Car rental in Germany - Tips and tricks
- Renting a car in Germany - stick shift vs. automatic
- How does the road system work?
- What kind of fuel? - gas, diesel or electric?
- Price - What payment methods are accepted?
- What insurance covers cost traps?
- What age restrictions exists?
- What license requirements are needed?
- What time is best to rent a car?
- Where in Germany are locations to rent a car? - Can I drive across the borders with a rented car?
Renting a car in Germany
Germany is simply an irresistible country with a lot of attractions. The country is full of history, cultural sites and picturesque landscapes. Visit the popular places that are not covered by Germany’s public transport. See medieval towns, castles, and snow-capped mountains through car rental services in Germany - It will be easier for you to move from one place to another.. You can go to the specific place you want to go to without having to walk or take another ride. Car rental services in Germany give you utmost mobility, the freedom to choose, what kind of vehicle you want and the control of your own schedule.
stick shift vs. automatic
In America, it is usually the case that cars are preferred with automatic, in Germany, in turn, the cars are well prepared with the manual circuit (stick shift/gear shift). But what kind of car is better? What does an automatic transmission have, what a manual transmission does not have? We have drawn a comparison for you:
Low fuel consumption
Not ideal for stop-and-go traffic
Less relaxed driving
Driving behavior more controllable /
Clutch must be replaced after some time
Wrong shifting may damage the transmission
Engine stalling is possible
Higher fuel consumption
Good for stop-and-go traffic
More expensive purchase price
Clutch does not need to be replaced
Significantly more expensive fin case of damage
Car cannot be stalled
No individual driving behavior possible by switching
If you want to drive around in the city area with your rented car, then we recommend an automatic transmission, because you have a more pleasant and quiet driving style. However, it may be that the lending of an automatic vehicle is more expensive, so you would have to consider whether this is worth it for you.
It is very individual and depends mostly on personal preferences, what car is better suited for you. That's why we cannot give a general recommendation. It is only important that you are aware of the pros and cons and get along with the car later in every situation. If you are used to an automatic transmission and have never driven a stick shift it will take you time to get to know the car and will take a lot of your attention that you need on the road.
How does the road system work
Rules to pay attention toThe right-driving country offers vehicles that have their steering wheels on the left-hand site.
The regulation ’right before left‘ applies, as long as no sign rules otherwise. All passengers are obliged to wear a seat belt.
In case of an emergency call 110 for police or 112 for an ambulance.
The German road traffic regulations can be divided by many different criterias. Different rules exist for the following roads. We listet the most important ones:
Kraftstraßen (Dual carriageway)
Landstraßen (Roads outside built-up areas)
Ortschaften (Roads within closed villages)
Bundesstraßen (Federal roads)
In the following we would first like to explain the different roads. What differences are there? How are the respective road types marked? All this should be answered now.
Autobahnen are marked by a blue traffic sign with a white road (A):
The autobahn is a road that is built for fast cruising. Well maintained roads with unrestricted speed sections as well as areas with speed sections. Look out for speed limits - Speeding costs you a ticket.
The system works: Keep as far to the right lane as possible, passing on the left lane ONLY!
It´s essential to check the left side-view mirror before passing on the autobahn! Cars will appear fast, like out of nowhere at speeds of 130km/h and up. Use the indicators to show others your intentions and be aware of cars changing lanes suddenly in front and behind you.
There is a guideline speed of 130 km/h. This means that the speed is recommended but no penalties or tickets are given if you are faster in an unrestricted speed section. Driving at your own risk faster than 130km/h may occur in accidents. Drivers increase the risk of accidents if they significantly exceed the guideline speed. The degree of joint liability always depends on the circumstances of the individual case. As a rule of thumb, the higher the pace, the higher the subsequent involvement in a damage. Everybody should be aware of this, who would like to reach his goal faster.
Be aware that there are speed restrictions for vehicles (trucks, busses, vehicles with trailers) and will go at 80 or 100 km/h on the autobahn.
The minimum reachable speed of a vehicle has to be 60 km/h.
Cars driving under 60 km/h must not drive on a motorway. That means scooters, pedestrians or cyclists are not allowed on the autobahn.
