Road Trip: Explore Europe with a Rental Car

Rental cars in Europe will be cheaper than their US counterparts. Photo by Auto Europe
Rental cars in Europe will be cheaper than their US counterparts. Photo by Auto Europe

See Europe in a Rental Car

By Shannon Broderick

Planning a road trip this summer? Forget Route 66 or California’s state route 1—consider winding highways through the vineyards or valleys of Europe instead. According to data provided by a leading car rental company, car rental rates in Europe will be less expensive than those in the United States this summer.  Check rates for Car Rentals in Europe.

Facts and Figures

According to Meghan Donovan, Manager of Digital Outreach for Auto Europe, travelers looking to “further reduce costs while renting abroad in Europe should strongly consider renting a manual vehicle.”

The data provided shows that if a traveler was to rent a car for a week in June for a round trip to and from Heathrow Airport in London, they would save 16 percent if they chose a manual vehicle instead of an automatic one.However, if a traveler rented a car from New York’s JFK International Airport for the same duration of time, they would pay almost $200 more than they would at Heathrow. Donovan also stated that if renting from Rome’s Fiumicino Airport, travelers would save 46 percent—30 percent more than in the UK.

The data also shows that rental rates in Europe have been decreasing, making it even cheaper to pick up a car and explore the back roads of countries like Spain (down two percent since 2015), Germany (11 percent), France (11 percent), the UK (12 percent) or Italy (a whopping 32 percent)—which means that 2016 is the perfect time for a European road trip. But who should you rent from?

Auto Europe

Auto Europe—the company that provided the report—does not rent out cars themselves, but rather works as an aggregation source for travelers looking for the best deals. After filtering their search for the airport and dates of their choice, Auto Europe directs travelers to a page, where different rentals and types of cars are compared in a grid layout.

Travelers can look at different types of cars and the prices that are available from different companies—for example, Enterprise versus Avis versus Hertz. Additionally, Auto Europe offers several different search options that exceed the simple car rental—from luxury vehicles to chauffeur service—as well as short and long-term vehicle rentals. And don’t be fooled by the name—Auto Europe provides rentals all over the world, not just Europe.

Using the example provided in the report, a week’s rental in June, renting out and returning to Heathrow can range from $153 USD (a mini car from Europcar) to $2718 (a convertible from Hertz).

Auto Europe sorts car rentals by cost
Auto Europe sorts car rentals by cost

A note of warning, however—the initial price on the website’s grid shows the basic rate only, not the inclusive rate that is a sum of all of the additional fees—so be sure to click on the price to be directed to a more comprehensive list of costs.

Alamo Rentals

If you want to skip the middleman and use a company directly, Alamo Rent A Car offers car rentals all over the world. Alamo is described as a “value-oriented, internationally recognized brand serving the rental needs of airport leisure travelers” offering “every day low rental rates and a hassle-free customer experience.” They have branches in dozens of countries—34 of which are in Europe— with vehicles available to be rented in various cities and at various airports. With Alamo, travelers can also sign up to be “Alamo Insiders.” A free membership, “Alamo Insiders” receive another five percent off their car rentals.

When renting a car through Alamo, there are two numbers that are associated with each rental—one is the base rate, while the other is the total sum of all the fees and costs—for example, the base rate for a mini car with a manual transmission from Rome is 287 euros ( $326 USD), but the total is 441 euros ($502 USD)—this is a sum of the base rate, the airport fee, the road fee (3.60 euros per day), and the value added tax (22 percent)

With Alamo rentals, one week of renting a car in London during the month of June—leaving from and returning to Heathrow—varied, from 116 pounds ($165 USD) for a mini car with a manual transmission, to 637 pounds ($906) for a van with a manual transmission. Like the study stated, cars with automatic transmissions were far more expensive—a large car (seating five) with an automatic transmission was 448 pounds,($637) while a similar model that also seats five with a manual transmission goes for 270 pounds ($384).

In Italy, the cost of renting a car for a week (out of Rome) ranges from 441 euros for a mini car ($502) with a manual transmission to 736 euros ($838) for a station wagon with a manual transmission. Like the UK, the automatic transmission cars available to rent in Itlay are also more expensive than their manual counterparts.

Next Steps

Once you've picked a rental car and company to work with, the real fun can begin--planning your trip. Luckily, with a rental car, you can choose to go anywhere in the country on your own time, as you are not burdened with the rigidity in schedules that traveling on a bus or train often leads to. Instead, you and your fellow travelers are free to go where you wish, when you wish--just you, your rental car, and the open road.

Shannon Broderick

Shannon Broderick is a former editorial assistant at GoNOMAD and aspiring photojournalist. She likes exploring back alleys, learning new languages, and spending hours at art museums. Check out her blog or follow her on Instagram for more adventures. She works for a newspaper in Wyoming.

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Max Hartshorne
Max Hartshorne has been the editor and publisher of GoNOMAD Travel in South Deerfield Mass since 2002. He worked for newspapers and other sales positions for 23 years until he finally got what he wanted, and became the editor at GoNOMAD. He travels regularly, enjoys publishing new writers, and watching his grandchildren grow up.