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Renting a Car – Your European Rights

7 min read

Although there are no specific EU rules on car rental, when you rent a car in another EU country you also enjoy your fundamental rights as a consumer. This includes:

  • right to clear information
  • right to a fair contract
  • access to alternative dispute resolution in case of conflict with the company

When renting a vehicle, you have to distinguish between rental companies and intermediaries or mediators. Intermediaries do not rent vehicles, but reserve them with the rental company on behalf of the consumer. In case of conflict, the rental company is exclusively responsible for executing the contract, unless the latter says otherwise.

Right of limited cancellation

If you have reserved a vehicle through the internet, telephone or mail in the EU, you do not automatically have the right to cancel the reservation and ask for a refund of the amount paid, although perhaps the general conditions of the contract with the rental company allow it.

The rental of vehicles is not included in the EU regulations that establish a reflection period of 14 days.

Principle of non-discrimination

Vehicle rental companies are free to set their prices and conditions in different EU countries based on their costs and other factors. Now, if you rent a vehicle – either online or by going in person to a company branch – European rules prohibit discrimination based on nationality or country of residence.

Example

Stefanie, a German citizen, wants to rent a car in Ireland. The price indicated on the company’s website is 70 euro.

But when Stefanie gives her address to the company, the price increases to 140 euro. The reason given is that he is not an Irish resident.

As it seems unfair, Stefanie goes to the European Consumer Centre, which convinces the company to comply with European standards.

Before booking, inform yourself!

Before booking a vehicle, make sure you have understood the conditions correctly. The main aspects that you should notice are:

Insurance coverage

All rental vehicles must be covered by civil liability insurance against third parties, valid in all EU countries. The insurance must be included in the rental price.

In addition, you can obtain coverage for other risks: injury to the driver, damage to the vehicle, theft of the vehicle or your personal effects, vandalism or legal defence.

Make sure you know what damage your insurance covers. This must appear in the general conditions of the rental contract.

Driving a rented vehicle in another country

If you want to drive a rented vehicle in several countries, you must inform the company when booking the vehicle. If you are authorised to take the vehicle to another country, you can ensure that you carry the documentation in order, as well as insurance and coverage in the event of a breakdown.

If you live in the EU and rent a vehicle in a non-EU country, such as Switzerland, special rules apply when driving through EU countries.

If you want to use the vehicle inside and outside the EU – for example, to travel from Switzerland to France, Germany, Austria or Italy – you must first inform the rental company. This can ensure you are provided with a vehicle registered in the EU that complies with the community customs regulations. In Switzerland, most rental companies provide EU residents with cars with EU registration that comply with EU customs regulations. Anyway, it is convenient to check if it is the case of the rental company that you have chosen.

In addition, the rental company must ensure that the vehicle complies with the customs and traffic regulations of the country for which you are going to travel. For example, in many countries winter tires are mandatory for certain months of the year.

If you drive in other EU countries, check the information on road safety.

Validity of driving licence

If you want to rent and drive a vehicle in another EU country, you should also check if your licence is valid in that country.

For more information about your rights as a European citizen, visit the official site of the European Community, europa.eu.

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