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Passenger vehicle rentals in Italy

I have a large family planning a reunion in Italy, There are 9 adults, one requires his wheelchair. I was advised the "driver" needs a commercail license to drive a vehicle this large in Italy, and was advised to rent two or more cars instead! We sell international drivers permits. Does this give him the permit to drive a 12 passenger van with no restrictions? I need the best advice for this family.

Posted by
32244 posts

Sharon, The answer is probably "No", he will not be allowed to drive a larger vehicle unless his HOME license is rated for that number of passengers. An IDP is simply a translation of the restrictions and terms of the home Driver's License, so it doesn't confer any additional privileges. Renting two vehicles is the easiest solution but of course EACH driver will require the compulsory IDP. While in Italy, you'll also have to be very careful to avoid the dreaded ZTL areas (hefty fines!). Good luck and happy travels!

Posted by
805 posts

The answer is NO pure and simple. I am looking at the first page of my current IDP. It Limits the vehicle to 7700 pounds maximum weight and a drivers seat plus a maximum of 8 additional seats for drivers with a plain license. Line D on page one has an endorsement for the type of vehicle you are looking for but unless you have a commercial license, they are not going to stamp the endorsement. The rig you need is also bigger than anything I would want to drive in Italy, either in a city or in the country. About the biggest thing you will see at a rental is a 7 passenger van which will have precious little luggage space in its max. passenger configuration. You need to rent at least two big vans and limit all parties to a carry on suitcase. Also you are going to need two or more drivers who can drive a manual transmission vehicle, and that means be comfortable with it, not struggle with it, they are going to have lots of other things to concentrate on. When you rent, I would suggest that you work directly with a major rental company and get their written guarantee that what you reserved will be there when you walk up to the desk. If you deal with a consolidator or other third party, you are leaving yourself open for an adventure you do not want to take. When are you going and for how long. The surest way to get what you need when dealing with an out of the ordinary vehicle is to do a lease plan but that requires three weeks using the car and at least 30 days advanced booking. I hate to rain on your parade but you are undertaking a major operation but you need to go into it with eyes wide open. Also you want some good good paper maps as well as your own GPS (with a european map card) that you are familiar with. I found out the hard way that on secondary roads in Italy getting lost is easier done than said. I wish you the best.

Posted by
15428 posts

Get 3 small economy cars for maximum comfort and flexibility. They will be manual transmission, therefore make sure drivers know how to drive a stick. You might be able to get by with 2 vehicles for all 9, but it's going to be cramped unless you severely restrict luggage and you rent two large vehicles (at least midsize).
Chances are that 3 economy cars won't cost much more than 2 midsize/large cars.

Posted by
11613 posts

Since you sell IDPs, perhaps this is not the proper forum to seek "expertise" (quotation marks yours).

Posted by
33133 posts

Sharon, when you say "We sell international drivers permits", do you mean that you work for the Mass. AAA? I think they are the only organization allowed to sell them in MA. If that is so, you have access to all the information they provide you for sales?

Posted by
403 posts

A little bit different angle here: I just returned from Italy last month, where I rented a Mercedes 8-passenger van. Yes, it held 9 people (3 in the front seat!) And yes, I was able to rent that with my regular US driver's license + IDP. It had quite a bit of luggage space in the back--enough for one suitcase per person. If everyone brings a roll aboard, it's doable. I had no trouble driving it all over Tuscany. I had a great navigator and about 6 backseat drivers, which was actually great. Whenever we hit a tricky spot, 2 or 3 people would hop out and help me park it, or whatever. So what you ask IS doable. You do not need a commercial permit to rent an 8 passenger van, but that was the largest one I was allowed to rent. That said, I'm not sure there would be room for the wheelchair, so that may be the thing that kicks you over to a second vehicle.

Posted by
33133 posts

Angela, How did you manage to fit one extra person into the front seat? Did somebody travel without a seat and without a seatbelt? If so, that is an extremely dangerous thing to do!! I've been to too many accidents where somebody wasn't restrained.

Posted by
2829 posts

Bear in mind auto rental agencies are not law enforcement representatives. Just because they will let you rent a car, it doesn't mean you are legally vetted to drive a car/van/truck. Should the police stop, an accident happen or some damage happen to the car, police, insurers, other driver and/or rental agency can come full force on the unlicensed driver.

Posted by
32244 posts

@Angela, Just because you were "able to rent that with my regular US driver's license + IDP" doesn't mean it was legal. An I.D.P. is only a translation of your home D.L. and doesn't confer any extra privileges that you don't have on your regular license. As Nigel mentioned, had you been stopped by Police or involved in any kind of Incidente Stradale, you could have been in a world of trouble! If your home D.L. legally allows carrying that many passengers, then you were operating within the terms of your license (although carrying nine people in an eight passenger van is questionable). However it's important to clarify that licensing is slightly different in each jurisdiction, so what you're allowed to do in your home area may not apply to others, as the terms of their license may be different. I have a commercial license which allows carrying up to 10 passengers, so that number of passengers would have been legal under the terms of my license. Cheers!

Posted by
403 posts

For the record, the Merc van had 3 full size, seatbelted seats in the front row (bench style). Yes, sometimes European cars are different. I used to be an EMT! We rented 2 of these vans through the regular Avis website. We didn't do anything weird or unusual to get them. They are most certainly available for rent without a commercial license. At the Florence airport, there was a whole row of them being rented by "regular" drivers just like us. The van itself was about the size of a large, older minivan in the US, so it really wasn't commercial sized. In fact, my family of 4 has been given 8 and 9 passenger vans for other European rentals, when we reserved a "people mover" or something similar. You never know what you're going to get in those cases.

Posted by
403 posts

Oh, and I wrote "my regular US driver's license + IDP" to indicate that the rental agent asked for both because I thought that might be helpful, not to imply that the IDP concurred any sort of special benefits.

Posted by
265 posts

Usually, the largest car you can rent in Europe is a 9 passenger van (9 seats including the driver). Anything bigger is consideret a bus and requires a bus license. A 9 passenger van often has 3 seat rows with 3 seats in each row. There is usually not much luggage space when all 9 seats are in use. Of course all seat have seatbelts.

Posted by
12172 posts

I've traveled with five (two adults and three kids) and rented a seven passenger car. The oldest four had one carry-on each and the youngest had only a school daypack - still the car was just big enough for us. If we were larger, or had more luggage, it would have been cramped. The question about driving a 12 passenger has been answered; only with a special bus driver license. You can either rent vans or cars but don't forget to plan extra room for luggage. It's easy to assume something that holds nine passengers also includes room for their luggage, but that's not the case (think of the "and" versus "or" TV commercials). Also err on the side of picking up extra IDP's from AAA before you go. If you get to Italy and they don't have what you requested (it is Italy after all), be ready to substitute more, smaller cars that need more drivers. I personally always ask for a manual-transmission diesel when driving in Europe. It's not impossible to find automatics, just not a given like it's become in the U.S.