but you’d be surprised what you don’t know if you don’t brush up on the local road rules. Not all countries drive on the left, in fact most countries in Europe drive on the right. Learn about who has the right of way, speed limits and crossings to avoid annoying tickets.

11. And lastly, make sure you refill your fuel tank

That’s right, if you forget this detail it can mean a dastardly and expensive fee whacked right on at the end of your trip. Pull into a petrol station before you drop off that car, and refill your tank.

Book your European car rental with us. Then why not complete your holiday this time (or even next time) by booking cheap flights and great hotel deals with us too!