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Is it best to rent a car?

Our family of 5 will have a month in Europe, hoping to hit France, England, Switzerland, Germany & Italy.

Is it best to rent or lease a car instead of buying rail passes for all of us?

Posted by
18620 posts

Renting a car is expensive. I think you should do your research. Totally investigate the possibilities of public transportation in the places you want to go. Only then can you determine if the expense of a car is justified SOME of the time.

I do this for every trip, and I have never found a car to be financially justified.

As for railpasses, there are so many great deals on rail travel in Europe, the I have never found them to be needed.

Posted by
864 posts

We always rent a car because we like the flexibility of renting a "villa" in a central location (say Tuscany) and doing day trips to areas of interest. When we want to go into FLorence we drive to the closest bus terminal with direct routes into the city. A car lets you have a "villa" where you can do some cooking, washing etc. as well as taking that important "day off". That said, you've got five people who are going to have to agreed on the itinerary and a car is worse than useless in any big city. Also, you will be spending a fair amount of time driving from A to B. Make sure you have at least two drivers and for goodness sakes buy a really good EUROPEAN road atlas (usually available at bookstores or petrol stations). We use a yellow highlighter to plot our routes. We have frequently made a reservation within a city (say Paris) for 3 or 4 nights, then rented a car at the airport or train station for a tour of the countryside for several days. Don't drive Britian-just train it

Posted by
850 posts

Since you are going for a month you may want to check the the buy back deal from Auto Europe. You get a brand new Peugeot, unlimited miles, non deductible fully comprehensive insurance, lease rates guaranteed in U.S. Dollars among other benefits. If you pick up in France and drop in France there will be no extra charge. If you drop in another country there is an additional charge and it is probably high. I have never tried this but those who have speak highly of this program.

If you get a diesel and a standard transmission you will save money.

If you rent a car the cheapest rates are in Germany. Try for great rates and service. I like having a car but I do park it and take the train into bigger cities. With a car you can find out of the way B&B's easier if you don't reserve rooms in advance. Be sure to take a gps with Europe maps on it. It will be your best friend during your trip. Would not go again without one. Keep a manp handy too.

Posted by
12074 posts

Unless you can take advantage of special train rates such as the Bavaria ticket or Beutiful Weekend pass in Germany (good for party of 5 on local trains during non-commuting hours), you will find a rental car is cheaper for 5 than train tickets. If you will be using a car for more than 17 days, a leased car is better than a rental.

If you do rent, be sure to get a big enough car or van. We leased a seven passenger Renault Grand Scenic II for our family of five (2 adults and 3 kids). We had one carry on each and wouldn't have been comfortable with more (or bigger) people or luggage.

Posted by
12040 posts

A good rule of thumb I have found is that if you visit cities primarily, a car is more hastle than benefit. However, if your itinerary includes rural destinations, a car usually works better. Of course, this rule doesn't consider cost...

Posted by
216 posts

If you plan on seeing a greater number of attractions in a limited time spread over a wider area, the rental car is the way to go.

Train travel in Europe (and inter-city bus travel) has gotten quite expensive. Unless I go to a major city and plan on staying there, I never take the train. Cars are a hassle in big cities, just as another respondent noted. They are very useful for exploring off the beaten path, for carrying a large number of persons, and for making cargo movement easier.

Remember, though, gas prices are shockingly high in much of Europe. At the same time, a turbo-diesel auto or van really is economical. One of these days America will catch on to this fuel choice.