Sooner or later, in the life of every independent traveler a need arises to hire a car. Before hiring a car, he or she always feels doubts/fear/concern/ignorance/ inexperience and so on. In this article I will try to cover all kinds of questions that every traveler has regarding hiring a car on a trip and provide them with the most detailed answers.
The article content:
Documents required to hire a car abroad
How and where to hire a car on a trip
What to pay attention to when hiring a car
Credit card for hiring a car abroad
How to hire a car via the Internet with a 15% discount
As for me, I hired a car for the first time in 2013 in the United States. My friend and I in a few days wanted to drive from Miami to Key West, which is in the very south of Florida, and then travel to Orlando and leave the car there to safely return to New York by plane. That time we just hired a car in the rental office closest to our hotel in Miami and left it in at Orlando Airport.
Now, I have to choose how and where to hire a car on a trip more carefully, because first of all it isn’t cheap, given the current currency exchange rate, and secondly, to find a reliable company that won’t con. Therefore, I always recommend reading reviews about the hire company, which you are going to hire a car from. Moreover, you should read the reviews about hiring a car in that very country you are going to.
Documents required to hire a car abroad
- Id or passport
- Driving license. In some countries, an additional international driving license is required if yours has no information in Latin letters.
- A credit card for hiring a car abroad must be issued in the name of the main driver.
- Voucher – confirmation (if you have booked a car via the Internet – see below)
How to hire a car on a trip
Regardless of the country, you can hire a car:
- From local car hire offices. These are local companies that can be found in almost any town and of course at any resort. They are especially popular on islands (for example, in Greece or Spain) and in resort areas (Montenegro, Croatia, Bulgaria). The main advantage of local rental offices is less strict requirements, including the ones regarding driver’s age (a young driver with a small driving experience has more chances to get a car for hire in local companies) and a deposit (a car deposit can be much lower than in large hire offices, they may accept cash a deposit instead of a credit card, or may even require no deposit at all). Quite often, it is much easier to deliver and accept a car – no meticulous checks of every scratch, without debiting an extra amount from your credit card (since you’ve left a cash deposit), an express service. Disadvantages: you can “run into” dishonest rental office, whose main goal is to pump out as much money from you as possible (they can charge you for scratches that the car already had or withdraw the amounts that were not agreed upon from your credit card). Small offices have no international support service, so in case something happens, you will have to solve all the issues with company employees. There are no such disadvantages, but only advantages at Internet service MyRentacar.com which cooperates with local rental services in Crimea, Montenegro, Czech Republic, Greece, Cyprus, Bulgaria and Georgia only. The main special feature of the service is that you book not a car class, but a specific car. There are no analogues.
- From large international companies. Their offices are almost everywhere. These include such companies as Europcar, Avis, Sixt, Hertz, Budget. All of them have representative offices in many countries, so you can book a car via their official sites. The key advantage of these companies is reliability. Among the disadvantages – high prices, minimum age and driving experience requirements, quite often – extremely large deposits (for example, in Italy deposits amount to about 2000 euros). And as my personal experience has proven – nothing guarantees that the car will be perfect (in 2014 we hired Opel Corsa from the Europcar office on Tenerife, which had such a clutch that my only wish was to go back quickly and return this car)
- From the Internet on specialized websites. The main advantage – the system searches among hire offices represented in a particular city and offers the most favorable options. The represented companies include both large international companies and some local ones. Prices are usually 10-15% lower than the ones for the same car on the international companies’ websites. The two services I use are The two services I use are rentalcars.com (my review) and autoeurope.com (my review). Perhaps, the only current disadvantage (if you can call it a disadvantage) is that you need to pay in advance (payment is withdrawn from your card).
Car hire abroad. What to pay attention to
When hiring a car abroad, concluding an agreement with a rental company is mandatory, whether it is a local or an international company. If you book a car via the Internet, you can study the Agreement and all the terms and conditions in advance to choose the most suitable for you, as well as to be prepared to fulfill all the conditions. Thus, the main things you should pay attention to when hiring a car abroad:
- Car class. Typically, when booking a car from a hire company or on the site, you can specify a car class but not a certain brand. Therefore, it is impossible to guess in advance, what kind of car exactly they will give you. This doesn’t apply to the above-mentioned service myrentacar.com, where you book a particular car.
- Minimum age of the driver. The minimum age of the driver is set for hiring some of the cars abroad. Usually,it is 21 years. Often, drivers aged 21-24 are considered to be “young” drivers. This may incur additional charges.
- Minimum experience of the driver. Pay attention to conditions for the minimum driving experience as well. Hiring a car will be difficult for a driver with six-twelve months of driving experience.
- What is an excess? As a general rule, when hiring a car, insurance is included in the rent, BUT not for the full amount. The amount that is not covered by the insurance and which you will have to pay in case you damage the car is excess. Depending on where you hire a car (in what company, in what country) and what kind of a car you hire, an excess can start from 300 dollars. Sometimes, this amount reaches 2,000 euros and more. In this case, of course is recommended to take the full insurance, which will “eliminate” an excess or purchase the “excess refund” function. You can do this either upon receiving the car or even when booking.
- The amount you leave as a guarantee that, first of all, you will return the car, and secondly, that in case you damage the car you will pay for the repair. Also, your deposit can be used if you received a car with a full tank and returned it with an empty one. The deposit amount is usually agreed upon in advance. As I have already said, local hire companies may require no deposit at all. You can leave a cash deposit (but this is mainly applicable in small companies). Most often, to hire a car you will need a credit card. It should be a credit card – not a debit or prepaid one. Judging by numerous reviews on the Internet, some card accepting equipment can distinguish credit and debit cards, and without having a credit card (in the name of the main driver!) you may fail to receive a car. Therefore, take care of this in advance.
