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Self driving vacation

We are planning a self driving trip through parts of Germany, Italy and France for about 4 weeks in May. Is it possible to "rent" a car in Frankfurt and drop it off in Paris or is it better to "lease" a car for that trip? Why?
We would like the least amount of hassle.

Posted by
9110 posts

Some will tout the leasing deal. I've checked it a bunch of times and it's never been cheaper for a small car for a month. (The advantage of having a brand spanking new car versus one that's a few months old underwhelms me. I don't buy extra insurance.) A rental will have a heck of a second-country drop-off fee; not sure about a lease. I'd even be tempeted, once done in France, to leave Paris, stop in Reims for lunch, press on to Saarbrucken, drop the car, and take the train back. Travel time by car is about four hours and a wild guess for the train ride back is about the same or maybe less. It'd save a bundle if you have time or can plan a route that works. What you absolutely don't want to do is actually rent the car in Italy or the insurance cost will eat you alive (cc insurance doesn't cover renting in Italy). Renting elsewhere and driving into Italy has no additional expense. I know there's no hassel with renting and couldn't imagine what the hassel would be with leasing. Tally the cost of both making sure that all elements are equal before making a decision. Be persuaded by money, not by what I or anyone else did/does/thinks.

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks for replying Ed. We've toyed with the idea of just renting and dropping off the car in Germany, then taking the train to Lake Como, Italy for 2-3 days, then using rail again from there to Nice. Once in France, rent a car there for the rest of the trip to Paris. However, we are up in age and can't imagine ourselves hauling bags around train stations and such. Just can't think of any other solutions.

Posted by
9110 posts

The car will work fine. I spend about three months in europe each year and drive the whole way - - always. It's a piece of cake. Changing modes of transportation is a pain in the tail and slows you down. Also, multiple short-term rentals will cost much more than one long-term one. (My working number is 25-30 bucks per day with a one-month rental.) I've driven the Paris - Saarbrucken route a bunch of times and it's a pleasant few hours. I've never ridden the train, but I know in my heart there has to be a fast one back, probably to Paris Est. SOMEBODY WILL PROBABLY PICK UP ON THIS and make an accurate statement about the train, I could damn well be all wet. You could make the run with nothing more than what fits in your pockets. If Paris is the terminus of the trip, it'd probably be best to ditch the car early - - in addition to the rental costs, about the best you can do for parking is twenty-five euros per day in Paris and those spots are a bit out of the way from where most people stay.

Posted by
3405 posts

I checked out the rental vs lease question a few years ago; and like Ed, I found the rental a better deal. However, it's more complicated than that. First of all, the number of days is an issue. The per day price drops on leases the longer you keep the car. Also, the companies we looked at charge a substantial fee for picking up or dropping a leased car anywhere outside France. $400 is what sticks in my head. All the companies charge whopping fees for dropping a rental anywhere but the country where you picked it up. You need to check current prices and terms before deciding. Autoeurope and Kemwel and good places to start.

Posted by
18527 posts

Ed, the fastest train I found is an ICE that makes the trip to Paris in 1h49m. If you plan ahead, the fare can be as low as €29.

Posted by
9110 posts

Thanks, Lee. And that's the nice thing about this outfit - - if you shut your damn yap when you're out of knowledge (instead of guessing something stupid), someoby with a lick of sense will take over.

Posted by
9115 posts

One advantage of the lease vs. a rental is if you have a need to have a specific vehicle. Otherwise, I would compare the cost of the two and decide. I have done a lease (picked up in Germany and dropped in France) and I have done a rental. Neither one is a hassle. Where in Germany do you plan to start your trip?

Posted by
2876 posts

What I like about leasing is 1) you always get a brand-new vehicle; 2) full insurance coverage is included in the price; and 3) you get free 24/7 roadside assistance. Perks like this are never included in a rental.

Posted by
1020 posts

The numbers on leasing have never worked for me, either, but they might on a trip like this. The pickup fee, e.g. on a Peugeot, is $170 in Frankfurt with no drop fee in France. You'll just have to compare rental vs. lease numbers for your trip. Re insurance, American Express has a program with a per rental (not per day) charge of $20 with first dollar coverage. The cars we've rented in Europe have always been current model with a few thousand miles on the clock, though once in England we got a brand new one. For whatever reason, Sixt usually has the best deals for our trips on the continent.

