Renting a car in Europe gives you the freedom to explore the back roads and out of the way places you would not have an opportunity to see from the seat of a train. It is a marvelous way to travel at your own pace, without the restrictions of a time-table. Here are some tips that will improve your renting and driving experience in Europe.
1) Pre-reserve your car with your favorite travel agent. Advance rates are almost always better than walk-up rates and always ask for any applicable discounts for which you qualify. Many professional organizations and affinity programs offer promotional codes for discounts and upgrades, so provide these to your agent at time of booking for comparison.
2) Choose your car options carefully. Smaller, manual-shift cars will be less expensive; automatic carries a premium in Europe. European mid-size is typically smaller than US mid-size, so plan accordingly for the number of people and bags. Diesel fuel costs less than gasoline and you can request a diesel vehicle, but always be sure use the correct fuel to avoid serious damage to the rental.
3) Decide who will drive. Additional drivers cost extra, but are worth it to share the driving responsibility and the scenic views. Be sure all drivers are comfortable with manual shifts or driving on the left, if applicable.
4) Be sure to be insured. Most US personal policies will not cover you in Europe, so purchase the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW); in some countries insurance is mandatory. Even with insurance, always inspect the rental before you accept it and document any preexisting damage.
5) Get to know the car before you drive away, particularly if you are traveling at night. Know how to operate the lights, hazards, wipers, and fuel tank. Also make note of the vehicle height, and where emergency equipment is stored.
6) Understand the local road signs such as No Entry, street signs, and roundabouts. And it should go without saying to know in advance which side of the road to drive on! Distance is shown in kilometers, not miles, and gas is sold in liters, not gallons.
7) Follow the law and know the local driving regulations from speed laws, to compulsory equipment. Enforcement is stringent! Here is an excellent compilation of laws for over 40 countries: http://www.theaa.com/motoring_advice/overseas/atoz.html .
8) Get good maps or a GPS so you only get lost when you want to. Your rental company will usually provide local maps or find them in a local bookstore. For the gadget lover, you can usually rent a GPS locally for less than it cost for an international download on a GPS you already own.
Now you know the best insider tips for car rental in Europe and the exchange rate is favorable, so contact your favorite Covington agent today about a driving trip this summer.