Rental Cars and Ridesharing in Europe
A car offers you ultimate freedom of movement and flexibility. If you unable to use your own vehicle (when traveling to another continent for example), a rental car provides you with your best options. And for those traveling alone and carrying minimum of baggage there's one more possibility - ridesharing.
A rental car will save you a lot of money and hustle, particularly if you know which singularities require your attention. With the help of an advanced search engines, which will compare for you the prices of all major regional car rental companies, you'll be able to find the most suitable car at the best price available on the local market.
Also in Europe there are places where you can get only by car. A car is indispensable in the countryside and also in sparsely populated areas (Scandinavia).
Rental cars are ultimate money-savers for couples and small groups: when in doubt, try to add all the public transport expenses and compare the resulting sum with the costs of renting a car. The difference can be impressive.
At the same time, solo travelers can find that travel by
air, train or bus is more affordable for them, as they'll have to bear the entire cost of a rental car alone, but for them there's also a possibility of ridesharing.
Ridesharing in Europe
Referring to ridesharing we don't mean taxi services similar to UBER or carpooling. We're speaking here about situations when a driver having unoccupied seats in his vehicle and due to specific considerations (offsetting costs for the trip, minimizing the environmental impact, sometimes there's a need in a substitute driver and so on) is willing to give a ride to one or more passengers heading the same way.
It must be said that in contrast to Europe to find a ridesharing opportunity in the United States, if by all means possible, but pretty difficult. Oddly enough, we've got to blame for it mainly underdeveloped public infrastructure (in comparison to Europe, but we mustn't forget, that Europe is compact: its territory isn't large and mainly densely populated: look what happens with public transportation in Scandinavian countries!).
In the US one can find a variety of services bearing the same name, but in reality they tend to be more of rental or carpooling nature: Carma, Relay Rides, Car2Go, etc.
In order to share a ride in Europe you'll almost for certain have to use the services of BlaBlaCar (the page requires registration, at the bottom of the main page you can change the target country). Lately they've almost completely expelled from the European scene all the other players (carpooling.com, mitfahrgelegenheit.de, etc.). There's also BlaBlaCar app in iTunes Store.
The service is working differently in various countries: in England you'd book your ride online (paying in addition 20% VAT and booking fees) and in Germany or Russia you'd just contact your future driver (or passenger for that matter) through the site paying for the ride in cash later directly to the driver.
In these countries it's still really possible to get from point A to point B compensating the driver your part of fuel costs only. But it's unclear how long the situation will stay like this, because the company has almost a complete monopoly on the European market and who can prevent it from requiring payment for its services at any moment?
You can try to find other providers that still manage to survive, for example
mitfahren.de offers an opportunity of a direct contact between potential passengers and drivers in Europe and Germany completely free of charge, but the chance to find a match is relatively small just because the number of users is not high enough. But all the same, it's worth to give it a try.
In Russia lately by Mail.ru was launched the Russian analogue of BlaBlaCar — BeepCar, the site is in Russian (as BlaBlaCar.de is in German, BlaBlaCar.fr — in French) and the page in iTunes Store is in the same language, but for some reason the BeepCar app is in English.
European Car Rentals
Rental cars are irreplaceable, if you've got a lot of luggage. You'll not only have to carry it, but airlines and bus companies have their baggage allowance policies, so you're not restricted (except by your carrying abilities) only when traveling by train (there are restrictions regarding the number of pieces of baggage, but no weight restrictions, as a rule).
A "central" bus/train station can be located not too centrally, as you would think and you'll need a transport option to get to and from the airport. No trouble for those driving a car here.
And in some places (in Norway, for example) you'll pay for a taxi in one direction (to/from train station) exactly the same amount of money, as for a rental car for all the duration of your vacations there!
Nowadays big car rental companies usually have a number of locations, where you can return the car, no matter at what time (they'll have a lot to park the car, and a drop box for the keys), plus many hotels allow free parking.
A car will give you access to affordable accommodations in small towns and far away from the train stations (just count up the costs).
And at last, if you're going to get yourself a new car, is there a better way to test a specific model?
But be prepared for some common problems with rental cars (not to mention the possibility of theft, damage and other liabilities that should be covered by your car rental insurance):
- guaranteed availability and usability of a navigation device in a rental car will cost you additional $10- $30 a day (!), so perhaps you'd better take your own GPS device with you;
- a car presents a huge liability in big cities: prepare yourself for possible pollution fees, traffic jams and irritated drivers; not all roads are perfect everywhere;
- plus parking, different road signs, speed limits and bathroom stops;
- and you'll always have to keep your eyes on the road.
In order to find a car for rent:
- you can visit web pages of such wholesale giants as AutoEurope (a car rental wholesale company, works with ~ 20,000 car rental locations in 180 countries all over the world, was founded in Germany in 1954), RentalCars.com (a member of the Priceline Group); they will also compare offers from their partners / suppliers, such as Hertz, Budget, National, Dollar, Thrifty, Europcar, Alamo, Avis;
- there are metasearch car rental comparison tools (the same as for flight tickets) of momondo, skyscanner, jetradar (will compare offers of Sixt, Thrifty, Hertz, Alamo, Budget, Avis, National, Enterprise);
- or you can go directly to a website of a car rental company of your choice. For example: Budget (US), Avis (Us), Sixt (European), Thrifty (US) or Europcar (a French car rental company)... though all these companies are working internationally.
In order to avoid additional expenses, always take and return your car with a full tank (if it's not stated otherwise in the fuel policy of the chosen car hire company).
And one more thing. In order to keep your nerves intact, check if the basic types of car insurance are included in your car hire costs or choose them from the list of additional services: covers for damage to the vehicle, for the theft of the vehicle and for injury or property damage suffered by a third party.
We were lucky so far, but once (having parked a rental car in the street under our windows) in the morning we've discovered, that one of its windows was opened. The reason for it is still unclear (it could happen on its own or with someone's help). No damage was sustained by the car that time, but it's nice to feel yourself fully protected (especially when traveling abroad).