We love road trips! Exploring a new country on our own four wheels is simply the most beautiful thing for us. Whenever possible, we prefer to travel in our own car. But many travel destinations are simply too far away for our Schwuppsi (= our car).
Whether Mexico or New Zealand, Morocco or Canada – we have already borrowed a rental car in countless countries. And yes, we made mistakes that we can only shake our heads at today. So that this does not happen to you, we have packed all our experiences into this article.
Where is the cheapest place to book a rental car? Which insurance is the best? What do I have to consider and what should I absolutely avoid? You can find answers to these questions and our very personal tips for booking a rental car on our travel blog.
1. Where is the cheapest place to book a rental car?
We only use comparison platforms (e.g.economybookings.com) to search for and book our rental car . The reason: You will almost always find the cheapest offer there and usually have significantly better insurance cover.
What is a comparison platform? As the name suggests, such a website compares the offers of different rental car companies (e.g. Hertz, Europcar) for you. Within a very short time, you will receive results that are suitable for you from a wide variety of rental car rental companies at your travel destination and you can also sort them according to the cheapest offers.
Our concrete recommendations
We can recommend the following two platforms with a clear conscience. We now only book our rental car through these two websites.
Possibility 1: economybookings
Our first choice for booking a rental car is economybookings. This comparison platform has a decisive advantage: the insurance cover. Sunny Cars grants fully comprehensive insurance with reimbursement of the deductible for all bookings. We will tell you more about insurance in the next chapter.
Here you get to the official website: economybookings.com
Possibility 2: Cheap rental car
The really cheapest rental car offers are often available from Cheap Rental Cars. Here, too, we have had good experiences. However, you should take a closer look at the insurance conditions. Unlike Sunny Cars, they differ here depending on the offer and in the end cheap rental cars are not always the cheapest option – but often they are.
Here you get to the official page: economybookings.com
2. The right insurance: information & tips
Very important tip that we would like to give you from experience: You should never save on insurance when booking a rental car!
Our recommendation: fully comprehensive insurance with no excess
With reputable providers, you almost always get fully comprehensive insurance. However: It is not uncommon for fully comprehensive insurance to include a deductible (= deductible). This means that in the event of damage – depending on the vehicle category and damage – you often have to pay a deductible of several hundred or even thousands of euros.
Hence our very important tip: We always (!) book fully comprehensive insurance without a deductible (or with reimbursement of the deductible).
With economybookings.com you always automatically book the option with reimbursement of the deductible, ie in the event of damage you first pay the deductible to the local car rental company (e.g. Hertz) and then get the money reimbursed by economybookings.com. That’s why we almost only book there. With economybookings.com you have to actively select this option. Here you have the option to choose between “no deductible, with reimbursement” (usually cheaper) and “no deductible”.
A quick note on the difference: Normally there is no difference between these two options for you – with the exception that you first have to advance the money for a refund and of course there is no residual risk that there will be problems with the refund.
Why necessarily “Without excess” (or with reimbursement)?
Now you might be thinking, “I’m used to driving anyway. Why do I need this?” But trust us: no matter how careful you are, a scratch or dent can happen faster than you would like – and it doesn’t have to be you who caused the damage.
As an example: We parked our car in a (non-video-monitored) parking lot in New Zealand. While we were shopping, a stranger touched our car. We would have had to pay a deductible of 250 euros for the (actually) mini scratch. It wasn’t our fault at all! Luckily we had booked through Sunny Cars at the time and were therefore refunded the money very easily.
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Other insurances: liability, theft & Co.
A word of warning, that’s not the end of the insurance tangle. In addition to the fully comprehensive insurance already mentioned, there are other types of insurance that must be taken into account, namely:
- Liability insurance: Insures damage outside of your own car (e.g. to people).
- Theft insurance: Insures against theft of the rental car.
- Insurance for damage to glass, tyres, roof and underbody: these are often not included in comprehensive insurance.
Important: Avoid unnecessary double insurance
If you have booked your car through Sunny Cars or have selected the “Premium Protection Package” from Cheap Rental Cars, you do not need any (!) additional insurance.
Why we mention this: If you pick up your car from the local car rental company (e.g. Hertz), the employees often do not know that you have already taken out comprehensive insurance by booking on an intermediary platform. Therefore, they may ask you if you want to take out additional insurance. So this is not necessary.
3. Which rental car class to book?
Good to know: With comparison platforms, you always book a vehicle category (e.g. small car, middle class) and not a specific vehicle (e.g. Ford Focus). Which car you will then be given on site depends on the fleet or the availability of the respective rental company.
Our tip: adapt the choice of vehicle class to your travel destination.
- You know that you will spend a lot of time in cities with narrow streets (such as in Andalusia)? Then it shouldn’t be an SUV. With a small, manoeuvrable speedster you are definitely better off here.
- But maybe you are planning a road trip where you will often spend hours on the freeway ? Then you will have no joy with a tiny rental car.
- Are you more than two people? Make sure that there is enough space for luggage. It’s easy to underestimate that.
We usually decide (depending on the destination) for the lower middle class or the middle class. We tend to try to avoid mini cars – for two reasons. For one thing, we feel safer with a little more sheet metal. On the other hand, with small models you often have the problem that the trunk is very small and rarely both cases fit in.
