When hunting for the best deal, it's important to consider what may not be included in your rental car's initial up-front quote. Use the information below to uncover hidden car rental fees so you can rest assured you won't run into any unwelcomed surprises on your trip!
Every traveler wants to find the best deals when planning a vacation abroad, but some rental car costs may not always be what they seem. Additional fees, taxes, and surcharges might not be clearly stated in your car rental contract with the other guys, but Auto Europe is dedicated to making your booking process transparent and easy to understand! A well-informed traveler is a happy traveler, so check out the information below to learn everything you need to know about hidden car rental fees.
Click on any car rental fee for definitions and more information
Appears on car rental contracts as: VAT Tax, Value Added Tax
Typically Costs: 15% to 30%, depending on country
What you need to know: VAT (or Value Added Tax) is a standard European sales tax that varies among different nations in Europe. The minimum allowed VAT rate is 15%, but individual countries can set their rates higher, and some will charge up to 27%. You will have to pay VAT on your rental rate (whether or not it is pre-paid), as well as any other extra equipment charges or local fees you are charged for at the rental desk, including one way fees, insurance costs, and location surcharges. Unlike VAT tax paid on goods, clothing, and souvenirs, which can be reclaimed at the airport upon your departure, you cannot reclaim any VAT taxes you pay on a car rental.
Avoiding Car Rental VAT Tax: Rental car VAT tax is usually included in a quoted car rental cost, but it can sometimes be left out and charged locally. If VAT tax is not included in your initial quote, you may end up having to pay more than you bargained for once you're actually picking up your rental car! Look over your car rental contract and keep an eye out for terms like "including VAT," "taxes extra," and "plus VAT" to find out whether or not a given quote includes these mandatory taxes.
Appears on car rental contracts as: International One Way Fee, Domestic One Way Fee, Vehicle Return Fee, Drop Charge
Typically Costs: Anywhere from €10 to €1,000 depending on rental specifics
What you need to know: One way fees may apply to your rental if you plan on dropping off your rental car at a different location than you originally pick it up from. The fees can either be paid locally (at the rental desk when you are picking up) and charged in local currency or included in your pre-paid rate. Be sure to pay close attention whenever you are taking a rental car one way because these fees can sometimes be expensive!
One way fees are grouped into two distinct categories: domestic and international. Domestic one ways are often allowed at no additional cost and are much cheaper than international one ways, which will always apply to any rental between two different countries. Be sure to check out our informational page for more specifics on one way car rentals in Europe
Avoiding One Way Car Rental Fees: When it comes to domestic one way rentals (within the same country), some suppliers may charge one way fees, even within the same city, while others may allow you to drop your car off at any location within the nation's borders at no additional charge. Check your quote or contract thoroughly to make sure any domestic one way fees are either included or won't apply, or find out how much these charges will be to factor them into your hunt for the best overall deal. Keep an eye out for terms like "D.O.W. included," "drop charge due at pick up," and "one way fee required."
International one ways will invariably incur a significant fee, the lower end of which will run around €100. There is simply no way to avoid paying the extra costs necessary to get a car back to the country that it came from; however, you can adjust your travel plans to accommodate for cheaper options. As long as you stay within Western Europe, there usually aren't any additional international travel fees for driving your rental car to other countries. The big fees are incurred by dropping off your vehicle in a different country than you picked it up in. So don't abandon your dreams of touring Europe by car because of an international one way fee; just plan on getting back to where you started after completing your tour!
Appears on car rental contracts as: Car Rental Equipment (GPS, child seats, winter tires, etc.), Add-Ons, Extras
Typically Costs: €5 to €15 per day, per item
What you need to know: You will always have the option of adding additional equipment to your rental depending on your unique needs or preferences. The most commonly available accessories include GPS units, child seats, snow chains, ski racks, and portable WiFi devices, but other options may be offered in different locations. Additional equipment is usually charged on a per-day basis, and prices will range depending on the supplier you are renting from; add-ons will always cost extra, to be paid for at the counter and subject to VAT, unless your quote or contract explicitly states them as "included". Be sure to take care of the accessories you add on, too, because you will have to pay a replacement fee for any loss, theft, or damages done to the items!
It is important to note that, while extra equipment is optional and you generally decide whether to include it or not, many countries in Europe have laws regarding child seats that require children under a specific age and/or size to have one. Checking ahead for local child seat laws can save you a hefty fine and, most importantly, keep your kids safe on your journey abroad! Check out our informational page on car rental equipment for more specifics and resources on optional accessories and add-ons.
