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Reputable rental car agencies in Florence (downtown)

Seeking advice for reputable rental care agencies in Florence near the train station. I keep reading lots of bad reviews and was wondering if anyone knows of a small/reputable agency that doesn't try to screw over it's customers. Bear in mind I will need to rent an automatic transmission.

On a second note, do many of you find Super CDW worth the cost or do you stick with regular CDW?

Posted by
6439 posts

"Roberto" will have some very helpful comments on your question. Pay heed once he appears.

Posted by
1700 posts

One thing you definitely DON"T want is some small agency renting you a car in Italy.
Europcar and Hertz both have locations easy walking distance from the train station and are as reputable as you are going to find.

Posted by
11981 posts

I generally use a consolidator:
www.autoeurope.com
www.kemwel.com
Both are now part of the same corporate group after a merger years ago, but I use both depending on which has the best deal on the days I need.
Their best deals are generally with Europcar or Hertz, Italy’s largest rental operators. They also work with Avis-Budget but I’ve yet to see a time when Avis-Budget is cheaper than the others, at least not when I tried.
I also select their zero deductible insurance option (check mark the zero deductible box in the filters). CDW is mandatory in Italy and you can’t decline it, but without zero deductible you may be held liable for a deductible that can be as large as 1200€. I’d rather pay the extra $4 a day and keep my peace of mind.
There are no agencies at the station, you must select ALL CITY LOCATIONS.
All agencies downtown are on Borgo Ognissanti, a street about 10minutes walk from the Santa Maria Novella train station.
Hertz also has two more locations outside the city center (Via Del Sansovino and Via Ambrosoli), while Europcar has one more location on Via Forlanini in the Novoli district.
In addition to the above, all agencies are also at the airport rental center on Via Palagio degli Spini. I don’t recommend renting from there unless you are flying in. The airport rental location is a temporary one in a funky location and it costs more to pick up at the airport.

Posted by
559 posts

I have a reservation currently with Europcar, but for some reason I didn't read the reviews prior to reserving. I keep reading horror stories about having to return the car to a different location, which involves possibly running into ZTL areas. I suppose I can email them and ask them where exactly the car return location is so I can avoid that (or I can modify to return to their location at the airport I suppose).

Posted by
559 posts

Hi Roberto, thanks so much for the info. Here's my tentative plan. Arrive in Florence from Venice in the morning. Pick up rental car in the afternoon and park it overnight in the parking garage on 96 Borgo Ognissanti (Garaga Europe), pay 24 Euro for the parking (I'm only doing this in order to allow me and my party to leave early in the morning the next day). Next day, leave Florence for Siena (I'm renting an apartment just outside the city with free parking). Will use the car to explore the rest of Tuscany for a number of days. I had planned to return the car to the same location in Florence, but you see from my previous post that people have had issues with this. So, I can alternatively return at the airport. I'm also still playing around with return dates, but would a Sunday morning return be better than a Monday morning return in terms of traffic? From there, we take the train down to Naples.

Posted by
1700 posts

The fear you mentioned about returning to the same location is a real one.
But a few things: that is not Europcar's fault, anything rented near the train station would have the same return issue and lastly I would not advise emailing them now there really would be no point.

The pickup area is inside a ZTL but since already inside you are able to drive out without issue on pickup.
The return dropoff garage is located a couple of streets away from the pickup and there is a way to return it without driving into a ZTL.

They will give you clear directions on where to return the car and how to do it without triggering any ZTL's along with a map I am sure. The issue is staying the course, when people have issues they take a wrong turn, miss a turn or get stressed and end up in a bus lane, etc...
You can either as you mentioned change to drop off at the airport if you are easily stressed driving in a foreign area or expect you will be then the airport dropoff makes sense.

Europcar is doing most everything possible to help you avoid the ZTL but some tourist gets one and then gives them a terrible review because of it.

As far as insurance totally your call, have done it both ways. You either take the risk or pay more and avoid the risk so depends more on your risk taking level, is insurance ever worth it. If it was I am not insurance companies would be in business but the peace of mind may be worth the cost.

