Car rental at Paris Gare du Nord

I'm arriving on Eurostar from London at Gare du Nord at 11 a.m. on a Monday in May and need to rent a car for three days for drive to Normandy and back. What I'm trying to figure out is who to rent through. The cheapest rate I've found is Auto Europe, but I had found some complaints about that company on random customer service forums. In reading through those complaints, though, it seems the majority of people just didn't read the fine print of what they were booking. My other option is Hertz, which is about $35 more (and I realize booking through Auto Europe I could end up with Hertz anyway). So I guess I have two questions: any thoughts on Auto Europe and is Hertz a good option to rent at Gare du Nord or should I look at other options? Thanks

Posted by Tom
Chicago
2876 posts

These days you can probably find internet complaints about every business on the planet. I've used Autoeurope for years and have never had an problem, and I've found their customer service - which is US-based - very helpful. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend them. And you're right - the last time I picked up an Autoeurope car at the Gare du Nord, the vendor was Hertz.

Posted by Lance
Memphis, US
13 posts

Thanks. I will do more research on Auto Europe, but I guess it's kind of like using Priceline in the U.S. where you don't know who you are booking with when you book. Some of the complaints I had found related to holds being placed on credit cards (I've read that's a possibility), disputes about having the gas tank filled (they probably need to understand if their contract specified if they were paying for the gas tank to be filled or if it was their responsibility) and insurance. I guess insurance would be my only concern because I will not take out what the rental company provides as my credit card company coverage is sufficient. NOTE: Oh, and sorry for duplicate post. I'm not sure why this posted twice but I deleted the other version.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7967 posts

Go with everwho has the best deal. Just keep in mind that your contract is with the outfit that hands over the car. I just got thoroughly smushed a few weeks ago and the resolution/exchange was all done through Europcar.

Posted by Lance
Memphis, US
13 posts

So you booked through Auto Europe but the rental was actually through Europcar? Any words of caution/wisdom to provide from your experience?

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7967 posts

Nope, I'd use AE again as long as they had the best deal - - but it's been my experiece that often as not they don't. I knew I'd have to work the problem through Europcar so that's what I did. They were great. I've never had a bad experience with anybody but Sixt. I've had a couple of sour experiences there which might be only coincidental, but they've lost my business. Also, my exposure is faily high since my butt's in a rental car five or six months a year somewhere in the world. The incident a few weks ago just happened to be in Australia.

Posted by Jill
Austin, TX, USA
532 posts

Lance, We've used Autoeurope 3 times with no complaint. In all of our travels we have had one really BAD experience with a rental car, and that was the time we rented at Gare du Nord. If you are going to pick the car up there and drive straight out of the city that is probably fine, but in general I highly recommend renting and returning outside the city. If you do decide to rent at Gare du Nord be forewarned that the place where you return your car is actually a few blocks from where you pick it up. All signs are in French so it's very confusing. I would get VERY good directions for returning the car before I left the rental counter. Have fun!

Posted by Lance
Memphis, US
13 posts

Thanks for all of the information. I'm going to book through Auto Europe and make sure I pay attention to all "fine print-type" items that come along with it. I've read so many favorable reviews of the company since first posting today. And it does appear the proper research and understanding my rental agreement before I arrive in Paris should alleviate the problems other reviewers on other sights have mentioned. As far as issues at the train station, I've studied the map a bit already and plan to print out images/maps and specific instructions on where to take the car back to at the station. Because we will be arriving back in Paris about 8 p.m. on a Wednesday night it seems a train station is my best bet to assure someone will be at the desk versus a drop-off center somewhere else in the city.

Posted by Robert
Portland
629 posts

I've used Auto Europe and Kemwel many times over the years (they're now under the same ownership) and never had any problem with either. Of course once you pick up the car your dealings are with the rental company.

Posted by Lance
Memphis, US
13 posts

I've since booked with Auto Europe and our car is through Europcar. I've got my voucher and plan to print out detailed maps to get me out of the station and to the ring road for our drive to Giverny. Thanks for all the help!

Posted by Tim
Knoxville, TN, USA
3064 posts

If you're wanting to go to Normandy then PLEASE do yourself a favor and avoid the headache of driving in Paris. Jump on the train to Caen or Bayeux and rent the car after you arrive at your destination. I can 100% promise you that driving in Paris is not going to be a pleasurable experience.