Avoiding Car Rental Equipment Fees: You will almost always have to pay extra for additional equipment, but keep an eye out for special promotions and travel deals that can help you save money on accessories. Look into signing up for an international data plan so you can access maps and resources on your smartphone or tablet, and consider bringing your own GPS unit from home. You can also bring your own child seats along with you, but the hassle of carrying this bulky item in your luggage usually outweighs the cost of renting locally.
Appears on car rental contracts as: Road Tax, Vehicle License Fee, Environmental Fee/Eco Surcharge, Credit Card Processing Fee, Road Safety Fee
Typically Costs: €1 to €5 per day
What you need to know: Local rental car taxes may apply to your rental depending on the type of vehicle you rent, the location you rent it in, and which supplier you choose to rent from. While typically not very expensive, local taxes are often overlooked and have become prime suspects in the realm of dastardly "hidden" fees. They are not always included and rarely mentioned in your average rental quote, but you can almost count on having to pay a few extra Euros at the pick-up desk on any car rental for various location-specific taxes.
Avoiding Local Rental Car Taxes: Unfortunately, there is simply no way to avoid any sort of tax, local or otherwise, but just be wary that these legitimate extra fees do exist and will be listed in your rental car contract.
Appears on car rental contracts as: Airport Surcharge, Rail Station Surcharge, Premium Location Surcharge, Parking Fees, Out of Hours Fees, Late Return Fees
Typically Costs: €30 to €50
What you need to know: Location surcharges are typically applied when picking up your rental car at major transportation hubs throughout Europe, such as airports, rail stations, and cruise ports. The standard additional charge for picking a car up at one of these locations is €40, but the fee can vary from €20 to €80 in some cases. Depending on the locale, additional location-related charges may be applied, such as "parking fees," which are incurred in areas like Venice where parking space is very limited.
Be sure to pay attention to the hours of operation for the offices where you plan on picking up and dropping off the vehicle, as well as the specific times you've arranged your rental for. Dropping off your car later than the agreed-upon time on your reservation can cost you a "late return fee" and, depending on the time of day you originally picked up the car, can also add an additional day onto your total rental rate.
Avoiding Rental Car Location Surcharges: Picking up your rental downtown as opposed to at an airport or rail station will often be cheaper because you can avoid any location surcharges. Be wary, however, that you will have to pay for a cab or navigate public transportation to get to a downtown office from your arrival point. For those landing at an airport or coming in by train, the additional location surcharges are often worth the convenience of picking up your car right after you get off your plane or train rather than hauling your luggage to a downtown office. Airport and rail station car rental locations also have longer operating hours, so you won't have to pay an "out of hours fee" if you plan on picking up very late at night or very early in the morning. As always, review your car rental contract or quote thoroughly to see what additional fees apply to your rental so you can make a proper plan of action to avoid them where possible.
Appears on car rental contracts as: Cross Border Fee, Travel to Other Countries
Typically Costs: €20 to €50
What you need to know: International car rental travel fees may apply to your reservation if you plan on driving outside the country at some point during the course of your rental. You must mention any planned travel that crosses international borders when arranging your reservation and, if the travel is permitted, there may be extra fees incurred for outfitting your rental vehicle with the proper documentation, toll stickers, and licensing necessary for traveling to other countries.
Since border crossings in Western Europe are relatively easy, traveling between countries is almost always permitted free of charge. Travelers will, however, run into "cross border fees" when driving between any non-EU nations, particularly any countries in Eastern Europe. But regardless of what countries you plan on sojourning in, always make your plans known to the company you are renting through; taking a rental car across borders without prior notice is a violation of contract terms and will void any insurance coverage you have!
Avoiding International Car Rental Travel Fees: Different companies will charge different amounts for international car rental travel, and some may not permit certain travel at all. While there is no way to avoid these fees altogether, savvy consumers can take care to consider these extra costs when hunting for the best overall rates. Pay special attention to terms like "cross border fee" and "border crossing charge" when reading your car rental contracts or quotes, and don't wait until you're at the pick-up desk to let your supplier know you plan on driving outside the country.
Appears on car rental contracts as: Administration Fee, Processing Fee
Typically Costs: €30 to €50
What you need to know: Assuming you know the basics of rental car insurance in Europe, there are still some extra car rental costs related to insurance that you should be aware of. Beyond the amounts due for the insurance coverage itself and security deposits or credit card holds, you may be hit with additional fees in the event of a collision or theft. An "administration fee" of anywhere from €40 to €80 will be assessed to cover the cost of paperwork and filing if you happen to get into an accident and will be supplementary to any other amount you owe towards your deductible.
