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Renting a car VS other options

So this seems to be a topic with so much to interpret id rather get first hand experiences over trying to decipher a rental companies website etc. Every rental car agency I have ever used in Europe has seemingly been a headache or borderline scams etc.

Wife and I are looking to travel between 3 and 4 months in central/Western Europe and maybe Croatia starting in sept 2022. We are going to be trying to go to Oktoberfest 2022 and then have a wedding in Dublin in early October.

From there we will be going back south to Portugal or France and wanting to basically have the freedom of having a vehicle for extended periods of time.

For anyone with the experience is it advantageous to rent from one place, go into multiple countries, and return in a different country. Or should we be renting individual cars in each country and then gauging the cost of returning in a different city, country, or returning to the original location?

My wife recently became a Portuguese citizen and will hold an EU passport shortly however in a quick search it seems as if to own a vehicle in Portugal you need to have a fixed address etc. So that may not be feasible. Any input would be appreciated.

I will mention that my wife and I are well travelled and have spent approx 4.5-5 months of time in Europe over 5 trips in the last 10 years and while I always appreciate the time and ease of transport with trains and Planes I have no aversion to driving 4-7 hours in one day coming from Canada.

Posted by
20864 posts

Renting and dropping off a rental car in different countries usually incurs a sizable surcharge. Dropping it in a different city within the same country doesn't typically have much effect on the rate; I think it would be inconsequential over the course of a lengthy rental.

I've never rented in Europe but have read that for periods over 30 days, leasing may be less expensive than renting. There are one or two French companies that have leasing programs. I believe one is Peugeot, but a bit of Googling should tell the story.

I don't know whether it's an issue with leasing, but car-rental companies sometimes prohibit taking their cars into specific countries, so that's something you need to check into before you make a final decision.

Since you've mentioned spending time in Croatia and Ireland, which are outside the Schengen Zone, it doesn't appear that you are going to exceed the 90-days-within-180-days limit within the Zone. But you should be aware of it just in case you decide to extend your trip. This web page has a map showing the extent of the Schengen Zone.

Posted by
38 posts

Great I will definitely look into the leasing program.

Croatia and Ireland we will most likely fly to from wherever we are coming from so we would likely not need a vehicle in these places or we would be leaving the vehicle at the airport to go to Ireland etc. The wedding will simply be a short pit stop as I have no intention on spending more than 2-3 days in Dublin.

The majority of the driving will be France/Portugal/Spain I would imagine but again I wouldn’t be against driving into Croatia or the balkans if the vehicle allowed

Posted by
7502 posts

Yes, you need to lease a car. We had a quote to pick up car in Lisbon, drop off in Barcelona, 1000€ penalty fee for dropping off in a different country.
We always have rented cars for Europe from AutoEurope in Portland, ME. We have never had one problem in many auto rentals. They stand behind you.

Posted by
27502 posts

Given that the trip to Ireland is no more than a "short pit stop" and it sounds like your prime goal is France/Portugal/Spain, I want to just reemphasize the warning of the Schengen requirements for you. If your wife has a Portuguese passport and enters with it she will be fine. But if you don't have an EU passport, even though you are her husband, you will be governed by the Schengen Treaty requirements which are no more than 90 days in the Schengen area within the previous 180 days. Leaving (for example to Ireland) stops the clock (arrival and departure days count) but does not reset the count.

You may know all this and I may be preaching to the choir but maybe not...

Posted by
5539 posts

I’ve leased from Peugeot before, several years ago, and stayed in a France the whole time. The process was easy and the experience was outstanding. Didn’t need to see what regulations they had at the tone about driving to other countries.

Way back in 2002, we rented a car from Hertz in Lisbon, Portugal and returned it in Malaga, Spain. The returning it in a different country cost us $600, split 3 ways. The extra cost was an acceptable expense for where we were going and when, and was cheaper (and faster and more convenient) than returning the car in Portugal, then reaching Spain by another means later, then renting another car across the border in Spain. From Suki’s report, the “different country cost” has now gotten larger.

Posted by
381 posts

In 2018 we leased a car for almost 2 months from Renault and drove through multiple countries, including Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Spain and Portugal. We paid extra to pick the car up in Lisbon and drop it off in Madrid. It was cheaper than renting from a regular rental company. The only problem with the whole program is that the cars in this special leasing program (Peugeot has the same kind of deal) have a special kind of license plate. This got us targeted in Barcelona by a gang who slashed our tire during a traffic jam and then robbed us while we were fixing it. If we leased a car again through that type of program we would not drive in big cities but rather stay outside in quiet towns without a lot of crime and then take the train into the city for sightseeing.

Apart from the robbery and constant confusion over paying tolls in various countries we very much enjoyed the freedom and independence of driving around Europe. We mostly ate by picking up pre-made food in supermarkets, which saved us money and time. And by the way, Renault reimbursed us for the expense of replacing the tire that got slashed.

Posted by
5338 posts

NO rental car:
In big cities
dropping across borders
very long distances (fuel is outrageously high)

Rental car:
short to moderate daily distance (best not to drive more than two hours a day)
stay in small towns or cities where parking for car is not expensive.
where there are good highways and less traffic

Posted by
38 posts

Nigel thank you for the reminder regarding the Schengen zone. It’s not something I was actively considering but given our situation our trip will likely he relatively open ended as in coming and going will be based on how we are feeling. We both will be taking extended leaves from work with at least a month of buffer time to work with.

The leasing program is sounding better and better and will definitely be somthing I will look into. Hopefully given the chip shortages and auto manufacturers pull backs from new vehicle builds they will still be doing a similar program.

Posted by
18 posts

We used Kemwel to lease a car in Europe a couple of times. It’s so easy!

Posted by
38 posts

For the people who leased, mind sharing how long you leased and what kind of $$$ it cost? Also any specific terms related to the lease?

Posted by
381 posts

For the people who leased, mind sharing how long you leased and what kind of $$$ it cost?

You can get free instant cost quotes at the websites for the Peugeot and Renault programs. They're both pretty transparent about what's included and what's not. I suggest you reserve as small a car as will fit your group because parking garages, parking elevators and narrow streets are very hairy to negotiate in a larger vehicle.

Posted by
205 posts

If you happen to be in the market for a new car at home and wouldn't be adverse to a Volvo, look into their Overseas Delivery Program ... looked into this a few years back but as I remember, you purchase it here, they provide two r/t tickets to Sweden, a one-night stay at a nice hotel in Gothenburg, vehicle insurance coverage during your time in Europe, a tour of their factory ... and you get a new Volvo (and the car price was as good a deal as you would get if you just walked into your local dealership and haggled out a price) ... and they handle everything about getting it to your home ... I don't remember all the specifics but might be an option

Posted by
2432 posts

European delivery sounds like fun, BUT ... you are now driving YOUR OWN car around narrow Europe. And having a car only makes sense if you're in the countryside anyway.

Posted by
769 posts

I have never rented a car in Europe. If you can make a day-by-day itinerary, you might get a better idea of whether it is worth renting a car versus trains and buses.

Look at the base cost of renting a car in each country you will travel in, cost of any insurance, gas, tolls, cost of parking, how easy it will be to find parking spots, whether you will get stuck is slow traffic in some cities, versus what sites do you expect to go to, are there buses or trains that would transport you without excessive difficulty?, costs of trains, planes, buses, and/or the occasional taxi.