Why is this important to us personally? We often visit a sight when we are on a change of location and have all our luggage with us. We always make sure that there is room for this in the car and unfortunately that is rarely the case with the smallest vehicle category and two (larger) suitcases.
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4. Clever booking: choose a sensible pick-up location and pick-up time
Suppose you are planning a road trip through Morocco and end up in Marrakech. You will probably want to see Marrakech as well. Hence our tip: Only book your rental car from the day on which you leave the first city of your road trip. That saves money and nerves.
There are only a few exceptions where it is worth picking up the car upon arrival at the airport. For example, if there is no other rental station in the city in question than the one at the airport. (It’s not that much fun to drive from the city center to the airport with all your luggage after two days to pick up the car there.) Or, if you’re planning trips with the rental car within the first few days and want to be mobile right away .
In many cases, however, it turns out to be impractical to book the car immediately upon arrival at the airport. You then have to think about a suitable parking space . In larger cities, this quickly costs 25 euros per night – even though the rental car may only be sitting around unused for the first few days.
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To take Marrakech again as an example: A rental car makes no sense here simply because you will hardly want or be able to drive into the city anyway due to the extremely narrow streets. Incidentally, the same applies to the last stop of your road trip: Here, too, it may well be that you will no longer need your rental car.
But as always, all this is of course always different depending on the travel destination and it is ultimately a matter of consideration and taste what you decide on.
Important to know when it comes to rental time: You always book your rental car for 24 hours. So if you pick it up at 2 p.m., you also have to return it at 2 p.m. If you specify 3 p.m. as the return time when booking, an additional rental day will usually be charged.
5. FAQs: International driver’s license, tolls & other tips
Do I need an international driver’s license?
Short answer: It depends. In Europe, for example, the national driving license is sufficient. In many countries, however, an international driver’s license is mandatory (e.g. in New Zealand). Without one, the rental car will not be handed over to you.
Our tip: On the ÖAMTC website you can find out whether you need an international driving license for each destination country. Here you get to the page: ÖAMTC country overview .
If in doubt, we choose to take an international driving license with you. You can have one issued in your home country very easily, quickly and cheaply . (In Austria e.g. at the ÖAMTC, in Germany e.g. at the ADAC.)
Can I drive across the border with my rental car?
Yes, this is mostly (but not always) allowed. Usually, however, an additional fee is due here. It is therefore best to read the rental conditions carefully or inquire with the landlord in advance about crossing the border.
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What about tolls?
Toll fees for the country in which you rent the car are often included in the rental price – but not always! So it is best to inquire about the exact conditions when you pick up the car.
What if there is left-hand traffic in the destination country?
Easy! You’ll get used to driving on the left much faster than you thought – I promise. However, you should of course be aware of the dangers. Accidents (sometimes devastating) happen again and again because people end up in the wrong lane.
Our tip: Book a rental car with automatic transmission for travel destinations with left-hand traffic . Otherwise you would have to shift with your left hand. This only distracts you unnecessarily from driving and traffic.
Do I have to return the rental car with a full tank?
Yes, usually that is the case. You get the rental car with a full tank and bring it back with a full tank. (Ie you simply fill up again at a nearby gas station before you drop it off.) If you are unsure, just ask again when you pick it up.
Very important: Please follow this rule! We once made the mistake of returning the car half full as we simply couldn’t find a suitable gas station and were way too late. Well, what can we say: That was pretty expensive for us. Since then, we have planned enough buffer time for refueling before delivery.
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6. In summary: Book DOs & DON’Ts when renting a car
DO: You should pay attention to that
- Compare the prices in advance on our two favorite booking platforms Sunny Cars and Cheap Rental Cars . There you book the cheapest.
- Book fully comprehensive insurance without deductible or with reimbursement of the deductible (is automatically included with Sunny Cars.) A scratch can happen so quickly and you travel with a better feeling.
- When picking up the car, carefully check that all existing damage has been noted. We always make a short video or photos of the existing damage.
- Find out about the traffic regulations in the respective country (e.g. are daytime running lights compulsory? Can you turn right when the light is red? What are the speed limits?) We are happy to use the ÖAMTC country overview for this purpose .
DON’T: You should avoid this
- Do not book the rental car on site at the car rental company. We can confirm from experience that this is usually by far the most expensive option.
- Bring the rental car back according to the fuel rule (usually with a full tank). Otherwise it can get pretty expensive.
- A navigation system is almost always unnecessary. Thanks to the elimination of roaming fees, you can now easily navigate in Europe with your smartphone. And for all other cases there are free offline apps.
Checklist when picking up your rental car
- Bring with you: driver’s license (national and, if applicable, international), passport or identity card, credit card (incl. PIN and sufficient coverage for the deposit) and reservation number (or printed voucher)
- Which fuel must be filled up & what are the tank rules?
- Is the rental car full of fuel?
- Are all damages documented? Check the damage already registered and take photos or a video of it.
Transparency: Affiliate links
This blog article contains our personal recommendations in the form of so-called affiliate links. If you book or buy something through the links, we will receive a small commission. For you, this does not change the price at all. A thousand thanks from both of us!