What are the Best Options to Rent a Car in Paris?
Renting a car while in Europe can be a tricky game to play, especially as an international foreigner who is not accustomed to the concept of Schengen zones and open boarders.
There are a number of things I would like to point out to you, which will make navigating the various rental car companies a lot less daunting. As well as some information that I believe may be worth knowing in the long run. Read on!
Keep your options open
When in Europe, the best deals are never really the best deals. Find your choice of car, and take a look at the specifics of the rental agreement before clicking to pay. The deal should be 100% modifiable and refundable in the event of your plans changing.
By doing this, you secure your vehicle for the intended trip, and can continue looking for better deals to come up in the hours or days to follow.
Be smart about the start
As a foreigner, it would seem logical that one might as well book their vehicle to start from the first day they arrive in Paris, and end after their journey out of the city etc.
I would encourage you to only book your rental car to start from the day you actually require this mode of transport. Most people don’t need a rental car in Paris; trust me, the city is so accessible and filled with public transport options, your rental is likely to sit outside of your Airbnb until you actually do a substantial trip.
“Free” Upgrades, beware
In Paris, you may fall trap to rental companies who want to offer you free upgrades of more space or better vehicles. This often proves to be more of an inconvenience than a blessing.
Gas is expensive in France, and bigger cars use more of it. There is also nowhere to park in the city, and having a bigger car can make your chances of finding parking even slimmer.
Smile, say no thank you, and take the smallest vehicle they have on offer!
Auto Insurance is Your Friend
But you don’t always have to pay the exorbitant rates that the rental companies offer. Check with your regular insurance company in your home country, and find out if you can get vehicle coverage even though you are off shore.
Very often, you’ll save a bunch of money in doing this and won’t have to deal with the bureaucracy of credit holds and deposits when you collect the vehicle from the rental company.
Driving in Paris
The French Drive on the Right
As does everyone else in the EU. Making the switch is not as difficult as one might thing; take the first few meters slow and you’ll very soon get the hang of it.
No need for an international driving permit
Some countries require international drivers permits for foreign drivers. This is not required in France, though if you are driving from France to a different EU country, it will be worth checking the requirements for the end destination prior to departure.
Consider not driving in Paris
Yes, you read that correctly. Paris is not recommended as a friendly driving town for unfamiliar individuals who are not accustomed to the roads or driving etiquette. Even if you’re a highly skilled driver in your own home town, Paris has its quirks, tricks and stressful elements that one can’t know prior to spending a vast amount of time there.
Make use of the metro while in the city, and use your vehicle only for day trips or to get to your next destination.
The metro police in France are very good at what they do, and catching speeding cars is second nature. Nobody gets pulled over for speeding in Paris; rather, your fine will be sent directly to your home or rental company.
Rental companies will deduct the amount from the card of yours that they have on file, as well as charge a basic “admin” fee for the hassle of paying your fine on your behalf.
Car Rental Options
Sixt Rent a Car
Sixt is up there with rental companies such as Avis and Hertz, but they tend to offer much lower rates and more affordable upgrades.
Car rental companies are notoriously fickle, and there is always the possibility of booking a car that will not actually be there on the day you collect it. Overall, Sixt will acknowledge the mistake and help as best they can.
Zipcar is a car rental service that is making waves throughout Europe. It’s offering a more convenient, affordable and fun way of renting a vehicle while in certain destinations, whereby you’ll be billed by the hour, as opposed to the days and weeks.
This is a great option for people who simply want to take a day trip and only need a car for a few hours out of the day. The service is run by an app that you’ll pay $7 per month to be part of, and then you’ll have access to all available Zipcars in your surrounding areas as and when you need them.
National Car Rental
As far as traditional car rental companies go, National is one of the better ones in France. They are American owned, and seem to be more popular amongst international travelers.
In France, rental companies tend to increase their rates should you desire an automatic vehicle over a manual. National’s rates seem to remain roughly the same, no matter your transmission preferences.
Firefly is a low cost, low quality car rental company that is owned and run by Hertz. Overall, they are good value for money if you really are counting those pennies, and their process for pickup and drop off is relatively painless.
That being said, there are mixed reviews when it comes to customer service during and after rental periods. Communication may not be their strong suit, but this is definitely an option worth looking at if you’re traveling in a backpacking group where more than 3 people need to get to another destination together.