Issues to consider before booking a car on the Web with an overseas company

VW Passat
Book with Caution

In the last few years a number of non-US-based, European car rental websites have come online. For the most part, they are headquartered in the U.K., Ireland, South Africa and New Zealand. All target the U.S. market and sometimes their prices are quite attractive. However, before you provide a credit card online for a car rental in Europe be sure you're aware of the following.

Currency Guarantee

"Off shore" online quotes are invariably in euros or pounds sterling, with an accompanying estimate of what the US dollar amount will be. Some sites use conversion rates that make their dollar prices look very attractive. However, since your booking will be guaranteed in a foreign currency, you won't know the price in dollars until your card is actually charged. Thus it is difficult to determine what your final cost will be. The exchange rate used with the quote at the website, is often not the one used when your card is charged.

Virtually all rentals made through are guaranteed in U.S. dollars and, once booked, the quoted rate locks-in and does not change regardless of currency fluctuation. And remember, if you pay for your car in Euros overseas you are very likely be assessed a two to three-percent foreign transaction charge by your credit card company.

Cancellations & Changes

Typically, there is a charge to change or cancel bookings made through "off shore" companies. In addition, you usually will not be given a refund for any unused portion of a rental - for example, if you return the car a few days early. These change and cancellation fees range from about $10 to the full amount of the rental. Read the site's "terms and conditions".

Almost all bookings made via can be changed or canceled at any time for any reason without charge or penalty. As long as the cancellation is made prior to the time of rental all money is refunded.


All European rental companies are required by law to provide very high third-party liability insurance. In other words, you are covered for damage to property and persons outside your vehicle. But what you are responsible for is the car you rented. It is standard procedure for off-shore companies to offer insurance for collision (CDW) and theft as part of their basic price, not as a option. Sounds great but there's a catch. The "included" CDW and theft insurance almost always carries a substantial deductible, usually in the $1,000 to $2000 range and you do not have the option of declining this coverage and relying on the insurance coverage provided by your credit card. (Avoiding Unwanted CDW Charges on European Car Rentals.)

With you can use your credit card for CDW and theft and there is no deductible. You are simply reimbursed the full amount of any damage or loss. Of course, be sure your credit card offers CDW and theft coverage on the car you plan to rent.

What if Something Goes Wrong

It would be nice if all the hundreds of thousands of North Americans who rent cars in Europe each year had a smooth-as-silk experience. Unfortunately, that isn't the case. Hertz, Avis, Sixt, Europcar, National and Budget - the companies who supply 95% of the rental cars in Europe - employ human beings. And, given the fierce competition for your rental car business, rental car company jobs are not high paying ones. While 99% of European car rental employees are eager to serve, mistakes are made. Even with computers, reservations sometimes get lost and billing errors are all too frequent.

All of which raises the question, how do you contact and deal with an overseas company when:

You are at the rental car counter and are told they don't have the kind of car you booked or they can't find your reservation? You return to the U.S. and you find an unexplained charge on your credit card?

When you book with, you are provided a toll-free-from-Europe phone number. It is staffed day and night back in the U.S. by personnel trained specifically by Auto Europe to assist customers having trouble at the rental counter. They can and will go over the head of rental counter personnel. Should you have a breakdown (doesn't happen often but it does happen) you may have to deal with a rental company that is far from your location and you may have to wait days - not hours - to get a replacement car. Our major suppliers, Avis, Hertz, Europcar, and Sixt, have hundreds of offices in almost every corner of Europe.

Adding It All Up

So, while it might seem that you're getting a low rental car rate from an off-shore website, any of the following occurrences could not only be inconvenient but wind up costing you money you didn't plan to spend:

  • If you get a scratch on your car
  • If the dollar continues to drop
  • If you need to change your rental
  • If you need to cancel your rental
  • If you are overcharged on your credit card
  • If there is a mix-up in your reservation
  • If you return the car a day or more early

Final Note: books all its European rental car and lease customers with Auto Europe, which, in most instances, provides special rates not offered by them to the general public.

Book your rental car in Europe with Gemütlichkeit's travel department and get the best rates, personalized, knowledgeable service and our unique at-the-rental-counter safety net that ensures our customers get what they are promised. We book with all the major companies in more than 35 countries. If you have questions about rentals in Europe, or simply prefer to deal in-person, phone us at 800-521-6722.