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Renting a Car in Germany


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Bookings can be done by phone or online (preferred). Both the car rental agencies and discount intermediaries offer online reservations. Direct bookings via the car rental companies are more reliable, though may seem pricier. Some discounts are possible even with the direct bookings; in general, the rate depends on how long in advance the booking is made. Even though it may seem that the reservation is made for a particular car model, actually only the class of vehicle is reserved. Thus, when the customer picks up the car, it can be of any model in the class, whichever is available. If no car of the reserved class is available at the moment, the major car rental companies usually offer a free upgrade to a higher class.

If an advance reservation is not done, then you can rent a car on arrival directly at the Munich Airport. It may seem more convenient, but you will be charged an additional airport fee, approximately 20% of the daily rental rate. Alternatively, you can rent a car in the city; there are branches of car rental companies in every big city in Germany. Of course, if there was no advance booking, the customer can only select from the cars available on the lot. Note that a 24-hour service is available only in at the main train stations and airports.

To rent a car in Germany, you must have:

  1. Passport
  2. International Driving Permit (IDP)
  3. A major credit card – VISA, MasterCard or American Express

The second driver should also have a passport and IDP, and he/she must be declared in the rental contract. Foreign driver’s licenses are valid in Germany for short-term visits. The licenses issued by North American jurisdictions may qualify as “international”. However, it is better to be safe than sorry. It is inexpensive and not very difficult to get IDP from an auto club, like AAA in the US or CAA in Canada. Remember though that you should have on you both your home driver’s license and IDP, because the latter may be considered just a “translation” of the actual license.

As is the case virtually everywhere, it is impossible to rent a car in Germany for cash. The credit limit on your credit card should be sufficient for the collateral, which is put on hold by the rental company for 2 to 4 weeks after the return of the car. This period is necessary to ensure that the car has no hidden damage and to cover possible fines for traffic violations. This deposit must also cover the insurance deductable incurred by the client in the event of damage or theft of the rented vehicle. As a result, the amount on hold depends on many factors and varies considerably; on average, it is about €800-1200. For expensive cars of premium or deluxe categories, the rental company may request two credit cards if the credit limit on one card is insufficient.

Requirements to the driver’s age

Most rental companies restrict the minimum age for drivers to 21 years, and the driving experience should be at least 1 year. Some firms may make exceptions and permit rent to 19- or even 18-year olds. Therefore, young drivers should read thoroughly the relevant paragraphs of the rental conditions posted by the car rental companies. Besides, drivers under 23 are considered a group of risk and usually have to pay an additional fee. To rent a car of the premium or deluxe class, the driver must be 25 years old or over, and must have at least 2 years of driving experience.

The rental price usually includes:

  • the basic rate, dependent on the rent duration
  • insurance against accidents and theft (with deductible)
  • insurance for road-side assistance in case of a mechanical breakdown
  • value-added tax – VAT (19%)

The rental price increases in the following cases:

  • the second driver
  • exceeding the mileage limit, unless unlimited mileage is specified in the rental contract
  • additional equipment such as a child seat or GPS navigator
  • returning the car in another city or even country (only major companies offer this service)

The rental price is reduced, as a rule, in the following cases:

  • reservation is made a couple of months in advance
  • the rent is prepaid online

Sometimes there is a surcharge when traveling outside of Germany, this should be clarified and stated in the contract at the time of signing.

When booking a car, some additional options are guaranteed, but others are considered only as a wish list. For example, there should not be any problem with having a child seat or GPS. However, a car with a diesel engine or an automatic transmission is subject to availability. Note that most cars in Europe, including rentals, have manual (or, as they call it, “standard”) transmissions. So, if you require a vehicle with an automatic transmission, clearly stress this at the time of booking.

The following are considered mandatory by all car rental companies:

  • TPL (Third Party Liability) – it limits the liability of the driver for damage to property of third parties, such as other vehicles.
  • CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) – insurance against accidents as well as theft protection.

Your credit card and your home automobile insurance policy may include coverage for rented vehicles, so you may be inclined to decline the insurance offered by the car rental firm. However, check carefully before leaving if your domestic coverage extends to overseas rentals (in many cases it does not!).

Classes of cars in Germany

No universal world-wide classification of vehicles by class exists. Car categories used by different countries are usually based on the car dimensions, engine size, price and so on. In Germany, cars are conventionally divided into the four broad classes:

  1. Kleinwagen – small cars designed primarily for city driving. Typical representatives of this class: Ford Ka, Toyota Aygo, Peugeot 107, Renault Twingo.
  2. Kompaktklasse – compact cars; best-selling and popular with middle-class buyers. Typical representatives: Volkswagen Golf, Ford Focus, Toyota Corolla.
  3. Mittelklasse – comfortable mid-size cars with an engine of at least 120 h.p. and a good array of auxiliary equipment. Such cars are intended for people with income close to the upper boundary of the middle class. Typical representatives: Volkswagen Passat, BMW 3-series, Audi A4, Toyota Avensis.
  4. Oberklasse – premium and luxury automobiles. These are cars for people with high incomes. This class includes prestigious models by Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Rolls-Royce, Jaguar and others.

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