- Credit card in the name of the main driver. The rental conditions state that you must have a credit card in the name of the main driver. If you have problems with this, contact the hire office directly and clarify this question. About the deposit card you can read further in this article.
- Additional driver. If several people are going to drive the car, it is required that all of them should be included in the agreement. Often, an additional amount is charged for each additional driver (usually about 1-2 euros per day). Some companies include an additional driver as a “bonus”.
- Kilometers included in the price. Pay attention to it. If you are going to travel all over the country/countries, a limited number of kilometers won’t be convenient for you. Often, a low rental price hides a limited number of “free” kilometers and you will have to pay for extra kilometers, which can be rather expensive.
- Travelling to other countries. This is also subject to the terms and conditions of the agreement. If you plan to travel outside the country, ask which countries are permitted and which are not. In some cases, travelling to other country is subject to an extra charge. Thus, in some companies in Armenia, for example, for traveling to other countries about $30 is charged and in the Czech Republic – about 40 euros.
- Permitted roads. Here I mean the following: when hiring a car abroad, the rental agreement will specify what roads you can drive. Driving along country and unsurfaced roads may be prohibited. If you damage a car while driving on forbidden roads, insurance won’t be applicable to this case. Be careful!
- Non-reversible rent. If you hire a car in one place/city/country and return it in another, then you may be charged an additional fee. You must notify the hire office about it in advance and clarify this point before signing the agreement.
Credit card for hiring a car abroad
When renting a car abroad, the chances are high that you will need a credit card. Only some companies (most often, small local hire offices) can accept a cash deposit or even agree to give you a car without a deposit. This you can mainly find somewhere on Greek islands; I also know about cases of hiring a car without using a card for deposit in Montenegro. It is better to ask in advance whether you will need a card. If you book via the Internet, the conditions on using a card and making a deposit will be specified in advance. The main conditions – the card must be issued in the name of the main driver (if there are any problems with this, then contact the hire office in advance and save correspondence); the conditions also state, which cards are not accepted at the office (usually, Visa and Mastercard are accepted everywhere but for Visa Electron). Also, I often see in the conditions that the card should be embossed, that is, your name and card number should be convex, but not simply printed. Many hire offices don’t accept debit and prepaid cards. I have read many forums dedicated to this topic, saying that not all terminals have the technical ability to distinguish a debit from a credit card, but it is better not to take risk.
Anyway, a credit card is much more convenient when hiring a car for traveling in Europe. I focus on Europe, since usually in countries of Western Europe deposits are rather large – they can reach up to 1,000 euros and even 2,000 euros, and if you hire a high-class car, an even bigger deposit is possible. You should admit it that you will not really want to block your money (even if you have extra 2,000-3,000 euros) for a long period. Unblocking time depends on the bank conditions of the bank, but on average it takes about a month. In Armenia, our deposit was unblocked only in a month and a half. Since this money is “not real” and is not withdrawn but only transferred to HOLD status (that is, interest is not charged on a credit card), we didn’t feel any inconvenience. If they have blocked even $500 from our real money, we would feel more uncomfortable.
How to hire a car for a trip via the internet in advance with a 15% discount
If you are used to planning everything in advance and travelling is no exception, then I would recommend booking a car via the Internet after comparing all the options and choosing the best one. As I have already mentioned above, my favorites are rentalcars and autoeurope. Booking instruction for autoeurope.com can be found here and the one for rentalcars is below in this article.
First of all, I want to note that rentalcars is a service by the Booking.com creators and it functions on a similar basis. That is, looking for various car rental options in a particular city. In the result, booking a car is no more difficult than choosing a place to live.
Secondly, when booking via rentalcars prices are 10-15% lower than the prices for the same cars in the same companies, but when booking through their official websites.
Thirdly, rentalcars often offer various bonuses like an additional driver included in the price. Moreover, you can see the rating of a particular rental company.
Now let’s proceed from something on mind to something in kind and I will show how to book a car on Rentalcars.com. Follow this link to get to the site. Enter all the data to the main form. I will exemplify it by renting a car in Yerevan from 3.01 to 06.01. (you can read my review about this hire in another article)
The system searches for an option and in half a minute shows a list of possible rental locations. Since I don’t need a car immediately upon arrival, but for the vacation time, I choose Yerevan. The city center. In this hire company, prices start from 67 €:
It should be noted that during New Year vacations prices are about 15 percent higher than usually, but we have no choice. We look for a suitable car. And decide on Volkswagen Polo (or similar) for 125 €. This is the price for 3 days. Let’s proceed to booking
At this stage, you can include additional insurance, as well as additional equipment (GPS, a booster, wi-fi router). We agree to insurance, no equipment is necessary:
We check all the information and the total amount:
If everything is OK, enter your personal information and payment details:
That’s it, we have booked the car.
When booking, they charged a deposit of 14 €. The remaining payment was debited 28 days prior to rental time. Free cancellation is possible no later than 48 hours before the start (excluding deposit). Changes in booking will also be free of charge (via your personal account or support service). After the remaining amount was debited from the card, the notification and voucher were sent to the e-mail.
By the way, the credit card was in the name of the second (additional) driver, I contacted the company’s (Travelcars) representative directly in advance regarding this issue. Also, I sent scanned copies of all the documents in advance, so all the formal procedures took very little time and instead of the booked manual transmission, we got a car with an automatic one – a kind of a New Year present.
That’s all! If you have any questions, ask them in the comments!