I met up with my friends Jami and Shane and discussed their experiences having a rental car during a trip to Europe they took in 2018.  They visited France and Germany. I’ve edited the conversation for clarity.

What did you like about having a rental car in Europe?

Shane: It was nice to be able to go where we wanted.  We didn’t have to rely on any other schedule, like a train schedule.  It gave us a lot of flexibility.

Do you think it was worth having a rental car?

Jami:  I’m glad we rented a car because we were traveling so much.  We also had several people so that was a big plus because we got to travel together and didn’t have to worry about coordinating with anyone other than ourselves.  Parking was expensive, though. The parking garage near where we stayed was about €25 a day, and while we decided to use a privately owned parking spot that our AirBnB host rented out, the cost was still €20 a day.  So, that saved us a little money, but we also felt better about safety.

Shane:  Yes, the public parking garage was the garage for the train station.

Jami:  We were kind of concerned people might be going through there and rifling through people’s cars.

Shane:  And parking was so difficult in Paris that we only took out the car if we absolutely had to.

Jami: So we were paying to rent the space but not really using the car when we were in Paris.  We were able to use it more easily when we weren’t in such a major city.

Did you come away from your trip with any good rental car stories?

Jami: Well, luckily nothing bad happened with the rental car, but it was funny trying to see Shane park the car.  The parking spot we rented was underground.

Shane: Just go drive down, you’d have to make a 5 point turn because the entrance was so narrow and was an immediate 90 degree angle!

Jami: Then you’d have to make another 90 degree turn to go down the row towards the spot, which was an immediate 90 degree angle as we were just two or three spots down!  The parking spots were so narrow that everyone would have to get out first.

Shane: Everyone would get out and then I’d have to park to where the driver’s side of the car was almost scraping the wall!  I’d then have to squeeze carefully out, and close the door.

Jami:  He literally had to jump, because you know cars are more narrow near the top, so he’d have to jump to wiggle his way out of the parking spot!  It was the funniest thing to watch. Our AirBnB lady had told us, “Sometimes Americans find it difficult to use my parking spot,” and she wasn’t wrong.

Is there any advice you’d like to give people about rental cars in Europe?

Shane: I’d recommend paying for your rental well in advance of your trip, so it doesn’t feel like an added expense when you’re there.  Parking and gas get expensive in Europe!

Jami: I don’t know if I’d want a rental car again in Paris, but despite the narrow parking, renting parking in a garage is the way to go.  In Paris, the cars are so close together on street parking that to get out of parking spots, Parisians literally bump into your car and push it slowly into the car behind you so that they have room to leave the spot.  

Shane: Our rental car company said that they couldn’t believe the car had been in Paris, because typically they come back completely scratched all over the sides and bumpers.  

Jami: Yes, they said they’re considering not renting to people if their plans include Paris!

Well, thank you to Jami and Shane for their input about car rentals in Europe!  It sounds like if you’re going to Paris, car rental is probably not in your cards unless you’re flying into Paris and renting a car to leave the city.  I hope you all find this input helpful!