When we travel abroad, we usually rent a car due to the fact that we have small children. Actually, many years back we've decided that this is the best way for our family to move from one point to another in our trips abroad. During the years we have accumulated a lot of experience and insights about renting a car during vacations:
- Where to look for when seeking for renting a car?
When we need to rent a car during vacation, I prefer using sites which supply offers from multiple rentals cars agencies in the country like https://www.rentalcars.com (from booking.com) since they allow you to compare prices while allowing you to refine the search result in order to fit your needs. When you use these sites, you should pay attention to:
- the reviews from previous customers that use the car rental company.
- having a free cancellations option for the deal.
- The fact that the price may change daily depending on hot season and remaining cars in stock - Shortly, try to order the car in advance and don't wait for last-minute since the price will go up.
2. Which car to choose?
Well, let put aside the comfort of the car and focused first on the size we'll need – our choice depends on the number of passenger and number of suitcases you are planning to take. In addition, we need to take into consideration if there are any additional equipment which we might need (like strollers).
Now, if we renting a car in Europe, we must take into account that in many European countries, manual vehicles will be much more common than automatic ones. So those who want an automatic vehicle often have to make the reservation in advance and usually pay more for the rent, in sometimes it might be significantly higher. Secondly, how many doors the car has, if the car has a built-in multimedia system, air condition and ext.
Another detail we need to consider is selecting between diesel or gasoline. Before choosing the car, you need to check what fuel is needed to refuel it. The choice is usually between gasoline engines and diesel engines (I guess it will soon change to Hybrid and Electric cars in the coming years), when the diesel vehicles are more common in Europe and considered to be more economical. Even if the actual diesel price is higher than the gasoline fuel, actual fuel consumption is significantly lower in diesel vehicles.
In general, my recommendation is ordering a vehicle that is one category above what you custom to drive at home, for families with kids the minimum category should be D and for the ultimate comfort I suggest to order an estate car.
Below are the different types of cars class for rent:
- Economy ,type A&B: small cars ( even Mini cars in type a) like Fiat 500, Fiat Panda, Citroen C1- These care have space for 2 small suitcase max, so these kind of cars are not suitable for families.
- Type C-E: Medium, large and estate cars which are more suitable for families
- Type F-H: Premium, luxury vehicles
- Type I-L: Minivans
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3. Do I need to add anything else for the rental car?
The rental agencies usually offer to add extras for an additional charge:
- Additional driver: This is important for insurance reasons. If you are planning a very long drives, you may consider to split the driving between more than one driver - The option of adding an additional driver to the rental agreement should be requested in the pick-up, in order to make sure that the car will be insured in a case of accident.
- Insurance: I’m no expert in this field and I always try to walk on the safe side so I add most of the additional insurances for the car.
- Reimbursement Insurance: The car comes with standard damage cover (CDW) with an excess of specific amount and Theft Protection (TP) with an excess of specific amount. If the bodywork is damaged or the car is stolen, the car rental company could charge you up to the excess amount - but with the Full Protection the insurance company will refund you the money. Sometimes there is a better option of canceling a deductible which in this case you won’t be needed to pay at all in the case of damaging the car.
- Windows, mirrors, wheels & tyres insurance: Full Protection covers every exterior and mechanical part of your car, from wheels and windows to engine.
- GPS Navigator: We usually use the navigation app “Waze” or Google map (both owned by Google) so all you need is an internet package (you can buy in each country a Sim card in the cellular company, with will include an Internet pre pay plan) in your cellular phone in order to rent the a GPS navigator.
- Child car seat: In this case I recommend to bring the car seat from home (usually not being charged by the airline companies) or even to buy a cheap car seat (it will be cheaper than renting one). Another option I recently tried is using the Mifold (they now releasing the Hifold which seems to be interesting but I didn’t try it yet)
- Chains for snow: This is important addition to add when you are planning to travel to a snowy country.
- Wi-Fi router: If you have an internet cellular package or your own router. I believe that this addition is not needed (also due to the fact that today free WI-FI is available in most public areas)
4. To what should I pay attention in the car’s rental agreement?
- Driver‘s age: There are companies that demand a minimum age for drivers (usually 24), while other may request certain seniority on the road, as precondition for car rental. So in case a young or a new drivers (age is defined by the insurance company) will want to rent a car - it will usually be involved in a significant increase in the rental price.