I did something similar it was very easy.
Picked up the rental car, drove to where we were staying on the other side of the Arno to pickup the family and bags and then we left from there to Siena. Getting to Siena was easy just for your place with parking there make sure you get exact instructions on reaching it without driving through a ZTL. ZTL in Siena a little easier to figure out since if you go through what looks like a big wall, assume a ZTL is there, outside of any walls I don't think there are ZTL's in Siena.
We did not return to Florence.

Since you are headed to Naples you may be better off returning somewhere else along the train route than backtracking to Florence anyway. Europcar does not charge extra for dropping off at another location within Italy.

Posted by
559 posts

Thanks all for the advice. Yeah I know some people have high expectations from car rental companies. I'm one who doesn't so long as they don't try to scam me for scratches or damage to the car that wasn't my fault. Anyhow, as long as I have clear directions from the agency I think I'll be good. I'll also have Google maps going, so that should help some as well. I'd rather return the car to Florence instead of driving all the way down to Naples. It's a long drive and I just want to sit and relax on the train. Plus, it will cost much less considering I don't have to deal with extra fuel costs, tolls, etc.

So after making a request on Kemkewl I selected the Europcar location on Borgo Ognissanti and it's giving me a quote that seems unusually cheap (again, renting an automatic). I checked prices directly with Enterprise and Alamo (same area). The prices they give me are upwards of $700 (including super CDW) for 5-6 days. However, on Kemkewl the rate quoted ($350) says "Rental with No Deductible with Extended Cover," which I assume is super CDW right? Seems awfully inexpensive in compared to the other places and I just want to make sure this is the final price I am paying.

Posted by
559 posts

Yeah, super confused here. If I go directly to Europcar and select the option with Zero Excess the cost is $595 for a 6 day rental. If I do the same thing on Kemkewl, which as I explained in previous post shows that:
Extended Cover Includes:
Liability Insurance
Fire Insurance
Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) including damage to wheels, glass, underside and roof of vehicle with zero deductible
Theft Protection (TP) with zero deductible
Roadside Assistance

And yet, the price here is $347 (prepay rate).

Posted by
11981 posts

If you are staying near Siena and going to Naples next, it makes no sense to drive back to Florence.

You either
1. return the car at Chiusi Scalo (near Siena) then take the trains to Naples (Chiusi to Rome, then Rome to Naples). Chiusi has a Europcar agency near the station.
Or
2. drive all the way to Naples and return the car there (Naples airport, Naples downtown, Sorrento, or wherever you actually plan to stay).

Just be aware that many rental locations are closed on Sundays, among them the one in Chiusi.

Posted by
11981 posts

The $350 a week is about right for a midsize automatic car (I generally pay $200/week for a manual economy).
Go with Kemwel. Forget going direct with the car companies. They usually charge more especially with insurance. That's why I always use the consolidators I mentioned.
Since you'd rather not drive to Naples, you should consider returning in Chiusi, make sure it's not on a Sunday, because they are closed.
There is no extra charge for returning at a different location within Italy. I sometimes do so on the fly. I just call the Europcar office and tell them I'm returning the car here instead of there. No problem. Or you can also do so from the start. You can call back Kemwel and make changes too. Done that too, many times.
If you feel up to driving to Naples, it's not too bad. It's like driving from Los Angeles to Las Vegas (just no desert along the way), so not that long. Naples city traffic is bad however, so it's best if you drop the car off at the Naples airport, which is near the freeway. If you are actually going to Sorrento, then you can return in Sorrento, which is easy to drive to. The train cost is not necessarily less than driving. It depends on how many people are in your party. If two people, then the car is just as cheap as the cost of two train tickets.

Posted by
559 posts

Thank you so much for your wonderful insight. I will look closely at your suggestions. But I also just thought of plan B. We do want to spend just a little time in Florence. So perhaps just train from Venice to Siena, rent the car there. Then the day before we leave for Naples (yes we’re off to Sorrento), head to Florence early in the morning from Siena via bus and then spend the day there and leave the following morning. If this still makes absolutely no sense I’ll look into your suggestions carefully.