Another special feature of the autobahn is, that they are always crossing-free with no car intersections or anything alike. The traffic usually yields after coming down driveways on the autobahn and leaves the autobahn on slip roads to prevent disturbance. If you are on an autobahn that runs within a closed town, then more than 50 km/h may be driven.
A motor road (Dual carriageway) is always marked by a blue traffic sign with a white car icon.
Again, the rule applies: Vehicles that drive slower than 60 km/h may not use this road - No scooter drivers, pedestrians and bicycles.
If a motor road is outside a village and they have multiple lanes for one direction, separated by a white central reservation, then the same maximum speeds and directing speeds apply here as on the autobahn. If this is not the case, a speed limit is set through street signs.
(Roads outside built-up areas)
The fact that one is on such a road, you usually notice it when you drive out of a place and the next place is signposted. So, if this road is not marked otherwise, you are on a road between two places.
Passenger cars weighing up to 3.5 t are allowed to drive 100 km / h on these roads. Weighing trucks, cars with trailers or even coaches more than 3.5 t and less than 7.5 t then they can drive up to 80 km / h fast. All trucks weighing more than 7.5 t, all trucks with trailers and coaches with standing passengers, however, are only allowed to travel 60 km / h.
If a road outside a built-up area has several lanes in one, separated by a median strip, then instead of the restriction for cars up to 3.5 tons, a guideline speed of 130 km / h applies. That means: Again, it is recommended to drive 130 km / h, but not forbidden to drive faster.
If a road outside a closed town has several lanes in both directions and this is also separated by a guideline or lane boundary, the speed limit of 130 km/h applies as well to cars up to 3.5 tons.
(Roads within closed villages)
Towns are usually marked with a yellow road sign, containing the name of the town in black letters.
Within a location, a maximum speed of 50 km/h is allowed for each vehicle. In some areas it may as well happen that other traffic signs allow a lower or higher speed, but this would be clearly indicated. If you are on a motorway that runs within a closed town, then only 50 km/h may be driven here.
These types of roads are usually marked with a yellow rectangle and the respective number. So if you see a town sign with a number, it is a federal highway. Since the federal highways are usually similar to the autobahn, they are colloquially called „gelbe Autobahnen“ (yellow highways) because of the yellow road sign. Sometimes one also finds a "B" in front of the respective number.
What kind of fuel?
Fuel prices are high compared to countries like the USA. Diesel and gas are common types and electric motorized cars are increasing with time. In 2017 a liter of gas costs an annual average of 115 cents, gas 137 cents per liter. At some companies you can get a vehicle with a diesel engine guaranteed for a fee. More and more customers are requesting a vehicle with a diesel engine. The reasons are obvious: In general, one liter of diesel in the EU is cheaper than one liter of gasoline.
Anyone who goes for a diesel when renting a vehicle should compare the various offers from the car rental companies. The fulfillment of the customer's request is usually dependent on the availability of diesel vehicles at the place of hire.
Some companies offer for a restricted variety of vehicles a diesel warranty at an additional cost. Whether the lowest fuel costs or the negative fuel consumption is also noticeable in the wallet, that it then expires, how many kilometers are covered with the rental car.
If you are going to travel far distances, diesel will cost you in most cases less than a car that uses gasoline.
Carful when refueling to use the correct gas pump.
Compare your tank control!
"full / full" rule (also: return as received) provides
• No additional service charges for refueling.
• Returning the vehicle with the same amount of petrol as received.
• Fixed final price for car rental rental when booking.
• No passing on "residual fuel" to the company.
• Starting to drive directly without first having to search and stop at the first gas pump.
This regulation is marked in the service package by „FF".
„Return as received“ is an agreement for example:
• Receive: Tank 1/4 full = Return: Tank 1/4 full
• Receive: Tank 3/4 full = Return: Tank 3/4 full etc.
If you do not want to refuel before returning your rental car, then you should choose a complete first tank filling. This regulation states that you will receive the car with a full tank and will allow you to return it with empty tank, the first tank is included in the rental price. But Katrin Müllenbach-Schlimme from ADAC says that only full-to-full is fair for the customer.
Benziner (cars that need gas as fuel) will be the cheapest. Diesels will cost you usually a little more but are cheaper in fuel.