Posted by Tim
Knoxville, TN, USA
3064 posts

I just got back from Paris where our taxi driver took us on the Arc de Triomphe round-about on our way to the airport. He entered the loop and zipped all the way to the center cutting off at least 1/2 dozen cars horns all ablaze...and of course there are no such things as marked lanes. It's just kind of free-for-all and you take your chances. Our taxi driver came out just fine, but I figure he's probably had several years of experience and probably several fender benders. If you ever do see a lane marked on a road in Paris you just ignore it and drive wherever you want...that seems to be the plan. Just make 100% sure of the insurance coverage you have - and hope you don't actually need to use it.

Posted by Lance
Memphis, US
13 posts

And I should note I will be going nowhere near Arc, or any major roundabouts. The station is far north; a couple of miles on a straight shot road to the ring road, which is just like an American interstate highway.

Posted by Tim
Knoxville, TN, USA
3064 posts

I'm glad you'll be OK. I've done it twice, and I don't ever want to do that again.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7967 posts

Nord has one of the easiest escapes to head north: St Denis and whatever it becomes until you hit the beltway. You're running between the Nord and Est tracks so it's hard to go astray.

Posted by Lance
Memphis, US
13 posts

I hope I didn't come across as an ass. And I certainly appreciate the advice from all. Otherwise I wouldn't visit a travel forum. While I'm obviously a newbie on the Steves' forum I've been on other sites for years. While I've not driven in Paris I've been there and have driven in a number of quite large cities. My thought is at some point I just have to suck it up and do it. And in this instance it is driving in Paris traffic. But I've studied the map and the route to the outer road seems quite simple. Will it be stressful? I'm sure it could be. But you only live once. I'll just hope my credit card insurance is as good as it says it is.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7967 posts

'at some point I just have to suck it up and do it' If only more people had that attitude about everything!

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8735 posts

the ring road, which is just like an American interstate highway. No, I'm sorry, the Perepherique may be many things, and it has quite a rep, but like an Interstate it is not.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7967 posts

I was fixing to argue with Nigel, but I'm too busy doodling how a traffic circle would work if it had lane markers. Also, virtually all the roads have lane lines, even where they're so small you can't use them.

Posted by Lance
Memphis, US
13 posts

I guess Google Maps and the little dude are really wacky then because I just zoomed around the whole length of my drive on the Perepherique and I swear if it didn't resemble the LBJ around Dallas that I used to drive every day. Well, except for the fact it only has four lanes in each direction in Paris and in Dallas it sometimes has eight or nine lanes with the random motorcycle guys driving the lane lines. And if they don't know how to stay in their lanes I'm pretty sure I can adapt and drive that way too. I mean, I haven't met a speed limit I didn't drive at least 20 mph faster than anyway. Seriously, I'll be good. Everyone driving in one direction, zigging and zagging in and out of lanes? That's not scary, that's fun driving. How about I practice while I'm in London first? It sounds like because of how scary Paris will be driving on the left side of the road in England might be necessary to deal with the crazies on the right side of the road in France.

Posted by Nigel
East Midlands, England
8735 posts

I mean, I haven't met a speed limit I didn't drive at least 20 mph faster than anyway Well you just go ahead and do that. Europe and the UK are in a recession and could use all the revenue we can get. Just smile for the speed cameras and prepare to open your wallet. Some are hidden in the central reservation, some on the side of the road and some are unmarked cars in traffic or stopped on the side of the road. But they are there. In the UK cameras are painted reflective yellow - not in France. You won't see them coming so because you are having so much fun, you'd better keep the smile on all the time so it gets a good picture of you.

Posted by Lance
Memphis, US
13 posts

Relax, seriously. I was joking. I know not to speed. I know I will be driving in a different country, need to respect its drivers, rules, customs, etc. my point was that I'm not going to be overly concerned about the driving conditions getting out of the city. I can't be; I have three people and so buying train tickets is cost prohibitive. Plus, the freedom of having a car is too important. I understand drivers might drive differently there and appreciate those words of caution. But I will be prepared with maps, knowledge of what road signs mean and respect for where I'm at. But I think most importantly this conversation has steered so far off its initial point there really isn't reason to continue it. I had concerns about auto Europe vs. hertz car rental at Nord. I've since made my decision. Thanks for everyone's help.

