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Car rental expenses

I know people are curious sometimes about car rental expenses. I (mostly) kept track of our expenses from our trip to France.

The car rental itself was $380 (Canadian) for an automatic for 10 days (Europcar). Rented in Avignon at the train station and dropped in Nice. There are also other fees because we picked it up at a train station (?!) and daily environmental fees and I can't rem what they total - probably another 100 euro.

I feel like I maybe forgot one of the gas fill-ups as I thought we did three but I only recorded two. We drove 1730 km and gas was 73 euro. (If I forgot a fill-up, I'd add another 25-30 euro or so to the total - say 100 euro).

Roads tolls and parking fees - about 110 euro. We didn't always use the toll roads, but what a difference in time they make - sometimes up to an hour according to the in-car GPS. 70 euro of that was road tolls. The worst was when we went to Millau. We went into the viewing area, but when you leave, you can only go one way...thru the toll booth at 7.50 euro a pop...and of course we wanted to go back the way we came, so we had to go back thru the toll booth a minute later at another 7.50 euro a pop. That was a bit annoying, but I guess like anywhere, you gotta pay coming and going!

So overall for a 10 day rental it cost about $850 Canadian...$380 for the rental + 310 euro (converted to Can $ = 465 - a euro costs us about 1.50). I'm assuming another gas fill up in there. In US$ that would be about $650 with our current exchange rate.

But the bad thing is - when we were in a parking garage in Vence, it had very narrow turns. Hubby scraped the side of the car down the corner wall (as many others have done, judging from the state of the corner of the wall) and put some nice scratches on an otherwise unscratched car. We used our Amex to rent the car which offers coverage, but I'm not sure how that all works. (And it was the day before we were turning the car in - hint - park in outdoor parking lots if you can!). So we may take another hit...anyone have any experience with Amex covering rental car damage?

I'm sure it would have cost us less to use trains and buses (and who knows about the car scratching thing) but being able to set our own pace and visit places that I'm sure don't have frequent bus visits (like Les Baux and Glanum, Rousillon and Gourdon) was nice. I guess if you factor in some guided tours we may have had to use to get to some of the out of the way spots we probably broke even.

For the record, the car was a Citroen C4 Cactus with funky rubber bubble panels on the doors (unfortunately didn't help with the scraping down the wall - only if the whole car was rubber...sigh). It was an automatic with the 'engine turning off at red lights/stops' environmental thing. Comfy car. The guy at the rental office when we picked it up was also very nice. He sounded like an Aussie or Kiwi and was very polite - which was great after our TGV took an extra two hours arriving because someone decided to suicide themselves with a train (poor soul) and all the trains were delayed. I wasn't sure how they handle the whole 'not being there to pick up the car when you say you will be' - but they knew about the train delays.

Posted by
3901 posts

Ran out of characters!

Dropping it off in Nice was a headache. We should have just dropped it at the airport instead of downtown (rue Gustave V), as we missed our turn, took about 30 min to get back to the proper spot (traffic and one way streets)...then, had another convoluted drop off at the garage that was only a block over, but there was a one way street you couldn't go down and tons of traffic - so it took another 20 min to go over one block that you could walk in less than two min. And to add to the stress, hubby had to double park when he first went into the office and didn't a damn bus come down the road and couldn't get by and I had to jump out of the car to squeeze it over and I couldn't figure out how to get the damn thing into drive for a minute. To park it, you had to put on the parking brake, and for some reason, hubby left it in drive instead of neutral and I almost broke my hand trying to disengage the parking brake before realizing it was in D and not N. I was ready to crawl into the backseat and cry...I was so stressed. But I got it over and the bus made it by (cursing me the whole time, I bet). Funny story now - not so much then!

Posted by
3192 posts

Well, Nicole, I have some good news for you. We have used the rental car insurance feature of our AMEX card, and it couldn't have been easier. One good thing is that they don't require you to front the money and wait for a refund. Call to get the claim process started.

Just fyi, we have had the "can't get to the rental car return office" experience in several European cities - - Milan, Barcelona, and Rome immediately come to mind. I had to fight off the irrational urge just to abandon the vehicle in the street. You have mentioned one lesson learned: return to an airport. Another lesson that it's taken me over 30 years to learn is to get the prepaid fuel option. That also removes one bit of the hassle from the return process.

Posted by
6778 posts

Did the rental company ding you (no pun intended) for the scratches? You said something about potentially still being on the hook...I dinged up a car in Argentina (not exactly my fault, it was dusty and rocky and the back door almost blew off in the Andes in a very windy area in the middle of nowhere and then malfunctioned afterwards) and that soured me a bit to car rentals - the rental place was very strict about the damages and I got a hefty bill.

