These two rental car suppliers, part of the Thrifty-Dollar Automotive Group, sometimes offer low Europe rental car rates at their websites. Rental car shoppers need to be forewarned about two issues they may encounter with these companies in Europe.

First, each has only handful of offices in the European countries in which they operate. For example, Thrifty's France locations are limited to five cities: Paris, Marseille, Montpellier, Nice and Toulon. In Germany it's eight major cities. The renter that needs to exchange vehicles due to a mechanical problem during the rental—engine warning lights, air conditioning failure, radio/CD player won't work, etc.—will have to take her/his car to a location that could be a hundreds of miles away. The only other option is to have the vehicle repaired by a dealer, a process that could take hours or even days. Exchanging rental cars is much less of a problem with major suppliers such as Europcar and Avis, each of whom has hundreds of offices in both countries.

The major difficulty for many renters, however, is Thrifty/Dollar's policy regarding the optional CDW (collision damage waiver) and theft insurance. Except for Ireland and Italy, the major rental companies such as Hertz, Avis, Europcar, Sixt, National, Budget, all allow customers to decline this insurance if they pay with a credit card—American Express, Visa, MasterCard, Diner's Club—that offers the coverage.

As many of their customers have been dismayed to discover at Thrifty/Dollar rental counters, the companies accept only one credit card for CDW and theft insurance (Thrifty's term for collision coverage is LDW or Loss Damage Waiver). In addition, the renter must present written proof from the credit card company that the card provides the necessary insurance coverage. Here is a cut-and-paste from the Thrifty website regarding Germany rentals:

To decline LDW, customer must have US issued Gold/Platinum MasterCard or Canadian issued Gold/Platinum Visa Card and provide WRITTEN PROOF issued BY CREDIT CARD INSURANCE COMPANY that the card has FULL COVERAGE for GERMANY or WORLDWIDE at time of rental. Only US issued Gold/Platinum MasterCard or Canadian issued Gold/Platinum Visa can be used to waive LDW coverage.

Many North Americans who book online, and fail to read Thrifty's small-print Terms & Conditions, find themselves at a Thrifty rental counter without the proper credit card and/or any written proof of insurance. At that point their only option is to walk away from the rental or purchase Thrifty's LDW and theft protection (about €18 per day for a compact car) with a deductible of from €1200-€2200 (customers can lower the deductible for another €5 per day).

And those who purchase insurance from Thrifty still have hurdles to surmount if their rental car is damaged. More from Thrifty's website:

In the event of an accident, any damage or theft, whatever the cause or who is to blame (even if the car was unattended), the driver must obtain the relevant report from the German police. Failure to provide a correctly completed police report to the rental agent on return of the vehicle will void the Loss Damage Waiver (LDW). The driver will then be liable for the total cost of the damage up to and including the total cost of the vehicle. Location does NOT accept insurances purchased on third party websites.

While Thrifty/Dollar often have low rates in Europe, their relatively few European locations and their policy toward credit card insurance places them in the category of rental companies the customer should approach with care and with eyes wide open.

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