When it comes to car rental insurance in Ireland specifically, be on the lookout for "processing fees." These fees will apply to most basic or non-inclusive rates in the country and take effect whenever you opt out of insurance through the local rental company itself. The amount of this fee is usually €30; coincidentally around the same price basic insurance costs for most car rentals. In Ireland, using insurance coverage from your credit card is possible, albeit tricky, but be wary of any extra insurance car rental costs that can result from opting for a basic rate!
Avoiding Insurance Car Rental Costs: Additional insurance-related car rental costs will usually not take effect unless you get into an accident or collision. Choosing a full insurance policy or making sure you are well-covered by your credit card rental car insurance can help you to recoup any costs incurred in the unfortunate event of an accident, but the best method of avoiding insurance costs is accident prevention. Research the local driving laws and regulations of your chosen destination before you depart, and be sure to rent a car size and class you are comfortable driving. You'll want to relax on your vacation abroad, and as long as your insurances are sorted out for a vehicle you are familiar with operating, you'll have plenty of peace of mind!
Appears on car rental contracts as: Full to Full, Full to Empty
Typically Costs: Local price of fuel
What you need to know: Your car rental fuel policy will determine how you will pay for any existing fuel your rental car comes with when you pick it up. With a full to full policy, you will pay nothing up front but will be expected to return the vehicle with the same amount of fuel your car had when you picked it up (usually a full tank); you will be charged for any fuel missing when the vehicle is returned. If your rental includes a full to empty fuel policy, you will pre-pay a given amount for a full tank of fuel and can return the vehicle as close to empty as possible without incurring any additional fuel costs.
Avoiding Car Rental Fuel Policy Costs: Optional fuel policies are generally a matter of preference, but be aware that all rental companies will charge a premium for any type of fuel, usually based on the highest price per liter available in the area. To save on fuel charges, opt for a full to full policy when available, fill up the rental car right before you return it, and retain a copy of the receipt for your records. It may be a bit less convenient to have to make a fuel stop just before dropping off, but that little bit of extra work can save you some money on the premium rates you will have to pay for a tank of gas through a full to empty policy.
Appears on car rental contracts as: Limited Kilometers
Typically Costs: €0.50 to €2 per additional kilometer
What you need to know: If your car rental includes unlimited mileage/kilometers, then you have no worries; you can cover as much ground as you'd like in your rental car without incurring any extra fees!
Some rental rates, however, may be specified as "limited kilometers," in which case you will be charged extra if you drive the car farther than an allotted distance. Limited kilometer rentals usually come with 100 to 300 kilometers per day, after which you will have to pay an extra fee per additional kilometer driven.
Avoiding Limited Kilometer Car Rental Costs: A majority of rental car rates offered in Europe include unlimited kilometers, but be sure to read your car rental contract or quote to be certain of what is and isn't included. Limited kilometer rentals are, for the most part, cheaper than unlimited kilometer rentals, so there is an opportunity to save some cash if you don't plan on driving long distances. But be careful if you choose a limited kilometer rental because additional kilometers can accumulate quickly and result in considerable extra fees if you aren't careful!
Appears on car rental contracts as: Additional Driver Fee, Young Driver Surcharge, Senior Driver Fee
Typically Costs: €5 to €20 per day
What you need to know: Driver fees may be added on to your rental depending on the age and number of drivers you wish to have registered to drive the rental car. Typically, if you want to register extra people to drive the rental car aside from the primary driver to whom the rental is listed under, an "additional driver fee" will be assessed on a per-day basis. In some cases, a free additional driver will be included in a given quote; if this is the case, it is always clearly stated along with the rest of your rental details.
The age of a prospective driver can also potentially incur extra fees on your rental. If you're a driver under 25 years old, there's a good chance you will be charged an extra €15 to €25 per day as a "young driver surcharge" to recoup the additional insurance risks posed by younger drivers. On the opposite end of the spectrum (and far less common), some rental companies will charge extra for drivers over the age of 75.
Avoiding Driver Fees: Check with the companies you are considering renting through to see what their policies regarding drivers are. Some rental suppliers may charge you an additional driver fee while another may allow you to register an extra driver for free. The specific ages used to determine senior and young driver surcharges also vary by supplier; one may charge any driver under 25 an extra daily fee, for example, while another will only charge for drivers under 19. Read your terms and condition to be aware of any driver fees you may be responsible for upon pickup of your rental car!