There are a lot of instances of "stress" in your summary...are you sure it was really worth it? What if anything would you have done differently (except the airport drop-off)?

Posted by
607 posts

My 2 cents:

  1. I am a proponent of using the credit card protection whenever available to save the cost of having to pay extra for the CDW. However, you need to read the credit card policy, preferably before you rent the car. There may be some conditions such as obtaining a police report number before you receive reimbursement.

  2. When the OP drove the car to move it out of the way of the bus, there was a good chance that she was not covered by insurance. There is an extra charge to allow a second driver to drive the rental car.

  3. As for being charged for rock damage in the Andes, most car rental agreement have a clause which does not permit you to drive off-road or on unpaved roads.

Posted by
3901 posts

We haven't started anything with the credit card company yet. It will be two weeks on Thurs since car return and nothing has been charged to the cc yet from the rental company - I've been checking the statement and no new charges. I'll have to tell hubby he should give Amex a call and get the lowdown.

As for stress - yes...there were some other stresses - a bus almost ran us off the road in Provence and we came across some flooded roads as well near Salon (nothing like in Cannes area luckily). But for being able to go to Millau, hit Pont du Gard without having to rely on a tour (which we did last time and only had about 45 min to look around before we had to go go go), go to Gourdon and other little places...the stress was counteracted by the more laid back aspect of our trip...no studying bus and train schedules and trying to make everything work. I booked a factory tour at L'Occitane in Manosque and that wouldn't have been possible without a car. And for being able to stay at airbnb's that were slightly off the beaten path (and therefore less money) it was worth it. I don't think we would have done anything differently...other than the drop off...and not using underground parking.

Don't get me wrong - I love the train system in Europe and generally it works for us. But there are times when it's much nicer to travel at your own pace instead of the pace of the public transport.

And if Europcar had an issue with me as a 'second driver' for moving the car 2 feet forward and 6 inches to the left, then they can explain why it would have been better to lose the rearview mirror (which would not flip in) than to have me move the car that tiny amount. Or conversely to really really piss off the bus driver and allll the people sitting behind him by refusing to move the car.

Posted by
6778 posts

then they can explain why it would have been better to lose the rearview mirror (which would not flip in) than to have me move the car that tiny amount.

I don't mean this in a disrespectful way, but the onus would be on you (not them), since hubby "had to double park". I don't think double parking is sanctioned (although of course I've seen it all over Europe... it still wouldn't be a defense).

Thanks for openly sharing everything, it is helpful for others (me included).

Posted by
2037 posts

Car rental in Europe is very much a YMMV situation (pun intended). As noted, if you're just going to the usual places it's definitely not worth the bother. But if you're already been there done that and feel the need to explore, it's much easier to drive your own bus. Keeping in mind that parking is a b*tch and returning the thing can be a giant headache.

I once gave my Italian rental a similar scrape on the side when exiting a parking structure. A few miles later we pulled over and I told my wife to get the toothpaste and spare washcloth out of her bag. She gave me quite a look as I took some bottled water and made a soupy paste on the washcloth with the toothpaste, but darned if after some gentle rubbing the paint had come out of the scrape and you really, really had to look at the right angle to see it. We never heard back from the big A rental company at Malpensa so I guess they were pleased with my handiwork.

Posted by
7205 posts

Bruce has obviously mastered the secret of successful rental - "take public transport". No matter how much freedom you think that stupid rental car is going to give you it can bite you in the rear just as easily. My first couple of trips to Europe involved a rental car (just like every other good ol American who has been brainwashed to automatically think I need one), and then I ventured onto the train. WOW, what exhilarating freedom. To sit back, actually get to see the sites instead of the license plate of the car in front of me, and be delivered city center, no tolls, no parking, no petrol, no insurance coverage, no problem...was an eye opener for me.

Posted by
3938 posts

Nicole, I really appreciate you sharing the cost of transportation to rent a car. I agree you have more flexibility with a car, but we've felt like the public transportation options & small tour were perfect for us and zero stress! Just for comparison, our total transportation costs during our 15-day trip in France for trains across France, the mini-van tour in the Luberon region, and a bus for two people were $400. Similarly, this year's trip (trains, boats, bus) for 3 weeks in Germany & Austria were $350.

For anyone else taking a similar trip, we took a half-day mini-van tour from Avignon to Gourdon, Rousillon, etc. for 55 Euro each. It was just the right amount of time to explore in each small town. We took the local bus a different day to the Pont du Gard and stayed for a few hours.

