Renting a Car in Europe? There's a Better Way.

Posted by   Annette on    May 16, 2018

There's no way around it, y'all. Trains are charming and urban public transportation is more useful than the American standard, but to enjoy it to the fullest, long-term travel in Europe pretty much requires a car.

Over the years I've been doing the LTT thing on the continent, I've tried every method in the book. I've rented from big corporations; I've rented from cash-only mom-and-pops; I even tried buying something once. (Ranks right up there with the worst decisions of my life, that one.) As it turns out--if your passport isn't EU--the best way to rent a car in Europe is to lease a car in Europe. Weird, huh?

As it turns out, flying into France and working with a leasing agency is the highest-value method of getting it done. Leasing kinda sounds like a big, serious, expensive undertaking, but it's actually cost-effective, even if you're spending just a handful of weeks in Euro.

That said: It's not really a reasonable feat to pull off solo. You'll need to find a facilitator. The company that I recommend is the one I work with: IdeaMerge, which specializes in Citroën and brokers tax-free short-term (definition: 21-to-360-day) car leases on a "purchase-repurchase" program (a VAT-avoidance racket that the government of France has authorized since the 1950's). Here's what their deal looks like:

  • You get a car that just rolled out of the friction' factory.
  • You can fly into France, Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Portugal or England to pick up your car, but the rates are best if you start in Geneva.
  • The cars come with unlimited kilometers. Vroom.
  • The cars come insured. You get third-party liability and comprehensive fire, theft and collision insurance with zero deductible, effective in 40 European countries. Personal accident insurance, too.
  • You get 24/7 Citroën road-side assistance, breakdown cover and factory warranty.
  • There are no additional-driver fees applied.
  • The minimum age is 18, and there's no maximum age limit. Careful, kids. Careful, grandpa.

I've had a baby-smooth experience with IdeaMerge whenever I've used them. The paperwork is a little lengthier and you need to have your dates set well ahead-of-time, but leasing really doesn't feel different than the car-rental experience in any meaningful way. (Contrast that with the three months of hair-pulling and teeth-gnashing I did over an attempted car purchase in Switzerland for a car I was never able to so much as drive. Uggggh.)

Vroom! Problem solved, n'est-ce pas?

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photo credit: marcoverch Eine ländliche Waldstraße in den Südvogesen aus der Vogelperspektive via photopin (license)