There are some basic differences when it comes to looking at American and European rental cars. Trying to work out just what makes them so different feels a bit like comparing oranges and apples! They might be the same kind of transport, but there are some massive differences when you look a little closer. That’s partly due to the car culture that has grown to become such a huge element of the US persona, while European countries view their vehicles as nothing more than a tool to get around with. That has lead to some fundamental differences in design and building, and some of those differences are quite radical.
European roads are noticeably smaller than those in the US, so it’s no real surprise to find that cars in the States are going to be bigger than their European counterparts. It’s not just down to road size either. The whole ‘bigger is better’ mentality that runs like a thread through American culture is never more obvious than when looking at transportation! However, many people seem to think that European roads have a size limit when it comes to their cars, but that’s not true. It doesn’t mean that you’re likely to see large Cadillacs and massive SUVs everywhere, but they aren’t illegal. The reason that larger vehicles aren’t quite as popular in Europe as they are in the US is that cities in America were designed with cars in mind, whereas European cities grew far more organically, leading to narrow, winding roads and cramped urban driving. They can be very difficult to navigate in a large car!
Looks are Everything
When it comes to aesthetics, there’s a very clear divide when comparing American vs European cars. Cars in the US are built to last, and they are renowned for being tough and durable. European cars, while still long-lasting as a rule, tend to have much more thought given to the overall design. That’s why they always tend to look a little sleeker than their American counterparts. It’s all about the personality difference, with Europeans just as likely to choose a car that looks good on the driveway as it does on the road. Americans want their vehicles to be practical and extremely long-lasting. Car culture in the States is very different to that of Europe, and that’s nowhere more obvious than when looking at the popular designs of both.
Control and Handling
There’s not much difference when you look at the handling of European cars vs American cars. There are some slight differences though, and they can make a surprising amount of difference if you start driving a type that you’re not used to. European cars tend to be designed for much faster speeds, thanks to the speed laws that are much more forgiving in Europe (some motorways even let you go up to 150mph). Those higher speeds mean that European cars have to able to handle well when driving fast. That’s not to say that American cars handle poorly, but that they don’t handle as well when your foot is pressed down as hard as it can go.
Gears and Sticks
If you’ve got an American car, then chances are that it’s an automatic. This is by far the most common gear system in the States, but Europeans consider automatic cars a bit like cheating. They are available, but stick-shift cars are the norm. It used to be that America was the same, but over the years there has been a steady transition to automatic. There are still American cars that come with a stick-shift, and there are always going to be drivers that prefer it over the far easier automatic option. If you haven’t driven a car with a stick-shift before, then you really don’t want to try it for the first time without some lessons, as the change can be very challenging.
It’s all about the price of gas for any driver, and Europeans have to pay considerably more for theirs. That means that their cars have been designed with maximum fuel efficiency in mind so that they can get more miles to the gallon. When it’s so expensive to pump your car full of gas, you want to avoid doing it as much as possible. American cars are notoriously thirsty, and their engines tend to be larger and more demanding too, especially when you look at things like V8s. The change to diesel cars is going a lot faster in Europe than America, and that too is down to the insane gas prices that they are forced to pay.
Cars vary all over the world, and they are surprisingly representative of the personality of a nation. Just as Japanese cars are different from those in Europe, American cars have a uniquely American design that makes them perfectly suited to traversing the country at your own pace and in total control.