Yeah I really don’t want to do the drive. I’m going to want to relax and I’m also big on taking pics on my way through the countryside. Can’t do that if I’m driving haha.

Thanks for confirming the cost. Helps a lot!

Posted by
278 posts

Roberto has given great advice. If you decide to rent your car in Siena I wanted to say we had a great experience with europcar through Kimwel last May in Siena outside the wall.

We rented an Audi station wagon that was brand new. The cars GPS was in another language(Polish). My husband and I asked them to fix it before leaving as we were pretty sure it wouldn't be easy. It took the guy 10-15 minutes to get it set up in Eng. but he was patient. We returned it one day early due to our change in plans the next day, no problems. I would rent from them again. We did the super collision insurance, walk away security. They have limited morning hours on Saturday, closed Sunday.

Viale Europa, 23/25, 53100 Siena SI, Italy⋅ Opens 8:30AM
Phone: +39 0577 288938

Posted by
261 posts

Renting a car in Italy these days requires some serious thick skin. But I always saw the process as a bit of an obstacle course, no matter what year it was. There is no such thing as a car rental company anywhere that has perfect reviews. No such thing. Renting at Florence's train station requires research and a learning curve. It's not the best choice for a first-time visit to Italy.

If you must secure an automatic transmission, be sure to ask if you can get that guaranteed. Not all locations in Italy will guarantee an automatic. A question you must ask yourself, "What would I do if, without warning, there is no automatic vehicle at my pick-up time?" This has happened to me, more than once, but I know how to drive Manual. It's less likely to happen at airports and larger-city train stations, where they often have more cars in their inventory. If an automatic vehicle is mandatory for your safety and pleasure, the way you plan your car rentals in Italy will become more crucial.

If you speak no Italian, you'll want to work with a company like AutoEurope. If anything goes wrong, they offer 24/7 customer service in English.

Pricing for car rentals changes by the hour. Due diligence may find you a deal. Some companies claim to price match. It's important for consumers to hold these claims to the fire.

These days, I never rent a car in Europe without taking clean photos of the car before leaving the lot. You need to make sure your photos are in focus. Another important thing I do is wash my car before returning it. If there is no damage, a clean car will look clean. If the car arrives dirty, some attendants will scrutinize it to death. I see this tactic over and over again.

Car rental companies in Europe are not as forgiving as their U.S. counterparts. If you bring your car back with so much as a scratch, expect to receive some difficult customer service. They are particularly vigilant against customers they suspect of throwing shade.

Posted by
559 posts

Yes, planning on renting the car from Europcar in Siena at the location mentioned. Thanks for the heads up about confirming that I will get an automatic because I surely don't know how to drive a stick shift. I'll see if I can get them to send me a guarantee that I will get an automatic.

This is not the first time I've rented a car in Europe, but will be my first time in Italy. Funny enough, I rented a car last summer in Mallorca and I know I scratched it. I was able to find a very reputable company in Palma and they gave me the option of paying for the damage or not paying it and in the future having to pay the deductible if I decide to rent with them again. Can you guess which option I chose hahaha? I was shocked they didn't come screaming at me to pay up. It's highly unlikely I would be visiting Mallorca again, so there's a good end to that car rental story.

Posted by
261 posts

planning on renting the car from Europcar in Siena at the location

Deals are not likely if you choose to rent directly with a specific car rental company, especially if you pre-pay. Many companies are now charging penalty fees if you cancel pre-paid reservations. I also don't believe individual companies will offer a guarantee for automatics. Everyone needs to be patient and read the fine print on car rentals for every company they research. As far as I know, none of the individual car companies price match, and none of them offer 24/7 customer service in English. If anything goes wrong with your rental, particularly if you incur damage or receive traffic fines up to a year later, you'll want to deal with English-speaking customer service. You'll want do deal with an experienced company who has the clout and interest to fight for you, if necessary.