Posted by
455 posts

We had a Fiat 500 diesel (standard trans) for 9 days recently in the Cotswolds and northwest Wales. The Europcar rate inclusive of taxes and all local fees was CDN $235, plus 3 fill ups totalling CDN $255 plus I'm guessing maybe CDN $20 or $30 for parking. So let's call it CDN $525 all in, or about CDN $60 per day for 2 people. Drove almost exactly 1,000 miles (1,600km). Picked up at Heathrow and dropped off at Birmingham airport. Considering the narrow roads and the stone walls that seem to be mere inches on the left side of the vehicle, we were fortunate not to have any damage.

I'm not against using trains and buses but the flexibility to explore the areas we did on this trip, would not have been possible in the time we had, without a rental car. With the exception of the Cotswolds and northwest Wales, our trips always include the use of trains and rental cars for different purposes. Buses not so often.

Posted by
3901 posts

This was only the 2nd time of our 5 trips to Europe that we rented a car...and our first time was only for 3 nights back in 2012 (also in France - northern area). For 95% of our vacations, public transport has been the way to go for us. This certainly didn't turn us off car renting...and I'm sure next time we go to France and want to explore some more off the beaten path places, we will rent again.

Our next trip I'm hoping will be Netherlands and Belgium and already thinking to rent for a few days to explore the countryside in Netherlands, then train everywhere else.

I'd love to do a car rental to explore the Cotswolds and Scotland but not sure how hubby could handle the wrong side of the road. My sister lives in the UK and I keep trying to get him to take her car for a spin in a parking lot late at night with no other cars around, but he won't even go for that :) - and her car is an automatic!

Last time we did the south of France, we did a day tour that went to Pont du Gard, Uzes and Nimes. That experience is precisely why we rented a car this time. We had about 50 min to see Pont du Gard (this time we stayed a good 90 min), had maybe 45 min to run around Uzes and the driver got us to Nimes about 15 min AFTER the arena closed so we missed that as well. It was very disappointing, and I vowed next time we would do it at our own pace and not at the fast pace of a day tour. We spent a good 3-4 hours in Nimes...having a nice lunch, visiting the arena, going to Maison Carree and seeing the film, walking to the lovely park and up the hill to Tour Magne (where we saw a Jeep with the driver's window busted out - make sure to keep your valuables out of sight!).

Even when we went to California, we did a day tour from San Fran that went to Muir Woods (I think we had 90 min) then stopped for about 10 min for a golden gate photo op, then gave us about an hour to see Sausalito - which pretty much translated into walking down to the waterfront for 15 min, popping into a few shops, then grabbing an ice cream before getting back on the bus. Great for getting an overview, but if you want to really get indepth, you gotta do it at your own pace.

Posted by
3901 posts

Oh Phred - I wish we could have covered the scratches that easily. When he scraped the wall of the parking garage, you could feel the car shudder and bounce (it wasn't a light graze) so these weren't superficial scratches...the back door handle will never be the same ;)

Posted by
56 posts

We rented a car in France this past October through Auto Europe and EuropCar - total cost ended up about double what Auto Europe quoted; local taxes and fees are collected there - for 9 days they came to $280 additional, including picking up the car (Ford Focus - nice car) at the Lyon train station rather than airport (extra $35). And a speeding ticket somewhere between Lyon and Nice (the ticket mailed to us is all in French - not sure what it says).
Next time we'll take the train as everywhere we went had good train service. For the trains we did use, SNCF (French rail system) was cheaper than Rail Europe (same outfit as Rail Europe). Renting in Italy (having one for Montepulciao, Siena and Orvieto is handy) was easier and cheaper. And yes, returning the car to the EuropCar office in Nice was a total pain.

Posted by
1878 posts

We had the same experience dropping off a car in Nice, and even worse it was Friday late afternoon and the main seafront street was jam packed. Returning the rental car is often the most stressful part of a trip for us! I have had bad experiences returning to airports too. Mistakenly drove into Paris (!) twice trying to return to Orly. If there was signage pointing us to the airport we missed it, and the locals that we asked at a roadside gas station acted as if they had never even heard of Orly airport. Easiest I can remember was Shannon airport in Ireland. Our next trip might well be a return to Ireland, and I cringe to think what we'll likely pay for a rental car. It's been close to $100 per day with super CDW when I have checked online – could save nearly half by driving a stick but would not want to risk it.

Posted by
5697 posts

Just a reminder -- hold onto ALL the paperwork from your rental car. We rented on New Orleans recently and got a notice a week later that there was damage... about $1,300 worth. We protested that we had not seen any damage except for what had been noted on their form when we picked up the car -- and we had that form. Rental company adjuster looked at their files and, sure enough, the alleged damage was in exactly the same spots that had been marked as existing damage. Case closed -- but without the written evidence it would have been much harder to prove.
No use adding to the valid car rental expenses!

