European Car Hire – Advice on cross-border car hire and other costs

There can be many fees or charges to watch out for when researching European car hire. Mandatory fees are considered part of the car cost as they cannot be avoided. We note below whether a fee is mandatory or optional. 

Fees for European car hire

Cross-border Fee – Mandatory

You intend to drive the car out of the country of hire, but return to it at the end of the rental. You pay the cross border fee at the rental desk on arrival. Cross border travel can be free with larger suppliers such as Europcar, or can vary in price from around 10 Euros to 45 Euros with smaller companies. Some suppliers charge a minimum fee regardless of the length of the rental.  We need to inform the supplier you intend to drive in other countries. Just let us know after you make your reservation.

International One-Way Fee – Mandatory

You will collect the car in one country and return it to another country. You pay the International one-way fee at the rental desk on arrival, We can only arrange International One-way hire by request. Please contact us with your requirements.

European Car Hire

One-Way Fee – Mandatory

You intend to collect the car in one city and return it to another city in the same country. Clients can see this fee alongside the car cost. You see an estimate of the total package price in sterling, but you will pay the actual fee on arrival in the local currency.

Young/Senior driver surcharge – Mandatory

The minimum age for hiring a car in Europe may be anything from 18 – 25 years.The supplier may levy a daily young driver surcharge for drivers under 25 years. Some suppliers charge a minimum fee regardless of the length of the rental. This fee is payable on arrival at the rental desk. Some suppliers may also charge a senior driver fee on drivers over 75 – always check the terms and conditions for driver age charges.

Some companies have very low young driver surcharges, like this one from Buchbinder (a smaller German provider with a few other locations):

Minimum age 19 years of age (no max.) Exception: min 25 years of age for car groups Standard or higher. All drivers must have held their licence for a minimum period of 1 year(s). For young drivers (19-24 years at the time of pick up) an additional fee of 10,00€ per day (maximum 100,00€) incl. VAT applies.

Optional Extras – Optional

This refers to child seats, GPS hire, snow chains or winter tyres. You pay for optional extras at the rental desk on arrival. Tax is payable on all local charges, whether mandatory or optional, the national tax rate of that country applies. Pay any local charges in the local currency to keep costs to a minimum. Your credit card provider will give you a better exchange rate than that provided locally by the supplier.

Additional mandatory fees that can be largely avoided

Limited mileage – Mandatory

The majority of European car hire suppliers offer an unlimited mileage package. However, a few restrict the mileage, perhaps to keep the headline price down. Driving over your allocation of miles can be very expensive, it is therefore best to avoid these packages.

Fuel Surcharges – Mandatory

One way to keep headline rates down is to add mandatory fees on later. Some of the very cheapest rates will require a non-refundable fuel surcharge of 25 – 35 Euros plus tax. It is better to avoid the very cheapest rates and book a package that will let you return the car full of fuel. See our article for advice on How to Avoid Excessive Fuel Surcharges

Excess Reduction Fees – Mandatory

Another trick for keeping headline rates low is to force all drivers to pay an excess reduction fee on arrival. If this is not paid, then you simply pay more for your hire when you arrive. As with the fuel surcharges above, it is best to avoid the very cheapest daily rates and pay something more reasonable. Always check the terms and conditions fully before purchase.

Out of Hours Fees – Mandatory

Many low cost flights go to small airports with limited opening hours. Car hire suppliers may have even more limited hours. Always provide a flight number at the time of booking as a flight delay may result in the location closing before you arrive. Provision of a flight number should ensure someone remains to serve you.  You may still be charged an out of hours fee in this instance.  Check the opening hours of the airport and the car hire suppliers before making your reservation as different companies may have different fees.

Excess Cleaning Fees – Mandatory

Again, another way of making money employed by a very few low cost rental companies. Using a car for normal purposes results in some wear and tear. We are aware of some instances where a bit of sand results in excess cleaning fees. Remove excess rubbish and sand where possible and then take photos of the inside of the car and boot when you drop it off.

Traffic Infractions – Mandatory

Tickets for speeding or parking incur an administration fee from the supplier for co-operating with the relevant authorities. The fee is payable on top of the actual traffic fine. Avoiding traffic infractions in the first place is the best way to prevent this fee.

Tips to Avoid Local Costs

Take your own car seats and/or Sat Nav unit to avoid expensive local daily rates for these items. Navigation apps on smart phones are a cheap way to navigate in real time. Do you really need an additional driver? How much driving will you be doing? Look out for special offers for additional drivers or free GPS or Winterisation Fees.  As most European car hire comes with a hefty excess for damage to the car, inside or out, we recommend you take lots of photos. Take photos of the car when you collect it, and then again before you return it (or as you drop it off if possible). The photos will be your evidence in the event of a dispute over damage or cleaning costs.

Top Up Protection

Due to the excess levied on European car hire (and in fact in countries other than the USA), I would always recommend taking out a top-up excess protection package. There are a few to choose from and we recommend this annual policy for regular travellers. You can often purchase protection for your hire when you place your reservation. A few pounds extra a day can pay dividends in the event of a claim.

Please click here to view our European car hire rates or use the WorldWide Car hire tab on the menu bar above.