Renting a car in Italy has its own quirks, particularly because the CDW is mandatory. They've also learned how lucrative it is to go after people who try to hide damage or people who are easily intimidated. I've witnessed some awful horror stories on car rental lots, and I may write about them one day.

Posted by
559 posts

NYC, I've called Kemwel a couple of times this morning to go over insurance costs and guarantees. Just as Roberto said earlier, the price quoted with Kemwel is the full cost including super CDW (which I confirmed with Kemwel). I also asked about a guarantee of an automatic. Although Kemwel/Europcar cannot guarantee that I will get the car listed in my reservation (an Audi in this case), the Kemwel agent assured me that Europcar should/must honor me with any automatic car they have. If, for some reason, they don't have one that day and will have one the next day I'm ok with that since I don't absolutely need the car the day I pick it up.

Posted by
11981 posts

I don’t know about Siena, but the Europcar Borgo Ognissanti location in Florence definitely has plenty of automatics. Americans (who are the only ones who often require automatic transmission) use that location heavily (not only Europcar).

Posted by
559 posts

For what it's worth, I've seen this message a few times on Europcars FAQ page.

Some vehicle categories availability will require confirmation by the Europcar location. In that case when you will validate your booking, you will receive a reservation confirmation email mentioning that the availability will be confirmed within 8 business hours.
We only confirm categories and not the model, except for our Selection cars.

and

The Europcar rental location (pick up station) is required to provide, within a given "guaranteed period", the requested vehicle category as confirmed at time of booking.

Posted by
261 posts

I've called Kemwel a couple of times this morning to go over insurance costs and guarantees.

It wasn't clear by your posts whether you were using Kemwel (a consolidator) or renting directly through Europcar. I've never used Kemwel. I can't speak to their service.

AutoEurope has provided a "guarantee" service in the past, which can lock in a specific car. I've used the service. The service typically comes at a premium cost. However, make and model are not the same thing as manual versus automatic transmission. Many tourists who rent cars in Europe have no experience driving a manual. The make and model of a car will not affect your ability to drive. The wrong transmission could affect your ability to drive, and it could cause a ruined trip itinerary. IMO, since consolidators require pre-payment (the ability to hold your money long before you actually use the vehicle), they should all be required to offer guarantees, no matter what, and not at a premium price. Too many customers don't mind the poor service they receive from these successful corporations. If you don't demand great service, you are likely not to receive it.

As long as you don't mind waiting a day as part of your Plan B, then you are likely to be OK. These sanfus don't happen often, but they do happen.

Posted by
559 posts

Yeah sorry I didn't specify who I was renting with. I'm likely using Kemwel because they have offered the best price. And I think I said in an earlier post that the actual vehicle I get doesn't matter to me at all. So long as it's an automatic is all I care about. I'm not one of those American's that expects anything from a rental car company so I should be good there. And the Kemwel agent did tell me that I should be guaranteed an automatic if that's in fact what I reserved.

Posted by
261 posts

I'm likely using Kemwel because they have offered the best price.

It can pay to shop around for price changes. Prices fluctuate on a regular basis. If you go with a renter who offers a price match, you secure the best deal. One of the main reasons why I haven't used Kemwel in the past: I've found better prices elsewhere.

the actual vehicle I get doesn't matter to me at all. So long as it's an automatic

Automatics are available these days in almost all car categories, but tall drivers don't fit in every European car. Customers come is all shapes and sizes, and driving requires personal comfort and safety.

I'm not one of those American's that expects anything from a rental car company

I don't think being an American matters. Every customer deserves good service if they're paying for a service.

should be guaranteed an automatic

Should be is the disclaimer to watch out for. Good luck.

Posted by
1700 posts

Usually the automatics are not the really small economy / subcompact cars so don't think size of driver should be a worry.
They are often upgraded class vehicles like midsize so that is part of the price premium you are paying.

You can only do so much to assure yourself an automatic will be there when you arrive, it should be but things happen if a car is not returned on time, etc... that they will not have any automatics when you get there, The smaller the location, the more likely this is to happen and Siena location definitely less active than the Florence city location you were previously talking about so unless you want to pay a premium than you have to take on a little risk.
If you have a day possibly to spare than I think you will be perfectly fine.