Posted by Robert
Portland
629 posts

I just wanted to chime in about the Peripherique. It's not like an American interstate; it's more like a bumper car course. Or maybe a NASCAR raceway. I've never had an accident on it, but it was always traumatic.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7967 posts

And I'll just chime in the other way. I've been driving the scoundrel since the first year it was in operation. It's just one more busy road. Like pickpockets, it's fun to talk about, but not really that much of a problem.

Posted by Vivian
Portland, OR, USA
1 posts

I have to agree -- driving in European cities is just part of the adventure! Despite all the dire warnings, we've driven in Paris and all through much of southern Europe -- even Rome and the "perilous" Amalfi Coast. Don't let it psych you out -- Just be confident, buckle up, get in there and enjoy the ride! P.S. I will make one suggestion, though: Use a GPS or a very good Michelin map to avoid serious frustration. Happy travels :-)

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

I think driving in San Francisco is fun. It scares the bejeezus out of most people. Then again, I've been driving in SF since I was 16 and I've had plenty of trauma but I got used to it. Started driving on LA freeways a few years ago - not as scary as SF city driving, but still a bit stressful, now I'm a pro. That said, there are cities/places I will never drive: Manhattan, Rome, Paris. I guess some people view their vacations as cowboy challenges. I prefer a little piece of mind! But hey, "different strokes" and please let us know how it goes!

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7967 posts

'That said, there are cities/places I will never drive: Manhattan, Rome, Paris." The statement would carry more weight if 'again' could be appended at the end - - indicating some experience on which to base the decision. 'I guess some people view their vacations as cowboy challenges.' So anybody that doesn't do things in the 'preferred' manner is a maverick? And all others are just regular folks?

Posted by Jill
Austin, TX, USA
532 posts

Just listened to Rick's podcast - "Driving in Europe" a couple of days ago, and was thinking about this thread. He interviews two professional bus drivers - (I think they both drive for his tours). They BOTH cited Paris as a horrible place for driving:)

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7967 posts

You can get an interview to prove any point - - for example, CNN/NBC vs Fox. I wonder what the answer would have been had he interviewed the gazillion city bus drivers. Or people who had driven in Paris as well as Tokyo or Cairo - - those two ain't exactly a piece of cake, but it's something that can be done easily enough.
I wonder if any of them have ever driven across Botswana - - no gps, maps that are pretty rough, and horrible signage.

Posted by Carol
Atlanta, GA, USA
679 posts

I have used Auto Europe a lot and always been pleased. Personally I drove in Paris ONCE and won't do it again. Traffic was just a nightmare and it really wasn't worth the hassle. Now I just train to my first stop, pick up the car there and go. Plus the cars are often cheaper out of a city and the staff generally more helpful in making sure you understand things like "how to get in the gas tank" (Drove off without figuring that once and to appeal to men at the gas station for the 'secret' LOL!)

Posted by Jill
Austin, TX, USA
532 posts

@Ed, my guess is that most of the people reading this board for advice have not driven in Botswana without a GPS. My point was that even Rick's professional drivers who drive all over Europe do not enjoy driving in Paris.

Posted by Ed
Pensacola
7967 posts

Jill, And my point was that you can find somebody to back up any position you wish to make. A couple of sound bites is not exactly an unbiased poll. Were I going to champion apple pie, odds are that I would not interview cherry pie eaters.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

You got me Ed, I haven't driven in Paris or Manhattan because I've visited those places and as a result I know it would not be enjoyable for me. Countless recommendations from travelers who have, my own experience riding in taxis in those cities, the feelings of professionals all tend to suggest that overall, driving in Paris is considered stressful and difficult to most people. You don't find it to be so. Good for you. You're in the extreme minority. Maybe when you give advice to people you can accept that you are an outlier and take that into account? I can accept that for me, driving in San Francisco is fun, but because I recognize that for most people in the U.S. it would be extremely challenging and stressful, I wouldn't recommend it. Common sense.

