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Rental car France.

We are 4 adults (50 something, average size & weight, travel one carry on a piece) renting a car in Strasbourg for 11 days -- dropping in Aix in October 2015.

When we see a 4 door car that holds 4 people and 2 bags am I to assume there is virtually no trunk and one of the bag goes in the back seat?
Also I'm used to doing research but it appears that comparing rental companies is like apples to oranges with insurance, drop fees, etc.
We don't speak French so in case of trouble an English speaking phone contact is invaluable. We have traveled all over on public transportation (buses throughout Portugal) but never rented a car.
Any advice? Any car rental company you've had a good experience with that is a good deal and stands out in ease and trust?
Any suggestions are appreciated.

Posted by
11294 posts

I'm glad for your sake you asked this question now, as you could have been stuck. If the description says that the trunk only holds 2 bags, believe it. And if it holds 4 people and you have 4 people, you won't have any space on the seats to put the bags. So, be sure your car rental size says it can hold 4 people and 4 suitcases.

For our Italy trip, we used the consolidator Kemwel, as they had the best price (our actual rental was with Hertz). Kemwel is now a sister company of AutoEurope. Both are consolidators who work with various car rental companies, but they have different prices, so check both. Also look at Gemut, particularly their car rental guide PDF with lots of great tips, found here: If you want direct quotes from rental agents, try Kayak.

Posted by
1878 posts

I would urge you to research this very carefully. I probably sound like a big whiner, having mentioned this on other posts -- but on our 2013 England trip we had a hard time fitting two 25" bags in the trunk of a compact car. Never had that trouble before, having driven on maybe nine previous Europe trips with the same bags. A carry on is typically 21-22", though the volume is only about half what a 25" bag carries (judging from the Eagle Creek brand). Four of those in the same trunk would be a stretch. I would advise that you get a mid-sized car or larger. I will never be a carry on only guy, but I am seriously thinking about moving to a 22" bag the next time we drive in Europe because of decreasing trunk space in rentals. It would be easier with a duffel style bag, but I like my wheels as much as the next person. We have had good results renting through Auto Europe -- I think they have a local number to call if you have any trouble. It's typically cheaper than booking direct too. The more experience I get as a traveler, the more I look for ways to avoid renting a car. If you are planning on visiting the the French countryside, you do need a car.

Posted by
784 posts

For the comfort of everyone I recommend getting a larger car - even a mini-van. 11 days is a long time time to be crammed into a rental car. The main downside to a mini van is the size on narrow roads and parking spaces, but it is doable. But the added comfort is worth the additional cost IMO. Remember that you do not necessarily get the car you think you requested. You get whatever is available and "or comparable" may not be the same size. Booking a larger car will give you some assuance that you'll all fit. Tou can go to the auto makers' websites to check the specs of their cars including truck size and knee room.

Posted by
38 posts

If you go to Auto Europe's website, they list different rates for different companies, and give a good description of the car, i.e. # of passengers, # of bags, automatic or manual. Their rates were much cheaper than Hertz. I do question the # of bags that will fit in the trunk though. They are showing most cars will only fit 1 large bag. The VW golf, which they use for the compact car, states on VW website, for 2015 models... 22.8 cubic feet of trunk space. I would think you could get 2 25" bags in that space.

Posted by
359 posts

I like Hertz. Their website was really easy to navigate and make a reservation.

Posted by
1194 posts

Hi from Wisconsin,
I will never start a search for European car rental without first going to the Europcar web site and educating myself and then phoning them to get their professional advise. They have been extremely well informed and have never been beat on the price once you include the hidden on-site charges I found with Hertz.
wayne iNWI

Posted by
10364 posts

In the past we had people on this Forum who swore by Andy at Gemut because of all the personalized help he gives them. Here is Gemut's pdf. about car rental.

I've used and (same company now) for the past fifteen years, but if I had a question about the cars, I would rent through Andy at Gemut based on the previous recommendations.

Posted by
4604 posts

if it makes you feel more comfortable, rent from Hertz Avis or Budget/Enterprise. You can premake the reservation on their US site, in dollars, and then theoretically if you have a problem upon return you can ask them for help. Just be aware that the Euro operations are often independently franchised from the mother ship, so even though it says Hertz outside you won't always be able to get help once you're back in the States.

Good for you for thinking about car size before you get there. On some sites they clearly mention trunk size, or have cute little car drawings. Also realize if you want/need an automatic transmission that severely limits your choices and options and you must emphatically ensure that you will get such a car.

A 25 inch suitcase? That is just too big and limiting for Euro travel these days.

Posted by
10364 posts

"if it makes you feel more comfortable, rent from Hertz Avis or Budget/Enterprise. You can premake the reservation on their US site, in dollars, and then theoretically if you have a problem upon return you can ask them for help."

I'm not sure if the above person has had personal experience, but we have had a lot of complaints on this Forum in the past from people who rented from Hertz, Italy--in Italy, not France--and could get no help at all from Hertz USA. The names are the same, but when they tried to get help they were told the companies are different.

I have had personal experience having Autoeurope (a middleman) advocate for me twice: once when a company billed me as an EU resident instead of the lower price when renting from outside the EU, and another when the company said the gas tank hadn't been topped off. Autoeurope has National/Sixt, Europcar, and other company representatives at desks in their Portland, Maine office so they can settle problems immediately. No, I don't work for autoeurope or own stock! I do have a Hertz account for the US.

