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How to get the best deal on car rentals in Europe.

One of the biggest dilemmas for anyone is how to get around while in Europe. There is an extensive train system, which even with a Europass can be expensive, and you have to travel from main hub to main hub. This works well for many travelers, however with our style of slow travel we prefer to get away from these main hubs.

You may, like us have decided that you want to get off the beaten track and explore the countryside, seeking out quaint villages, vibrant country markets and secluded gîtes and pensiones to stay in. Doing that by train and bus would not be easy. That is why we started looking at ways of having a vehicle, there are three options, rent, buy or lease!

After a little research, it was quite clear that renting a vehicle in Europe is hellishly expensive, especially as many countries require that you take the full comprehensive insurance package. Having looked at some of the quotes we wondered if we were in fact renting as we could have bought a car for less.

There are also limitations on where you can drive your vehicle, if you want to visit Greece, Croatia or the eastern countries there are additional premiums. Both Greece and Croatia were on our wish list, so strike one to renting.

Next, we considered shipping our convertible to Europe, visions of driving with amongst sunshine flooded mountain vistas and snaking along winding roads through acres of grapevines, came crashing down when we realized that the expense to ship it would not be the end of the story. The dreaded red tape was a serpentine mess.  “How much will it cost to insure the vehicle, pay duties and get it checked for roadworthiness?” were questions which remain unanswered, despite multiple conversations with shipping companies, brokers and agents.

Why don’t we buy a car there? Australians and New Zealanders are very fond of doing this, there are large car auctions in many of the larger centers. There a few things to consider though, you still have to get insurance and what happens at the end of your trip? How easy is to sell your vehicle and will you be able to sell it?

Realistically we had only one option, a short-term lease! Two of the major manufacturers in France Renault and Citroen have a short-term lease or buy back program!

We arranged our lease with this company http://www.europebycarblog.com/ our dealings with Billy–who was helpful, informative and flexible—went extremely well. This service is available to North Americans only. Please note that they prefer that bookings be made a minimum of 45 days in advance.

For a lot less money than renting a car, we got a brand new Citroen C3, comprehensive coverage, 24-hour roadside assistance and the flexibility to take it to all those “forbidden” countries.  After our 3-month contract and 12,000 km we returned the vehicle as arranged, with nothing owing, despite a slight crack in a fender.

How is this possible? Brand new vehicles in France are subject to a 20% tax, by leasing it out to visitors for a minimum of 17 days, the companies can then sell these cars as used vehicles and avoid this hefty purchase deterrent.

We found this Reids Guides  article very useful when running rental versus leasing comparisons.




About the author: Michael was born under a wanderin’ star. He is an Engineer who became an explorer, a photography bug, and hack traveller writer with the propensity to be snarky. “Retired” in 2012 at the age of 44, he and his wife Yvonne travel and house sit around the globe on a full time basis. Michael’s goal is to share the process of escaping the rat race, exploring the globe, and some of the experiences along the way.

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