When I say you can pay a premium, on AutoEurope's site booking one of the premium cars from Europcar it is likely what they refer to as a "fleet vehicle" in this case similar to their Van rentals I believe they do guarantee you get that exact car you reserve. They cost more as they are luxury cars. I accidently did this once, renting a Volvo V60 ; A V40 or similar would have been whatever midsize they had likely manual but a V60 was truly a fleet reserved V60 that happened to be automatic.
It didn't cost that much more but became a hassle after booking before traveling when I realized a couple of things were different reading the contract paperwork fine print they send to you after paying/booking.
This vehicle could not be cancelled for no charge
This fleet vehicle could not leave the country which I had planned on doing.
AutoEurope worked it out, got me a lower class car which could leave the county and was not a fleet vehicle. Had I not called to cancel I would not have been aware of this booking guaranteeing me the exact car, the rep explained that to me when I had the crossing the border concern.
Anyway I believe these "fleet cars" and their vans are what they mean when the wording stated certain car types need to confirmed by the location.

Posted by
559 posts

I called Kemwel several times today to ease the fear of picking up in Siena. The agents told me that they have a contractual agreement with Europcar and they must honor the vehicle type (automatic) that I paid for. As I said before, if I don't get the car that day, but within a day or two after that then I'm ok with that (I'll settle with easy bus options for nearby day trips). The agent at Kemwel told me that should any problems arise to give them a call and they will handle it themselves. Should I have to wait for the car, Kemwel will refund me the difference.

And yes, automatic transmission cars are all intermediate size (no small, compact cars), so I'm not worried about the size being too small. I'm not that tall of a person anyway.

Posted by
261 posts

Usually the automatics are not the really small economy / subcompact cars

Not true. Car choices in automatic vehicles totally depend on the pick-up location, which is why planning strategy can matter. I've never had to pick-up in Siena, but I see Budget offers the Economy automatic in VW Up and Renault Clio.

At Hertz Rome, they have a Mini Automatic, the Opel Corsa. In Florence, you can easily get an Economy/Compact class vehicle with automatic transmission. The class differential is basically meaningless. These cars are typically the Fiat 500 or 500L, Fiat Panda, VW Up, VW Polo, Renault Clio, etc. All automatics.

Being a tall or large person isn't the only issue to consider. Smaller cars are easier to drive/maneuver in historical towns where streets were not designed for cars. Parking spaces for cars are often tightly cramped and much smaller than the space we're accustomed to in the U.S.

Posted by
559 posts

I'm aware of most of the issues you brought up. My rental is an Audi A3. Doubt I'll get anything significantly smaller than that.

I don't plan to drive INTO historical towns. I'll likely park the car in some lot just outside the town.

Posted by
278 posts

Gabriel,
Your going to be just fine renting in Siena with them. Granted this is just one experience, ours, but we have rented many cars and the people in that office were good to us. We had the Navy blue Audi A3 wagon automatic. I took photos with my phone mainly because it was new. But if you wanted to do that, just any scratches etc before you get in.

Keep your speeds to the posted limits and you will enjoy the drive.

Posted by
559 posts

I ended up changing the pick up location to Florence per Roberto's suggestion. Getting out of Florence should be no issue in terms of the ZTLs.

I'm usually a fast driver, but I always obey the speed limits in foreign countries. Looking forward to this trip :-)

Posted by
261 posts

My rental is an Audi A3. Doubt I'll get anything significantly smaller than that.

I'm very familiar with the Audi A3. It has become a personal favorite. The Audi A3 is classified as Intermediate or Midsize, depending on the rental company. It is about 6-inches longer than a VW Golf, another car I've rented in Italy. There was a sale on the A3 not too long ago: $196 for a 7-day rental. I booked it for an upcoming trip to Tuscany.

Whatever your plans are, keep an open mind. Unexpected stuff has a way of happening in Italy. We seasoned travelers know this drill.