How to Lease or Rent a Car in Europe

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If you’re taking a vacation or business trip to Europe, one of the best ways to get around is renting a car or securing a short term car lease.
Renting or leasing a car in Europe isn’t so different than renting or leasing a car in North America, but it’s still a good idea to do your homework and know what to expect.
Here’s everything you need to know about securing a car for your trip.

When is a rental the best option?

Renting a car in Europe is the most common way for travelers to get around. A rental car provides travelers with optimal flexibility and freedom. If you’re on the road and see a small town in the distance you want to explore, you can! The same can’t be said if you were traveling on a train or tour bus.
Drop-off and pickup locations are also usually in convenient places like airports and city centers. You can also usually drop off your rentals at a different location from your pickup point (for an additional fee).
If you are looking to rent a car in Europe, most rental companies will require you to be a minimum age of 21 and young driver surcharges may apply if you are under 25.
You’ll also need to account for collision insurance and potential VAT charges if you rent from an airport location. Renting is usually the most affordable option if you’re staying less than three weeks.

When is a short term lease the best option?

A short term tourist car lease could save you a significant amount of money if you’re staying in Europe for longer than three weeks. It’s also a great option for young drivers since the minimum age is 18. Insurance is included with a $0 deductible and there aren’t any VAT or airport fees to pay. Best of all, there’s no limit on the miles you can drive.
To get a short-term tourist lease, you’ll need a passport and a driver’s license that proves you’re not a European resident. There are fewer leasing companies than there are rental companies, so you should consider making arrangements in advance.

Renting a car in Europe

A car rental process in Europe is similar to North America, although vehicles are often much smaller and tend to be mostly manual transmission. To rent a car:
  • Make a reservation in advance. Most rental agencies allow you to book online well in advance
  • Provide the requested pieces of photo ID
  • Select the category of vehicle you need for your trip (keep in mind, it may cost more for automatic transmission)
  • When you arrive at your destination, provide a credit card for your rental which you’ll have to pay in advance. At minimum, a security deposit will be required
  • Sign the rental contract, taking care to note the over-mileage charges, late fees, and any VAT charges that may apply when you return the car
  • When you’re done with your trip, return the rental car to one of the rental agencies nearby. There may be an extra fee if it isn’t the same location you picked it up from

Getting a short-term lease in Europe

A short-term tourist lease is a popular option if you’re okay with a 21-day minimum.
  • Arrange the lease in advance. Your lease will be prepaid, and you’ll have to agree to an expensive cancellation fee
  • Provide the requested pieces of photo ID
  • The lease agreement will be sent to you by email. Sign it and return it, and you’ll receive your documentation around six weeks before you collect your car
  • Confirm the lease before arriving. Most locations require you to confirm four business days in advance so it’s ready for you on arrival
  • When you arrive, pick up your leased vehicle and drive it to your heart’s content. There are no mileage, geographic, or driver restrictions
  • Confirm when you’re dropping it off at least four days in advance
  • When you’re done, return the car to an approved location and sign over your ownership papers to the agent.
Remember, European roads can be narrow (to say the least!). Happy travels!

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