Renting American vs. European Cars: Learn the Differences

Where’s your next trip leading you? Are you flying to Barcelona on business or taking a week-long jaunt up the coast of California? Wherever you’re headed next, a rental car can help get you there. But before you decide on a ride, you may have a few questions. For instance, if you’ve only ever rented in the U.S., it’s worth asking how the process works in other parts of the world. Is renting in Europe the same as picking up an American car? How do the laws and standard practices vary?

Once you check out the following facts, you can rent with confidence on either side of the Atlantic, whether you’re planning to motor past the Arc de Triomphe, circle the Space Needle or see any point in between. Wherever your plane lands, you’re likely to find either an Advantage location or one of our partners from Europcar ready to get you on your way quickly and painlessly.

What Sizes and Types of Cars Are Available in Europe vs. America?

One natural question that will come up when you’re considering renting a car in Europe is the selection of vehicles you’ll have to pick from. Drivers in other countries tend not to share the U.S. preference for big cars and trucks, but that doesn’t mean you can’t or won’t find a vehicle to your liking at a European rental agency.

European dealerships, and rental car fleets by extension, offer cars, trucks and vans originating around the world, from Japanese cars such as Nissans to German offerings such as Volkswagens, Audis, BMWs and more. From a full-size van to carry a whole work team to a sleek Mercedes sedan, you’ll have plenty of vehicles to choose between on your next overseas trip or vacation.

One of the marks of a good car rental location is the availability of different car and truck classes, from heavy SUVs to affordable compact cars. Businesses around the world can offer this type of service, ensuring you’ll find the right ride in Europe, North America or anywhere else you roam.

European Car

Are Rental Rules and Driving Laws the Same in Europe as in North America?

There are a few questions to answer before renting a car anywhere in the world. For instance, are you of age to rent a vehicle in your chosen country or state? USA Today notes that the restrictions around young renters differ somewhat across Europe. For example, rental providers may demand drivers be 25 or over in some countries while renting to 23-year-olds elsewhere.

It’s always worth checking with the company before you take off for your trip to make sure there aren’t extra surcharges or local laws for you to encounter. Some European countries also impose a maximum age on rentals, so if you’re 70 or over, it pays to ensure you’re allowed to rent in your destination of choice.

Once you verify that you meet international age rules, check on the rules of the road. Driving in the U.K. and other nations that use the left side of the road will likely be the biggest culture shock for an American driver, but there are plenty of other norms and laws to internalize, from signage definitions to traffic light etiquette. Safety is fundamental no matter where your trip takes you.

What Are Driver’s License Requirements Like in Various Countries?

Some countries will let you drive with an American driver’s license, no new paperwork needed. That’s not true everywhere, however, so your licensure status is something else to check before you jaunt to Europe. AAA recommends applying for an International Driving Permit when driving abroad, as this document is accepted in 150 countries as a valid driving credential and form of identification. When you have such a widely accepted permit, you can avoid fines across a huge swath of the world.

Do Rental Payment Methods Differ between America and Europe?

When you work with a rental provider that operates in North America and Europe, you’re likely in luck when it comes to simple and recognizable payment methods. For example, when using the Advantage website to secure your US rental vehicle in advance, simply enter your credit card information and you’re ready to pick up your vehicle when you arrive at the counter. While the Advantage website will not accept credit card information for an international rental, international rental agencies accept all major credit cards.

A credit card is the generally accepted standard payment method for renting a car. It’s not possible to use stored value cards, prepaid debit cards and gift cards to qualify for and pay for a deposit from Advantage or Europcar. With that said, you can use these kinds of methods when making additional payments at the return of a car.

Will You Need Specialty Insurance Driving Overseas?

Your insurance situation and coverage may vary from one country to the next, and options that apply in the U.S., Canada and Mexico may not be accepted overseas. In these cases, the U.S. State Department suggests you deal with your rental provider to purchase additional coverage at least equal to the type of protection you have in the U.S.

The State Department added that purchasing insurance abroad isn’t just a good idea. In many cases, you may be required by law to have a minimum amount of insurance to drive. Being insured on the road provides assurance to local authorities that if your rental vehicle is involved in an accident, there will be financial compensation for any damage or liability.

Is Your Rental Service of Choice Available in Europe?

When you’re traveling abroad, you may wonder whether you can keep working with the same rental car provider that’s served you so well in the U.S. If you go with Advantage, you will find locations all across Europe’s largest and most vibrant cities, conveniently located near the airport for easy pickup.

Through Advantage’s partnership with Europcar, we’re present in Germany, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, the U.K. and many more countries. Simply book your rental online through the Advantage website, unlocking valuable discounts and gaining the peace of mind that your rental car will be waiting to take you across Europe.