Posted by
1525 posts

Driving is easy. Trying to avoid crazy out-of-country fees by switching cars in each country is one option, but not ideal. If it were me, I would plan my driving itinerary to form something like a loop in order to it off in the same country I picked up in. This may involve some backtracking that you might be philosophically against for obvious reasons. But remember the scale difference involved here. The size of these countries are like the size of western US states. It's not really that much of a drive, for example, to get from northern Italy to southern Germany. I could easily envision a pleasant driving route that involved a pick-up in Frankfurt, a path through much of France, Tuscany, Venice (park & boat) and then drive back to Munich to it off. You could even make the lovely small city of Salzburg, Austria your end point and off the car 2 miles away in the German suburb of Freilassing. Trains from Salzburg or Munich to any other nearby city with better airport connections are quick, quiet, comfortable, and can be had very cheaply if purchased 90 days in advance online from Bahn.

Posted by
31621 posts

Jaq, "However, we are up in age and can't imagine ourselves hauling bags around train stations and such." I'm probably in about the same age group (60+), and don't really find it a problem to "haul bags" around (typically a ~40 lb. Backpack, along with Daypack and Camera gear). I use rail travel for the majority of my transportation and find that it's the quickest and easiest method most of the time. One point to note is that for driving in Italy, each driver will require the compulsory International Driver's Permit, which is used in conjunction with your home D.L. These are valid for one year, and easily obtained at any AAA office. Especially for driving in Italy, a GPS unit along with a good Map are also advisable. Happy travels!

Posted by
1064 posts

Renting a car for two or three days can be as expensive as renting for a week. Your plan could work well, since it would enable you to rent for a week or longer from Frankfurt, returning it elsewhere in Germany, and later rent for a week or more in France. I would save Paris for the last leg of the trip and return the car outside the city. I have no experience with leasing, so I cannot make that comparison.

Posted by
78 posts

Tom and Tex have good info. I would be surprised if leasing isn't your best option. Your insurance is included and you will likely have a minimal fee for picking up the car in Germany (<$200 on a month rental). You can get an estimate at Europe by Car. I am doing a lease from them this summer. Even with a fee for picking up the car in Italy they were the cheapest.

Posted by
361 posts

We have done the lease/purchase through Autofrance.net the past two trips and it was the least expensive way with the least amount of hassle for that long a period of time. There are NO hidden charges, what you see is what you pay. The Auto France people are very helpful, have a toll free U.S. number so you can speak with them before you decide to do anything. We always a diesel vehicle (better fuel economy) and diesel is readily available throughout Europe. You get a new Peugeot, road side assistance and total insurance coverage included. If you get into a fender-bender, you just contact them, they bring you a new car, no questions asked. (Our sons have had this happen on their jaunts across the pond). The only thing you will regret is having to give back the car at the end of the trip. Trust me on this one...I used to be in the car business. Safe travels!

Posted by
1525 posts

Ok this is the weirdest thing I have ever come across on this forum; The word "drop" was ommitted from my previous post three times and I could not get it back in using edit. What's up with that?

Posted by
10344 posts

drop
drop I don't think it's the site, might be your browser. Words that are HTML commands are dropped, but I don't think drop is an HTML command.

Posted by
11 posts

Thank you all very much for your comments, information and suggestions. I see I still have alot of legwork I need to do.

Posted by
111 posts

I used the following company when I was on vacation in Germany. They specialize in European car rentals. I spent a lot of time researching rental companies and insurance issues. These folks are in the US and I had very non-eventful experience with them. There prices were competitive. Check out their web site.
I encourage driving, you will see spectacular sites and you will want to stop and see them ... http://www.gemut.com/

Posted by
11996 posts

Maybe things have changed. We leased for a month in Oct./Nov. 2005 (Renault Grand Scenic II, manual transmission, diesel) and found the price was about half of a rental. Plus the lease included collision damage waiver insurance, which is a big extra on rentals. We picked up in Amsterdam and dropped in Rome. There was a fee for picking up and/or dropping off outside of France (free anywhere in France) but it wasn't nearly as significant as the rental drop off this summer (pick up Copenhagen, drop off Hamburg) would have been. Maybe the time of year makes a difference. Maybe it's the fact that we needed a seven-passenger car that made the difference but rentals didn't begin to compete for our trip.