Posted by Ellisa
Taguig, Metro Mani, Philippines
1 posts

Hey I am sorry if I missed this and someone already said it in here, but is the Hertz rental actually in Gard Du Nord or do I have to leave the station to rent the car? I am returning it to CDG so I am hoping the return process will be okay. E.

Posted by Ceidleh
Boston, MA, United States
1173 posts

Wasn't the original question about Hertz and are they the best option to get a rental from at Gare du Nord and not whether to drive in Paris? Hey, I say if Lance is not second guessing his driving abilities in Paris then he should just get the keys to his rental and move on to Normandy. But if the question has changed to where would you drive or not drive... Manhattan, easy (yes, you need to watch out for taxi drivers and bus drivers, but streets are all numbered & most are one-way - so hard to get lost - but gridlock, not so fun and parking garage prices are insanely high); San Francisco, easy (and the hills are really fun - but parallel parking in tight spots on steep hills with a stick shift, not so fun); driving on the left on narrow roads in Western Ireland - fun until you (and 20 other cars) get stuck behind some farmer on a tractor driving 10kph for an hour; Coastal Italy on a Vespa - waaaaay fun (have been passenger on back of Vespa in Rome, but wouldn't try driving the Vespa on my own in Rome as that would be a trip to the hospital just waiting to happen - but on winding roads near the coast it's great). Ultimate driving challenge for me would be in a large city in India sharing the road with tons of other cars, motorcycles, bikes, mopeds and cows. Bangkok & Mexico City would also be very different.

Posted by Tim
Knoxville, TN, USA
3064 posts

What I would really be interested in hearing is the aftermath of the planned rental from Gare du Nord. I'd like to hear if it was as easy and painless as anticipated or if it was a regrettable decision.

Posted by Lance
Memphis, US
13 posts

I'll try to remember to let everyone know how it goes when we return. I'm four weeks out. I do find it a bit funny how the original intent of the post has so gone in a different direction. I've enjoyed observing everyone's conversation about how bad (or not bad at all to some) driving in Paris is. I guess I participated in helping take the thread that direction so I'll apologize for that.

Posted by Sarah
Stuttgart, Germany
2012 posts

Well, Ceidleh, you live in Boston, which by all accounts is one of the worst cities to drive in. My ex loved cars, loved driving, loved driving in all cities referenced previously, swore he would never drive in Boston ever again. So I guess if you are used to driving there, Manhattan and SF might well seem fun. But for most tourists straight off the plane it is not an advisable experience, though slightly better these days with GPS systems and the like.

Posted by Lance
Memphis, US
13 posts

I returned from Europe yesterday and wanted to come on to describe my driving experience. First, sticking to the original intent of this post, as far as I can tell so far my experience using Auto Europe was fine. It gave me a Europcar rental. I had a couple of issues with that I'll go into first. Finding my way into the car park wasn't as easy as it probably should've been but I'll chalk that up to not completely understanding the directions I was given. Then when we got to the car it did not have a full tank of gas and was not cleaned. But I came across an employee in the garage who couldn't have been nicer and made note on my agreement about the fuel that I could return it on empty. So as long as I don't have a fuel charge I have to fight later then I'll be OK with my rental experience.

Posted by Lance
Memphis, US
13 posts

Now, as far as the long back and forth everyone had about driving from Gare du Nord, let me just say how easy it was to get from the train station to the outer ring road. Seriously. It was just like driving on any city street followed by being on a normal American interstate. Were there motorcycles zooming in and out? Sure, but if you know it's coming I don't understand how that bothers anyone. So I found driving in the part of Paris that I drove in quite easy. However, on my return to the train station I made the mistake of driving in at rush hour. So in addition to the ring road being like the normal interstate rush hour I deal with in Memphis, the city street was a disaster. It took three hours to do the 30-minute drive from Versailles. People there don't pay attention to traffic lights and try to put a car into a three-foot wide gap. But I still don't think that was anything to panic about. I mean, we were driving 5 to 10 mph. It wasn't scary. It was just annoying to be in the traffic for so long. Would I do it again? Most definitely. I would just try to be smarter about avoiding rush hour.

Posted by Robert
Portland
629 posts

I've used Auto Europe and Kemwel (both now under the same ownership) in France for many years, with no complaints. They're very good about setting out what's included and what's not. Most of the time I wind up with Europcar.