1. Is rental car damage and theft insurance included in the quoted price?
Liability insurance in many millions of euros is included in the price of virtually every car rented in Europe. It covers damage to property and persons outside the rental car. Thus, what's most important to the renter is damage to the rental car itself: CDW (collision damage waiver) and theft. If it is included, what is the deductible or excess, the amount you must pay if there is damage or the car is stolen? Also, does the coverage include such items as glass, side mirrors, wheels. undercarriage, roof, interior? For zero-deductible insurance that covers all these items you will probably want to rely on a credit card. If so, you need to know your card’s rules. It may not cover certain cars, will set a deadline for claims, and will require all rental charges be paid with the card. Caution: some European rental locations will accept only specific credit cards for insurance coverage. The same is true of third-party CDW/theft insurance policies sold by such companies as Rentalcover.com and Travel Guard. Yes, you can purchase this coverage, but will the rental company accept it at the time of rental? You probably won't find out until you are standing at the rental counter.
2. What is the actual rental car category?
When quoting prices, some online sellers don’t use the industry SIPP codes (CDMR, IDMR, SDMR, FDMR, LDAR) etc., in denoting compact, standard, intermediate, fullsize and luxury categories. They only provide a make and model with non-specific labels such as midsize, family-size, staton wagon, and SUV. Their purpose is to be vague, thus giving rental companies maximum flexibility—more cars to choose from in situations when they have more customers than cars. Here’s how it works. The word “midsize” in the car rental industry has no more meaning than the words medium or large. If you seek an intermediate car the size of a Honda Accord or VW Passat, and assume you’ll get an equivalent size car when you book a “midsize,” you may be disappointed. You could be handed the keys to a smaller, four-door compact category such as a Ford Focus, VW Golf, or Audi A3. Who’s to argue these are not “midsize” cars?
Complicating this, of course, is the fact that some companies, in some countries, put compact cars (VW Golf, Audi A3) in the IDMR (intermediate sedan manual transmission) and intermediate cars (Mercedes C-Class, Audi A4) in the fullsize category (FDMR or FDAR if automatic). Tip: The example car in the quote is representative of the size car you may be given. If a VW Golf is quoted in intermediate category, and you have a party of four, it’s time to move up to the standard category, SDMR or SDAR, or to an intermediate wagon, IWMR or IWAR.
3. Prepay or pay in Europe?
If you pay at the rental counter you will be charged in euros and if that’s not your home currency you won’t know the actual price until your card is charged. Also, most credit cards charge a foreign transaction fee of around three-percent. And finally, rental companies won’t admit it but pre-paid rentals are less likely to have problems at the rental counter. Let’s say the rental company has just two compact automatic cars left and two customers scheduled to pick them up in the next hour. Let’s further say a customer with no reservation comes to the rental desk with a credit card and wants to rent a compact automatic. You can bet the walk-up customer with no reservation is going to get one of those two cars. The remainng car will be saved for the customer who has prepaid and the rental company will try to figure something out if and when the non-prepay customer arrives.
4. What will it cost to cancel?
Can you change the booking? Most online prepay rates carry cancel fees. The range is from about $75 if canceled within 48 hours of pickup to an amount equal to the cost of three days rental if canceled more than seven days after the date of booking. Some companies, Sixt for example, charge as much as €20 to modify a booking. Gemut.com customers can change a booking up to three times at no charge and almost always cancel for a full refund right up to the time of rental.
5. Are there mandatory fees not included in the quoted price?
Check for premium station fees (airport or rail station), cross border fees, environmental fees, one-way fees, credit card processing fees, young driver fees, cancel fees, the cost of insurance to cover a deductible, and others. You may have to dig deep into the seller’s website to discover the cost of these extra charges. Of course there are numerous optional fees such as additional drivers, GPS, child seats, ski racks, diesel engine, etc.
6. What are the restrictions on driving the car out of the country of rental?
Don’t assume you can drive all over Europe. If you want to visit other countries there may be additional fees, and travel to some countries—especially Eastern European countries—will not be allowed. There may also be restrictions on where certain makes and models can be driven. Here again, you may have to click several not very prominent links to obtain this information.
7. Will a shuttle bus ride be required to pick up the rental car?
If you are booking a car at a major European airport with a major supplier — Avis, Europcar, Hertz, Sixt, and a few others — it’s very likely you will be able to walk to your rental car. However, this is not true of every airport or every rental car supplier.
Get a written car rental quote or call 800-521-6722.