You are planning your dream vacation. You have the hotels and flights booked for free (or nearly free!). But what do you do about rental cars? What are the best and worst rental car companies in Europe? Although Europe has excellent public transport and you will not need a car if you stay in cities, if you want to explore the countryside, from castles to hidden beaches, a rental car is the way to go.
Unfortunately, rental car companies can often hit you with unexpected costs. These can add hundreds of euros to your rental costs. But never fear! Iâve made the mistakes, done the research, and am here to guide you through the process. Read on to find the best and worst rental car companies in Europe. And next time you travel, you will easily be able to choose the best companies for price, availability and service.
Best and Worst Rental Car Companies in Europe
- 1 Factors for best and worst rental car companies
- 2 Types of rental car companies
- 3 Best Rental Car Companies
- 4 Location-Specific Best Rental Cars
- 5 Worst Rental Cars
- 6 More Rental Car Options
- 7 Summary of best and worst rental car companies in Europe
Factors for best and worst rental car companies
The rankings for these rental car companies combine five elements: price, hidden costs, availability, favorable insurance, and service.
The problem with many rental car companies is that you book online or through their site, and it looks like you got a great price. Then you arrive to pick up your rental car, thinking you know what to expect, only to be informed that you are expected to pay an additional 50 euro per day â or more â in taxes, fees, insurance, or any other made-up costs they choose.
Iâve had rental car companies who wanted to charge me that extra 50 euro a day for my week-long trip or I would be liable for the full value of the car (40,000 euro) if anything were to happen. There was no in-between option.
Iâve also had great experiences with rental car companies who donât charge for an extra dent on the car from that rock I accidently drove over (true story), or who stay open late to allow me to pickup the car when my flight was delayed. I even had a rental car company rush to help me when the handbrake of the car didnât work while I parked it on a steep hill.
From these stories it is clear that service comprises flexibility and a customer-oriented approach, as well as the customer service to help you quickly if something does not go well.
I am not being paid for any of this review. This is an honest collection of the experience of myself and my family members, along with online research about the rental car companies to help you make the best decision for your next trip, and ensure that you and your family have a safe, easy, worry-free and not too expensive holiday!
Types of rental car companies
Rental car companies in Europe fall into one of three categories: US-based companies doing business in Europe; Europe-wide companies; and country-specific companies. This distinction is important because even if you are familiar with a US based company in the US, their rules and regulations are often totally different in Europe.
Likewise, there may be small country-specific rental car companies not included in this review that are also fantastic. But I am confident that with the following tables and information, you will be able to select the best rental car company for your needs and not have car trouble be on you list of vacation activities!
Best Rental Car Companies
In the category of best rental car companies, all the companies must check five boxes:
- No hidden rental fees
- Partial or complete insurance included with rental (usually with a 600 euro deductible)
- Great service
- No fanatical scratch-and-charge policy
- Good availability
With that said, here are the best rental car companies, where I am confident you cannot go wrong.
Dollar Rental Car
This US-based company makes the top of the list because not only do they check all the boxes including no hidden fees and great service, but their prices are usually the lowest. They are hard to beat. Whatever price you see online is the price you will pay. The car comes with insurance that includes a deductible, usually of 500-600 euro. That means that even if you total the car, that is all you pay.
But the real reason they have my great loyalty is because while I was renting from Dollar in Mallorca, I was backing up on a tiny road in a small village in the middle of Mallorca and drove over a large stone block that was (confusingly) set in the cement protruding into the road. The car was visibly scratched on the side and door, and it was far more than the inch scratch that is the normal charging policy of most companies. When I returned the car, they waved it off, saying it was an older car and not a big deal.
While I cannot guarantee they will be so flexible with every car and in every country, the service was so exceptional that they take first place on the list.
Note: As Hertz Rental Car is part of the same parent company, you can also consider Hertz. They sometimes have hidden costs, and their prices are usually on the high end, but I am noting them here as a possible consideration along with Dollar.
Europcar is a rental car company that can be found throughout Europe. They have exceptional customer service, which earns them the number two spot on the best rental car companies list. They once kept the rental store open late when they knew my plane arrived late. Talk about incredible service!
In addition, they do not have any hidden fees, and have very comprehensive insurance included in the rental contract. There is sometimes a 150 km limit per day (totaled for the rental time), so just be sure to select unlimited mileage if you plan to be driving a lot. Their prices are not usually the cheapest, but are very fair, and the value is great!
