Car Leasing In Europe 101

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 Dealing with car rental agencies is never much fun.  If you've seen  Planes, Trains, and Automobiles , you know what I mean :)

Dealing with car rental agencies is never much fun.  If you've seen Planes, Trains, and Automobiles, you know what I mean :)

Are you a non-European planning an extended (2+ week) stay in Europe?  Want to have a car, so you can make the most out of your stay?  Do you hate dealing with car rental agencies trying to make you pay extra for every little thing?  Would you like to not go broke in the process?

If the answer to those questions is YES, then by all means read on!

Renault Eurodrive

While researching car rentals in Europe, we came across this great description of the Renault Eurodrive Buy Back Car Lease program.  There is no real point to restate what this article already says, so if you are interested in finding out more about the program , read the article, and come back here for more about our experience.  

Booking the Car

After reading this article, we contacted Renault and Peugeot (who offers a similar program), and quickly received quotes for three months.  Since Renault provided a better quote, we chose to go with them.  The total price for a brand new car for three months, with GPS, no deductible insurance, no mileage restrictions, no extra driver fees, and with picking it up in Paris and dropping it off in Madrid, was $2,950, all included.  Note: It was an extra $280 fee to return the car at a different location, included in the $2,950 price.  Compare that with the quote from any other rental company, and keep in mind the extra charges rental companies will find ways to tack on (taxes, insurance, gas, extra drivers, GPS, etc).

Travel Tip For Parents: If you need car seats for your young ones, don't get them through Renault.  The price they charge for car seats is obscene, about $375 per seat!  They don't rent the seats to you, they sell them, and for a large premium.  We opted to skip this option, and just went to the value store Auchan after picking up the car, where we purchased two new car seats at a fraction of the cost Renault would have charged.  We also considered buying the car seats through Amazon and shipping it to the rental center, which Renault assured us they were fine with, but we ended up not going this route as we didn't want to take the risk.

One of the cons the article lists is the amount of paperwork that needs to be completed.  It's true, there was a fair amount of paperwork that had to be completed and submitted in advance, but it was not anything out of the ordinary, just your typical paperwork.  If you are confused at any point in the process, a representative in your country (in our case, the US), will be glad to help answer your questions quickly and politely!

Travel Tip: Remember to read all the paperwork that the car company sends you.  For Renault, we had print out and take only one piece of paper which has the word "PAID" on it, along with a summary of the contract.  The company does not charge the full amount to your credit card until 2 weeks before the beginning of the lease contract, after which they generate the "PAID" paperwork.  If you are like us and will be traveling and on the road, with no access to a printer, then at any time earlier you can call the car company and ask them to charge your credit card and send you the paperwork . For us, this was a quick and easy phone call.

Choosing Your Car

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I had always wanted to learn how to drive a stick shift, but never really had a reason or opportunity for it.  This trip finally provided me with both.  You will pay considerably less if you get a manual transmission.  I only took one 90 minute lesson in the states before coming to Europe, and while the first 30 minutes of driving solo was "interesting", it was enough to get me going, and the rest I picked up on the way.  

Also, while deciding on the car model, you should probably opt for diesel.  We chose a model that takes regular unleaded fuel, and while the upfront cost was cheaper, the gas in Europe is very expensive.  Not only are diesel models more efficient, but the diesel fuel is generally cheaper.  In the long run, you'll most likely end up saving money with a diesel model.

Picking up the Car

 Pick up instructions provided by Renault

Pick up instructions provided by Renault

Renault provided us with very detailed documents describing both the pick up and drop off locations.  In addition to the address and phone numbers, it provided detailed maps and public transportation instructions.  This made it very easy for us to find the rental center.

One thing that impressed upon us the most when picking up the car was how simple a process it was.  Between the time we arrived at the pick up center and the time we left, perhaps 15 minutes had elapsed, and 10 of those minutes was just them pulling the car up and giving us a quick tutorial of the cars features.  The actual time at the desk just involved exchanging quick pleasantries and handing over our identification, it was completely unlike any experience I've had at a car rental agency.

The article warns about the car not having much gas when you pick it up, but ours had a half tank of gas, which was plenty to get us well on our way before we had to fill up.

To Lease or Not to Lease?

As of the time I am writing this article, we have had the car for half of our three months, and so far are very satisfied with the experience.  If you are staying in Europe for more than a few weeks (they say 17 days is the break-even point), seriously consider the short term lease program from either Renault or Peugeot.  It will likely be cheaper, and in our experience much more hassle free.

Do you have any experiences, good or bad, with renting a car in Europe?  Please share them in the comments!

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