Rent a Car in Europe Made Easy – Beginners Guide

rent a car in europe - cafesandvoyages

You landed on this page because you’re looking to rent a car for your next travel adventure? Great! Traveling by car is one of the most awesome things, even if it doesn’t seem so at the very beginning when you need to book one. I have prepared for you a short guide on “Rent a Car in Europe” and everything to watch out for.

The first time I rented a car was for my trip to the Spanish island of Tenerife. I was clueless as I had never before rented a car on my own. There were so many car providers and so many things to look out for that at a certain point I wished I had chosen another destination with more public transport. 

Today I feel glad I did not. The procedure to rent a car is way easier than it seems at the beginning, you just need to do a little research. My goal here is to save you time and spare you the research part. Here is all you need to know about renting a car in Europe.

Let’s start with the basics.

Note: this post includes affiliate links. I gain a small commission from the provider each time you click the link and book a service through it. That comes at no extra cost to you. Every little commission helps me run this blog and provide better content for you.

What documents do I need to rent a car in Europe?

To rent a car in Europe, you will need:

  • A Valid international driving license
  • A Credit or debit card
  • Your ID or passport

Even if you do the booking online, make sure to bring the three documents above with you as you will need to show them at the car takeover. There is nothing worse than coming to a rental agency at the airport only to realize you forgot your driver’s license!

Where can I rent a car in Europe online?

These are the three best websites to book cars in Europe. Make sure to check all three as the same provider for the same car sometimes charges different prices on different sites.   

I used for my trip to Tenerife, purely as I am a member and therefore entitled to a 10% Genius discount. To get your discount, read this blog post on how Booking works and how to book through it (it’s also useful if you want to book hotels).

Which rental car provider is the best?

Which rental car provider you will choose will mostly depend on your travel destination.

Some of the most famous rental car providers are:

  • Europcar
  • Hertz
  • Avis
  • Enterprise
  • Goldcar
  • Topcar – I booked with them based on best price-review ratio
  • Sixth

TIP: I recommend having a look at Google reviews before choosing a rental car provider. You can quickly see which car providers provide the best service and where clients experience issues. 

Note that each of the providers has several car options – from small to medium and large vehicles. I always opt for a smaller car. If the provider on the day can not guarantee a car of your size they will upgrade you to a larger vehicle for free. For instance, in Tenerife, we received a medium-sized Mitsubishi instead of a small Fiat 500.

What to pay attention to when renting a car?

I prepared the list of common terminology you will see on rental car websites and what to be careful about regarding each.

1. Deposit

Your rental car provider might request to place a fully refundable deposit. You will likely need to leave the deposit at pick up so make sure your credit or debit card has enough funds. Deposits usually stars at 500eur and can go up to 1000eur or higher.

TIP: To ensure your deposit is refunded in full, always take detailed pictures of your car’s interior and exterior at the car pick-up. Make sure any noticeable damages are well visible on photos and each photo has a time stamp. 

rent a car in europe - cafesandvoyages – an example of a deposit for a small car in Milan Malpensa Airport

2. Damage excess

Similar to the deposit, some rental car agencies have a damage excess of a certain amount. The excess is the largest amount charged in case the car’s bodywork gets damaged. This doesn’t cover certain car parts, for which you will need to take separate insurance.

In easy words, if the damage excess in your rental is 1000eur, you will pay a maximum of 1000eur if you damage the car (even if the damage was for 2000eur). Thus it is ideal to have a 0 damage access.

You do not need to pay this amount anywhere, it is just a piece of information to keep in mind.

3. Insurance

Car insurance is an amount, paid separately from the rental car fee. I strongly recommend taking it as your car will be fully insured against all damages – including windows, wheels, or the car’s interior, that are not covered under damage excess.

4. Are you a young driver?

In case you are considered a young driver in the country you want to rent a car you might need to pay a little deposit extra. Young drivers are usually drivers under 25.

5. Payment method

Pay attention here. Rental car agencies accept credit, debit, or both types of cards when renting a car. Always check which type of card is accepted (you can not book a car with a debit card if the agency accepts credit cards only and vice versa). Failure to present the correct card will make the agency turn down your rental at the counter. The card also needs to be in the name of the driver.

You are almost there!

Voila! Now you know how to rent a car in Europe and what to look out for when renting a car. Were my tips helpful? Is there anything else you would add? Let me know in the comments and bon voyage on your next car adventure!


Hi, it's Neja

I am an expat from Slovenia,
 living in Milan since 2021 and writing a travel blog for all of you who are curious about life in Italy or traveling in Europe.

Follow me on my journey and learn everything about Italy and the European destinations.

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