Posted by
3901 posts

We dropped the car on a Thurs and the traffic was just as horrid...we were walking faster than most of the cars were moving on the Promenade!

We are still waiting on a resolution about the scratches and Amex. My problem has been communication with Europcar - I sent 4-5 emails requesting a copy of the statement showing estimate of repairs and/or the cost charged for the damage and/or final repair bill (but you know they won't repair scratches) with NO response - very disappointed in the customer service. That is the last piece of my insurance puzzle. I did finally send an email to AutoEurope who were very prompt in their reply - even tho I thought they would have nothing to do with damage statements. They sent me a message saying they were opening a customer service file but it could take 30-45 days to get anything. So fingers crossed. We have already paid off the charges on the bill, but it would certainly be nice to get that money back! Hopefully this all works out.

I'm still not soured on car rentals tho - I still do love the public transport in Europe, but the freedom of a car and setting your own schedule is lovely. Hubby - not so much. He says he'll never rent another car over there...sigh. (But when we do - because I will tell him we are...I'll make sure to get the extra coverage that Amex offers...and to avoid indoor parking garages at all costs)

Posted by
2037 posts

I think we should agree that a) certain types of trips lend themselves better to car rental, b) certain countries lend themselves better to car rental and c) certain types of travelers do as well.

There, I think that covers it.

Posted by
3901 posts

Quick update - AutoEurope got back to me today (so 8 days) and I did get a statement showing the costs of the damage - my last piece of info needed to see what Amex will do about the coverage. So I just have to send that all off and keep my fingers crossed! I guess I should have just contacted AE first instead of messing with Europcar...

Posted by
14458 posts

John wrote We rented a car in France this past October through Auto Europe and EuropCar - total cost ended up about double what Auto Europe quoted; local taxes and fees are collected there - for 9 days they came to $280 additional

You have to read the fine print with Auto Europe ("AE"). I rented this year (Chamonix to Strasbourg) from EuropCar ("EC"). The quote from AE (for EC) was significantly less than the direct quote from EC, but the EC quote included all fees (rail station, high altitude, etc) but the AE quote did not. After adding in those mandatory fees, the AE quote was significantly more, so I went with EC direct.

Posted by
157 posts

Car or Trains depend on your iternary, personal preference and confidence. We have used cars when we are touring the countryside and traveling to smaller centres. We avoid using cars if we are going to be in big cities or traveling directly between them. Last trip we rented a car in southern Italy and traveling across the boot. Later in the trip we traveled from Budapest to Prague with a stop in Bratislava using trains. Each worked well for the focus of each part of the trip. Zealots who only recommend one mode of transport are doing a disservice to travelers.

Posted by
6953 posts

Bob and Phred -- right!! Sometimes you need a car, sometimes you can go by public transport. Depends on the trip and what you're trying to get to see!!

Nicole -- sorry about all the stresses you encountered. They are certainly within the realm of possible experience for all of us.

Posted by
3901 posts

Final update - the Amex insurance people emailed yesterday to let me know that they will be reimbursing us! 'Since it was our first claim'. No small change - almost $570 Canadian. Whew.

Anyway - lessons learned - use the card of the person who will be the primary driver (even if the cards are on the same account) and most likely next rental we will look at the additional coverage you can get thru Amex. I haven't looked too much into it, but will def be checking it out next time!

The only other thing I couldn't figure out was after adding up the totals of our final drop off fees and the taxes and the cost of the repairs, there was still a difference of $5 and change - maybe some sort of admin fee, using the exchange rate in the cc bill. That caused a bit of a headache with the insurance folks as the charge on our CC combined the final drop fees and the repair charges - no forms showing the breakdown of the final drop off fees vs the repair charges (there was an invoice from the car rental place showing the repair estimate, which is what they ultimately went with to determine what we were charged for the damages).

Posted by
157 posts

For the first time on our last trip we used trains rather than a car on a portion of our trip. We used trains as we were traveling between specific cities and a car would not be of use in any of the cities. However, be aware that train travel has it advantages, but.... We had intended to travel from Zagreb to Budapest then to Bratislava and finally Prague. Except, the trains to Budapest were not running due to the Syrian refugee crisis. So how did we get to Budapest? A private car at the considerable cost.

We will use trains in the future, especially when doing point to point to cities, as a car in big cities is not worth the effort.

Chose what works for for you; I like cars for the most part; trains and buses are better in cities and if you do not want the hassle. A car is likely more expensive, but it offers more freedom in the county.

I enjoyed your reports.