For years I’ve been skeptic about renting a car. What do you need? How to do it? Which companies are fine and which should I avoid? How to find the best prices? What kind of insurance to buy? How to inspect the car at the beginning and at the end? Just like you, I had a tone of questions. Then, Iceland came. How to visit Iceland without renting a car? Expensive day trips done in a hurry, only on short distances using Reykjavik as a base. Not the best idea, I thought. That was the moment when I started to do my homework. Since then, we have rented cars in Iceland, Jordan, Germany, Belgium, and other countries. We even had a small incident, even if we never knew how it exactly happened. The insurance covered the costs. All’s well that ends well.
What is needed for renting a car?
First of all, depending on your destination, make sure you have the type of card needed. In Iceland, Jordan and a couple of Italian islands, you can’t rent a car without a credit card under no circumstances. This is different from a debit card, the one you get your salary on. Some countries, like Germany, accept also this one, but it is mandatory for it to be embossed. Investigate this a little before renting a car for your trip. Or make a credit card if you want to be sure.
You will need an ID and a driving license and the driver has to have at least one year of experience. Sometimes there are even restrictions on the driver’s age. Read carefully the conditions for your car, as they differ depending on the company and rental location.
Where are you allowed to drive the car? Do you need to pay extra if you plan to take the car to another country? What is the insurance excess? What is included in the basic insurance? Is the out of hour fee included or not? Is there a mileage limit? Or maybe a fee for an underage driver? What is the fuel policy (full to full/empty to empty/full to empty)? Do you need any additional extras? I know it sounds like a lot to read, but it is usually a 10-15 minutes read that will save you a lot of troubles. Read the information carefully before renting a car.
What type of car do you need?
Think about what you want to do at the destination. Do you need a 4×4? How many people are you? Does the car need to be big or small? Do you have a baby? This will help you filter the cars retrieved and make the final decision easier and less time-consuming.
Where to find the perfect car?
I advise you to rent the car online. The prices are lower and you have all the time you need to read carefully and decide what car fits your needs. There are a lot of sites. I’ve scanned them several times and until now, I’ve always ended up using cars-scanner. They always seemed to have the best prices for what I wanted and you can also use this voucher that will get you a discount.
Not on any car, not 70%, but if you make one search using the voucher and one without it, you will see the difference. This is not an affiliate link, nobody paid me to recommend this site for renting a car. It is just a lesson I’ve learned. Check the prices in advance. The sooner you rent, the less you will pay. Usually, in case you cancel up to 24 hours in advance, you will get your money back. But again, do read the rental conditions carefully.
Tips for a better rate per day
It is usually better to rent the car for two days than one. When planning our trip around Hanover, I was surprised to discover that the price difference was of only 1.5 euro between one and two days. Also, contrary to what you will read on other blogs, it is usually better to rent the car from the airport. There are usually no out of hour fees and when I simulated renting the car from the city center, even during working hours, the prices were higher. I don’t even want to bring in the argument that it is far more comfortable to land, grab the car, do your job, and return it before you fly back home. For the examples below, 1 euro=4.67 lei (at the moment of writing this article).
I’ve simulated the same things for Luxembourg, Bruxelles and Nuremberg and every time, renting a car from the airport was cheaper. The difference in cost between two days and one day is almost nothing. The cost of the insurance per day decreases if you rent for more days.
Basic and Additional Insurance!!!
When picking up your car, the rental agent will ask you: ‘Would you like to buy additional insurance from us?’ And that is the most expensive insurance you can get. You definitely want a full insurance. You never know what might happen. And I’m not talking about the basic one included in the price. This one has an excess of around 1000 euro that you will have to pay yourself. Usually, the damages are minor and you will pay for the entire repair in the end.
This is where the additional insurance comes in. The additional insurance per day sold by rental company, not the third party, is really high. (For example, Sixt is the rental company, while cars-scanner is the third party). It has the advantage that most of the times you don’t have to pay for the damage at all and the car inspection is not needed anymore (but pay attention as some excess waivers still don’t cover everything. some of them just lower the excess to a lower sum, like 300 euro).
Cheaper options for additional insurance
What I did until two months ago was to use the Axa insurance that cars-scanner recommends. We also had to claim damages for a scratch, that we’re not sure was there or not when we picked up the car. Being a third party insurance, the rental company will take the cost of the repairs. You don’t really have to worry about your cash in this case either, as you won’t pay for it when returning the car. It will be deducted from the credit card. After you send the required documents to them, the insurance company will give you the money back.
Axa was fast and gave us all the money back. If you don’t rent cars often, this is the insurance I recommend, simple, cheap and good. If you rent cars more often, you might want to get an annual insurance. This is our case right now as we rented 3 cars in a period of less than two months. I did not even know this kind of insurance existed until we needed it. We chose Icarhireinsurance as it has great reviews. There are several companies that sell this kind of insurances, but some are not available in all countries and some have bad reviews.
Inspecting the car
When picking up your car, make sure to inspect it with the staff and take pictures of any visible damages, this is extremely important. On our last trip, when inspecting the car we noticed a damage that was not on the papers. The staff added it before we drove away. Usually, if the damages are less than a coin, it does not matter, but this was a little larger than that. Do the same when you give it back. If there are damages at the end, take photos of them with your phone or camera for the insurance company. Don’t count on the renter. We did this for our incident in Jordan and practically begged the renter to send us the photo of the damage. Which he did not in the end. He said it had already been repaired (the next day, which I really did not believe, as the car had more serious and older damages than that scratch). Be cautious, take your own photos. We were lucky, the company did not ask for photos, only for the papers from the rental company, but it is better to have them and sleep tight.
Country specifics you should check
Before you drive off, take a look into the legislation of the country. Do they drive on the left or right side? How high is the allowed alcohol intake? You might be surprised, but there are a lot of countries that might allow this. Also, check for data, movies, information about the traffic in the country you are visiting. For example, I would never think about renting a car without a local driver in Sri Lanka. This is pure craziness. No European driver would ever make it out of Colombo with an unscratched car. In other countries, like Iceland, this is the most recommended means of transport. You can even watch a fun and short movie with instructions and everything you need to know. There you would have more chances to hit a sheep on the road, than a car or human being.
I hope this answers your answers regarding renting a car. If you have any other questions, just ask, maybe I can help.
I don’t drive, but I am the one doing all the paperwork and documentation and then just tell snippets of it to my boyfriend, while he is driving. He does not like to research our trips in any way, but he is a very good driver and just enjoys driving. He is as happy as a kid when he finds out that a car is waiting for us at the airport.