A Warning on Rental Cars in Europe

We were just in France, Belgium and Germany. We picked up a car at the Montparnasse train station after four wonderful days in Paris. I don't know if all the rental cars are like this but we got a 2012 BMW 535 wagon. It would not stay running when I would idle. I actually caused a travel jam on Montparnasse Boulevard. Two young (laughing) policemen helped me get it started. It died at every corner. I finally got back to the station and asked the SIXT rep. what the h- is wrong with my car. One of the guys there told me most of the rental cars have an economy setting now. They completely shut off when you idle and then they restart automatically. I never did figure out how to restart it. There is a button to push to waive that economy setting every time you start it. I would have thought the SIXT guy in the garage would have told me that. To an American its the most ludicrious thing I have ever seen, but to a European where gas is 8-11 dollars a gallon it makes sense I bet. Just be careful.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

To an American its the most ludicrious thing I have ever seen, but to a European where gas is 8-11 dollars a gallon it makes sense I bet. Not ludicrous or unexpected if driving a hybrid. My hybrid has engine stop/start. Engine goes off under certain conditions; simply taking the foot off the brake powers it back on in a second. Saves fuel. Great feature. The 'Top Gear' guys hate it and rant about it, but that's not surprising.

Posted by Robert
Portland
629 posts

This spring I rented 2 different cars in France, and both had an economy setting. It was a little startling when it first happened, and it took a little while to figure out what was going on, but once I did, it was no problem. Just stepping on the gas would restart it.

Posted by Lo
Tucson
647 posts

My husband is with you and the Top Gear guys on this one, Brad. We had a Kia Eco piece of automotive frustration for 3 weeks in Holland and Belgium in April. We requested a VW golf, but we got the "equal". My husband pushed the override button, but every time it died, it reset itself. Europcar did tell him how it all worked, but, especially with a little bean can like we had, a car that would be highly fuel efficient without dieing at every stop of any kind, we saw absolutely no need for that eco feature. If at all possible, the next time we rent a car in Europe we will refuse any vehicle like that one. We prefer manual shift and diesel is fine. That should be good enough. In the interest of full disclosure, I should say that we live on a fairly rough dirt road 30 plus miles west of Tucson. Our primary vehicle is a 2005 low-end model Highlander. Our secondary one is a 2004 long bed one ton 4wd diesel dually with seats for a total of 6. The third option is a very old MR2 and my husband is building a Cobra coupe. Fuel economy obviously is not #1 for us, and even if we lived in Europe I doubt that it would be.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

I've had this feature on my Honda Hybrid since I bought it in 2005. I'm not even aware of it while driving. Auto-Stop kicks in when I come to a stop at a red light or when I get stuck in dead gridlock. As soon as I take my foot off the brake, the engine hums back to life and I don't even notice it. I pay as much for fuel in an entire year as some people I know with hotshot Audis and Beamers and honking huge trucks and SUVs pay in a month. I'm not a snob about driving a Hybrid; each to their own. The only thing I care about is that every dollar saved on auto fuel is one more dollar into my European travel fund. And I'd much rather give my money to a gelateria in Rome or Tuscany than to a gas station, and by extension to a Saudi prince.

Posted by Brad
Greeley, CO, USA
232 posts

This is why I love this blog. Thanks for all the great responses. I drive an Armada so I am in the non economical brother/sister hood. My wife does have a CRV though. And I live in a county with 17k oil and gas wells. And I practice oil and gas law amongst other things. Amen to getting off Mideast oil. I should be starting that at home though huh?

Posted by Brad
Greeley, CO, USA
232 posts

Forgot to mention. My dad use to always say all that stopping and starting uses more gas than idling. I guess that was in cars 30 years ago. And the wear and tear on the engine too. The designers must have fixed that problem.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

Brad, you are indeed well-oiled. LOL! I'm not banging on about it to make any kind of point - seriously. This is just a friendly conversation. But one thing that really got to me during my last trip to Italy (Rome) was seeing the ugly black and grey automobile exhaust residue that has become embedded into ancient monuments, such as the Colosseum and the facades of churches. I spoke with a tour guide about it who's lived in Rome most of her life. She, too, expressed deep concern because there's apparently not much (if any) money outside of the Vatican for caring for and doing any substantive preservation work, such as sandblasting or whatever, on most of the antiquities. The properties that are important to the Catholic Church, such as San Pietro in Vincoli, are in astonishingly better repair than many other properties. She is really anguished about the damage caused by vehicle exhaust and the resulting acid rain in particular. I tried to imagine what it must have been like only about 100 years ago before this modern man-made problem began. Of course, there were other problems back then and before, but I can't help wondering if we're past the tipping point of irreversible damage to a lot of our Western heritage.

Posted by Sarah
Canada, eh
58 posts

Rose, not arguing with your logic of saving on gas to spend on travel as I do the same, but the U.S. imports 2-3x more oil from Canada than it does from Saudi Arabia. Little known factoid.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2380 posts

My dad use to always say all that stopping and starting uses more gas than idling. I guess that was in cars 30 years ago. And the wear and tear on the engine too. The designers must have fixed that problem. To say that is out of date is a gross understatement...

Posted by Michael Schneider
New Paltz, NY
6833 posts

It's not all about saving gas, when car engines are idling they are creating more air pollution compared to a car going at highway speeds. This is probably the motivating factor to incorporating the feature.

Posted by Brad
Greeley, CO, USA
232 posts

Rose I certainly worry about the damage too. European cars do not have the same pollution controls as in America. That BMW wagon we had was a diesel that got 34 miles to the gallon at 85mph on the autobahn. That diesel cannot be sold in the US

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

My Honda Hybrid is designated a 'partial zero emissions' (AT-PZEV) vehicle - a vehicle that has "zero evaporative emissions from its fuel system." I am not required to do the typical 'Smog Check' required periodically for vehicles at the time of re-registration.

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1586 posts

Preservation work on old building and monuments in Rome involves sandblasting? I would think they use gentler methods of cleaning.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

Sasha, extensive sandblasting was done over several years to restore Notre Dame in Paris to its former glory. There are non-corrosive techniques that can be used.

Posted by Douglas
Oak Park, Illinois
2380 posts

^^^ But it's not sandblasting. Micro-abrasion is the proper term and technique. Sandblasting stone or masonry is destructive no mater how you do it.

Posted by Rose
NYC
922 posts

I'm sure micro-abrasion is a better descriptive term, but I followed the work that was done on Notre Dame as it was described in art history journals and the term 'sandblasting' was used repeatedly.