- Deposit: You will need to leave a deposit amount of money using a credit card (Credit card should be owned by the driver).
- Driving license: you’ll need to show the driver driving license and in some cases an international driver license (please check which driving license is needed per destination). Check this link for details country regulation per destination
- At what date & time we're required to return the car: The rental agreement includes a reference to the exact time the vehicle was taken, and the time it is required to be return. Any delay in the returning time can cause fines, which in some companies a delay of more than half an hour, will be fine by additional rental day cost.
- How far can I drive? Most of the rental agreements do not limit the driver in the number of kilometers we can drive with the rented vehicle, but there are agreements that do. It is recommended to see the agreement and ask the rental company whether there is a certain limit of miles, which may require you to prepare your trip differently.
- Crossing from country to country: if you plan to travel with a vehicle outside the country where the vehicle has been rented (or cross border to other islands in the same country) you must notify the rental agency prior to vehicle collection. Restrictions may apply on certain countries as well as price additional cost for border crossing fees.
Since our first thought we all might think, is not sharing this info in order to reduce cost – But in this case the insurance won’t cover you, and this alone isn’t worth the risk.
- Toll roads: While driving abroad, you are likely to pass toll roads, which by definition are faster. But on the other hand, they require a payment (sometimes not insignificant). In some countries you can buy a special sticker that allows you to travel on these roads, when someone traveling without a valid sticker is expected to receive heavy fines. So, it’s a good option to purchase that sticker from the rental agency for the entire rental period (you can also purchase it at gas stations). If you don’t want to use the tool roads you can define it in the GPS navigator to guide throw only via toll-free routes.
- Fuel tank: In most of the car rental agreements you mostly have to return the car to the rental company with a full tank of fuel. If you won’t get it with a full tank, you’ll be most likely be paying a large fine (full tank cost). So, it’s recommended to fill the fuel tank as close as possible to the vehicle's return point (like in the way to the airport) in order to prevent its emptying until it reaches the return point.
- Traffic/Parking tickets: The Car’s rental companies charge additional fee in order to transfer you the Traffic/Parking tickets; make sure that you pay those tickets because it can cause you problems in the future.
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5. To what should we pay attention during pick-up time?
- Vehicle‘s Damages: it is important to examine the car from all directions with the rental company’s representative in order to look for any damages that if we won't declare during the pick-up, the company may require us to pay for them later. Few examples may include: scratches, hits, broken mirrors, and so on. make sure that the representative signs all the damage on the vehicle. Additional precaution action is to photograph any damage from all angles. From outside and inside. Including things that may seem to you insignificant “(like fuel gauge, lighter and ext.). So, you'll be covered in case the car rental company will accuse you for any of those damages.
- Emergency tire: It's important to check that the vehicle include a spare wheel, and all the accessories needed to replace it. In case they aren't, check if they can be added to the vehicle.
- Vehicle’s papers: The rental car agency’s representative should explain you what you need to do in case of emergency and should hand you the relevant documents that you will need to keep in the car (car documents, insurance, emergency numbers).
6. Tips for using the rental vehicle:
- In order to reduce the chance of stealing things from the car always put the suitcases and bags in the trunk.
- Put a daily local newspaper near the car windshield so the thieves won’t recognize the car as a” tourist car”.
- Always prefer to park the car in closed and secure parking lots.
- Do not park it in areas that are prone to trouble: like in areas where the number of thefts is known to be high.
- Use this Link in order to learn the traffic rules of the country, the traffic directions, the road’s main signs, the maximum speed allowed and ext.
7. What to do when returning the car?
Return the car to the returning point - Always check that you parked in the company’s specific parking lot. Return the car at the time that was set in the rental agreement, with a full Fuel tank and make sure you didn’t leave anything in the car. Don’t forget also to empty the car from the garbage.
It is important to check the car from all direction in order to see if there aren’t any new damages and to photograph the car from all directions (especially if you will return the car at times that the agency is close). If you can, do the check with the car rental agency’s representative.
Have a safe drive!