Location-Specific Best Rental Cars
Ilha Verde Rental Car Azores
Ilha Verde is local to the Azores. They operate only on these small islands in the Atlantic Ocean that belong to Portugal. But in this case, small company means great savings and even better service.
They were friendly, efficient, and there were no lines. It was in the Azores that I had the problem with the parking brake, and they were there with a new (better) car in 15 minutes. The return was also very easy and simple. If you plan to visit the Azores, plan to rent with Ilha Verde.
Worst Rental Cars
Unfortunately, this list is far longer than the âbestâ list. There are many rental car companies that have hidden costs, long lines, complicated insurance and return policies, and other ways they try to get you to pay more, or waste your vacation haggling with them.
The list below will make you reconsider even renting a car. But, now you have been warned, and you can make a better decision for your holiday and warn others about the best and worst rental car companies!
Budget and Avis Rental Car
This group of rental car companiesâyou will rent either from Budget or from Avisâmakes the worst list for their hidden fees, long lines, and rude customer service. The last time I rented from them, there were the dreaded 50-euro per day fees or I would be fully liable for the car. In addition to that, I waited in line for over an hour just to speak to them. Finally, they âupgradedâ me from a mini car to a large suburban. Which brings us toâ¦.
Why you should get the smallest car to suit your needs
Getting upgraded may not seem like a big deal â or may even seem nice – but in Europe, gas is expensive. It costs about $6 per gallon. Instead of spending 50 euro for an entire week of driving, because of the larger car I spent more than double that. The highway tolls are also pro-rated to car size, and a larger car equals significantly larger fees. I paid an extra 25-euro in highway tolls. Europe takes eco-consciousness seriously! That being said, the large car was really nice.
More US-Based rental car companies to avoid
I am sorry to report that most US-based rental car companies do not seem to hire adequate staff or have the connections and understanding of how to do business in the local economies. There are long lines, inefficient service, poor emergency service contracts, and lots of hidden fees. It is like trying to swim in the desert; it just doesnât work. Here are a few more to avoid:
- Enterprise Rental Car
- Alamo Rental Car
- National Rental Car
- Sixt Rental Car
Even if their prices look great online, add 40 euros per day to the listed price, and then see if it is still the best option. Chances are, they will no longer look so great. Then add onto that the lack of service and support, long waiting times, and realize you can do better.
Region-specific rental car companies to avoid
While listing these, it is worthwhile to include what would be classified as mediocre rental car companies. They are often region-specific and do not meet the criteria of the best list.
These mediocre companies are usually marketed as cheaper competitors to big companies, and in this case, the expression âyou get what you pay forâ holds true. While you may save 5 euro in booking fees, you will lose that and more through time wasted, hassle, and hidden fees.
Companies in this category include Rhodium, Record, and Centauro in Spain; Goldcar in Spain, Portugal and the UK; Flizzr in Germany; and Easirent in the UK. Trust me, it is just not worth it.
More Rental Car Options
Based on my great experience with Ilha Verde in the Azores, and similar good experiences with smaller companies in Mallorca, Iâd also recommend Googling the local rental car companies available. This may be family-owned businesses that not only ensure exceptional service, but that give you inside tips about the local culture. With these small companies, you will be supporting the local economy while getting a great deal and exceptional service.
Summary of best and worst rental car companies in Europe
As you can see from the chart, the best rental car companies do the most to make your vacation better, while the worst companies can have you wasting money and a day or more of your time.
I hope you find this list of the best and worst rental car companies helpful, and that you will share it with your family and friends so that your next trip to Europe is easy and smooth. Your rental car should be there to help you, not the other way around!
Table of Best and Worst Rental Car Companies
|Best Rental Car |
|Avoid (mediocre) Rental Car |
|Worst Rental Car Companies|
|Ilha Verde Rental Car||Flizzr||Sixt|
And a complete table of the services and drawbacks of each company:
Table of Services By Rental Car Company
|Price (High, low, average)||Service (Excellent, Fair, Poor)||Hidden Fees?||Insurance Co-verage?||Availability?|
|Ilha Verde Rental Car||Low||Excellent||No||Yes||Regional|
While there are many rental car companies available, it is clear that there are a few best options that will give you greatest value, save precious vacation time, and provide you with excellent service and support in case any difficulty arises. This list of best and worst rental car companies will save you time, money and effort to enjoy your next trip to Europe to the maximum!
Wishing you safe travels!
Thank you for reading Pannali Travels. If you enjoyed this post, please share, comment, and subscribe! I love hearing from you!