Posted by
1175 posts

AutoEurope.... we've used them all and always came back to AutoEurope and have never had a problem. You can call them In Maine in the US. Driving in France is great. Get a Michelin road map of the areas you plan to travel. Then get a your own GPS with European maps preloaded. We have a Garmin Nuvi on which we saved to Favorites the address of our hotels, the museums we wanted to explore, B&B's we had booked, and any number of cafes, town halls, and other places of interest long before we left the US. Learn to use it before you depart. One of our best trips to France was drifting along the back roads, stopping where we wanted, buying cheese, bread, Calvados, and trinkets from the locals all across Brittany and Normandie. Send me a PM if you have questions.

Posted by
176 posts

I have used Gemut for rentals in both France and Italy. Andy Bestor will communicate either via email or phone when you are arranging your reservation. They provide a 24 hour phone number should you have any difficulties with picking up your car or during the time you have the rental. I found that very reassuring but my rentals went off without any problems. I highly recommend Gemut.

Posted by
4604 posts

Uh yes, this person thought about that:

Just be aware that the Euro operations are often independently franchised from the mother ship, so even though it says Hertz outside you won't always be able to get help once you're back in the States

I was just pointing out that some people like to stay at American-branded hotels and some don't, and some want a rental car company they've heard of and others will try something new.

Posted by
141 posts

We rented from Europcar, requesting a vw polo diesel style car in the reservation simile to a gold). We were given a Fiat 500L, bigger than what we requested. you are unlikely to get the exact model from the website, so keep that in mind. I wish we could have gotten the smaller one, the roads are pretty narrow in spots. We were forced to reverse down one section of a switchback road in St Jeannet that the car physically could not make (I don't recommend trying to drive up the hill in St Jeannet unless you have a very small car and good spatial awareness). diesel has been nice for the torque to pop in and out of side roads between traffic.

Posted by
4 posts

We recently rented from a no name company RS recommended in the book for Greece and got a POS car with a completely useless and actually wrong way and useless GPS. Never, ever again.
We rented from Autoeurope in Portugal and things were perfect. Renting from Hertz in France because the rates are good and they have multiple drop off locations.
I would DEFINITELY not cheap out and get a smaller car. 4 adults, 4 bags and 11 days? The extra cost divided by 4 for a larger car is well worth the convenience.

Posted by
21 posts

Be sure that your car has a spare tire before driving away from the rental location.
I have been renting cars in Europe for over 20 years through AutoEurope and usually picking up at Europcar. We have never had a flat tire. But last October we did after driving nearly 3,000 miles through S. France and Spain over a 3-week period we had picked up a BMW automatic diesel at the rail station in Marseille. On the return trip weeks later late in the afternoon on the Auto Route around 100 miles west of Marseille the low tire pressure alarm came on and we drove to a gas station nearby at a rest stop to add air to the tire. The tire was completely flat and would not hold air. After we could not find a spare tire anywhere in the car we checked the owner's manual and learned that the car was not normally equipped with a spare tire, but some kind of compressed air pump which turned out to be missing. My wife, who is French, called the Europcar emergency number that we found on the rental agreement. We expected that Europcar would send somebody with a replacement tire to our location. However, the Europcar representative informed my wife that because the car was on private property they were legally forbidden to help us directly. Instead, we were told to call the police who would send a tow truck. We were astounded! My wife called the police and about an hour later a large tow truck appeared and towed us to their garage near the Marseille airport. We noticed about 30 cars in the garage and the tow truck driver told us that he regularly picks up rental cars. A lady in the office of the towing company informed us that Europcar had called them and had arranged for a replacement car for us at the Marseille airport. The driver of the tow truck drove us to the Europcar office at the airport in his personal vehicle. The Europcar rep then gave us an Audi A4 with automatic as a replacement for the remainder of the trip. While Europcar did take good care of this, a major inconvenience and a lot of stress could have been avoided if we had checked for a spare tire. Further, we had been driving earlier in some remote mountainous areas of Spain in hot weather where a flat tire would have stranded us with possibly dire results. There were no additional charges to us for the tow and for damage to the tire and I had not purchased any insurance from Europcar, relying on my special American Express car insurance rider which I highly recommend. .

Posted by
12193 posts

In general, make sure the car works before driving away. Check out what they give you. If it works, great. If you can see you're going to be cramped or not have room for your bags, go back to the counter and ask for another car.

Also never prepay your vehicle. Being able to leave if they don't provide a satisfactory car gives you quite a bit more leverage at the rental counter.

Posted by
3623 posts

To get back to your question about fitting the luggage of four people into the trunk of a compact car . . . I am not of the travel-light-do-laundry-in-sink-every-other-day school of travel thought. However, I see no reason to take a 25" suitcase to Europe; and I believe that's what the rental companies mean when they show a car holding one bag. My husband and I have more than enough room in one 22"and one 20" bags + our carryon totes, for all our needs. We once traveled with friends, who had the same, and we were able to fit all four bags of that size in the trunk (tight squeeze!). That being said, to insure that you'll really be okay, I'd go for one of the car types that is shown to hold 5 people and at least 2 big bags and a smaller one.

Posted by
219 posts

We rented what I am pretty sure was a Fiat 500L, it was quite a bit bigger than what I thought I had rented. Even the woman at the rental desk in Lille said 'that car is huge', by French standards maybe. It fit 3 of us, 2 30" rolling duffles easily in the 'trunk'. I was surprised at how much leg room was in the back seat.
this is the Fiat

Posted by
4604 posts

yes, a Fiat 500 in its L version is almost a small SUV. Like some of the larger Minis (oxymoron)