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Renting a car in Germany

Going on my first euro trip this year; specifically to Germany. Maybe I am doing more reading and research than I should but there are some different things to take into account overseas vs. the US. I have already pre-paid for the rental but once I pick up the car, are there things I need to know about extra charges; charges I will see that were not covered when I paid for the rental in advance? I have CDW coverage from CITI so I am not worried about that part of it. Will they place a large hold on my credit card in general or because I decline their CDW? What is everyone's experience with car rentals in Germany. This is my first trip ever overseas so renting a car over there seems scary based on different forums and posts elsewhere. Please help ease my mind and tell me what to expect and how your experience was.
Thanks in advance

Posted by
8889 posts

Most important thing to do: Research the traffic laws and the road signs. Learn any differences with those in the US.

You will not need an IDP (International Driving Permit) for Germany, but you will if you cross the border into Austria or France.

Posted by
1097 posts

Driving in Germany was no problem at all, as long as you stay on the right side on the autobahn. No hidden charges or big holds (that I was aware of, at least) for our rental through Hertz and we got an upgrade because of a scheduling issue that didn't take too much trouble to resolve. We took the train for the first part of our trip, then picked up the car about half way through, when we were heading a bit more off the beaten path, and that worked well for us. You'll love having a car as long as you can follow signage and speed limits!

Posted by
333 posts

• When renting a car, get a compact car. City roads are narrow.

• A lot of rental cars are manual transmission. If you cannot drive one, make sure reserve an automatic

• Also don't skimp on the insurance. We get the loss damage waver. It came in very handy on our last trip.

•The left hand lane is the passing lane make sure once you have passed to move back over

• Use your turn signal

• Check your mirrors and blind spots several times on the Autobahn (Germany's interstate system) to make sure there is nothing there. Mainly as the superfast cars are not there one second and are there the next

• When parking in a garage, there is a kiosk near the entrance/exit. Before you leave, pay your ticket, or else you will have angry people honking at you while you figure it out.

• Some times what looks like free parking is not free parking. Gratis is the German word for free as in no money. If you are unsure, look for a little kiosk. If you see one and buy your ticket and display it on your dashboard. (It is always fun to get a parking ticket added to your rental car fee :( ) Frei which also means free but as in open spaces. (It always takes me a minute to remember that one)

• It is illegal to run out of gas on the Autobahn (this didn't happen to us, but it has been repeated to us over and over again)

• Some of the Autobahns do have speed limits. When one is there, make sure you are not driving above it. As Germany has cameras and will send the rental car company the speeding ticket which they send to you. (we did not have this happen, but a friend of ours did)

• Have your rental car company put the GPS into english. I would recommend a GPS it is worth it.

• It is more expensive to pick up a car in one country and drop it off in another. So keep that in mind

• The German word for drive is fahren. I still giggle like a 12 year old when I see Gute Fahrt (have a good drive/trip).

Posted by
23437 posts

I would absolutely triple check with CITI about your insurance coverage. Too many prior posts about credit card insurance companies walking away from accidents. I, personally, do not trust credit card insurance coverage. The exception is the AE coverage. I do use that.

Posted by
416 posts

Have your rental car company put the GPS into english. I would recommend a GPS it is worth it.

I could not agree more. The GPS, in ENGLISH was the best thing we did when we rented a car in September. Things that looked like private driveways, were actually streets. If it wasn't for the GPS directing us, we would probably still be going around in circles.

Posted by
274 posts

My family rented a car in Germany (picked up in Munich, drove through the Black Forest, and dropped off in Cologne). We paid extra (about 10 euros a day, I believe) for a GPS, which they had set to English for us. Worth every penny. We had coverage through our credit card, so we did not purchase any additional from the rental car company. We did not have a large hold placed on our card.

Driving on the autobahn and in the Black Forest was easy. (To be fair, I didn't drive, since I don't know how to drive a stick, but my father and husband drove with no problem.) I will echo that the left lane is for PASSING. German drivers are very serious about this. Once you pass, move back into the right lane.

The only thing that was complicated about the whole process was that we picked up our rental car in downtown Munich, and had to navigate out of the city. That was a little stressful, with a lot of construction going on and bikers/pedestrians to watch out for. Next time, I will take a taxi or public transportation to somewhere outside of the city center to pick up the car.

Make sure you have the specific address and directions of where to drop the car off. We spent about 30 minutes circling through Cologne trying to find the rental lot when we went to drop the car off, but no biggie. Leave plenty of cushion to pick up and drop off, sometimes it might take awhile (similar to renting a car here in the US).

Overall, we had a very positive experience renting a car in Germany, and it allowed us to see many small towns that we would not have with public transportation alone. Have a fun trip!