The electric car
Electric cars are becoming increasingly popular. This is a vehicle that is driven by an electric motor so the battery ensures that the car can drive. They do not need to be fueled but charged. How does that work? As the technology continues to evolve, there are different types of charging plugs and options. We will present you some options on how to recharge your electric car. You should still research for the specific car type.
Its considered a luxury car and will offered with a luxury high fee, age and license restrictions. In most cases you must be at least 25 years of age and possess a drivers license for more than 3 years.
Germany offers public charging stations for type-2-plugs. With this plug you have no problem loading your borrowed electric car. In most cases you pay. You have to pay depending on the charging station with NFC, RFID, App, QR (no credit card). Specific information about charging procedures will be offered by your leasing company.
Using a charging cable, most cars can be charged to normal 230V household outlets. However, since there is limited power, it can take a very long time to charge.
The range of an electric car with fully charged battery has improved more and more over the years. E-cars can go up to 500km without having to be loaded.
If you want to drive a lot of small short distances, an electric car can be an advantage for you. For long distances (200km an above) we recommend you to choose another car.
Advantages and disadvantages of electric cars
Low operating and maintenance costs
Long charging time (can take up to 10 hours)
Low insurance amounts
range is limited
Public charging stations are available, but not as widely spread as "normal" gas stations
Quiet driving (pleasant)
Quiet driving (can increase the risk of accidents)
No smell of exhaust
Less choice of vehicle types
Due to the constant evolution of electric cars, there are myths about these cars. We have now filtered out some advantages and disadvantages according to the current state of knowledge for you:
If you want to rent an electric car, the costs naturally depends on which rental agency and what type of car you choose. The price range starts at about 20 € and increases to about 200 € per day.
We advise you to find out in advance which types are available and what car is most suitable for your purpose.
Renting an electric car is relatively common in Germany, but you should ask yourself the following questions before you rent such a car:
Do you travel long or short distances?
If you drive long distances: Where are charging stations?
What do you do during times of charging?
How often will you use the car during your rental?
If you want to rent a car for several days, to easily experience short distances, for example, by doing a sightseeing tour, then we recommend you an electric car. However, if you drive long distances and mainly use the car, then you should be well informed about how you can charge your car or otherwise use a different type of car.
As with most purchases, price is a major consideration when selecting among car rental service providers in Germany. Many of the top car rental service providers maintain an office in the major cities in Germany, providing service clients can count on. The good news for prospective clients is that many of these car rental services provide packages that are cheap, an important consideration when in Germany. Car rental service packages in Germany may include bonuses like fuel markdowns, assistance with repair, and mapping systems with the help of global positioning satellites, allowing clients to make the most of their trip.
Prospective clients are encouraged to shop around when choosing among car rental service providers in Germany. Different quotations from car rental service providers based in Germany and around the world are usually available online, free of charge. You may look on third-party sites to compare prices and find good deals but some rates will only be available on the company´s site.
The basic rate varies depending on many factors like the time of the year, age of the driver(s), duration of rental, destination and location of rental. Shop around to find the best price.
Note that charges usually do not include the 16% Value Added Tax (VAT), registration fee, or any airport fees (but do include the required third-party liability insurance). These additional fees may equal up to 25% of the daily rental. Additional fees can be included as well as excluded from the price. There are plenty of ways rental companies can charge a bonus. Look carefully at the contract and be aware of the most common charges: Young/old driver surcharges, registration fees, contract fees, cross-border fees , winterization charges, some even takes credit card fees. Also a charge is levied for an additional driver, whose details are noted in the lease only if the additional driver presents a valid driver's license. The price increases immediately after exceeding the kilometers that are inclusive. It is better to calculate with more kilometers than having to pay additional!
What payment methods are accepted?
Accepted payment methods are mostly credit cards like Visa Card, MasterCard, American Express, etc. only.
Mostly not accepted are: Prepaid and debit cards, cash, cheques, VISA Electron cards, electronic use only cards, maestro card. Some companies offer the payment method of giro- and debit cards (mostly german cards only) .
Conditions of payments with debit card often include the agreement of the rental price and other specific restrictions.
The account will be charged immediately with the amount of the rental price plus the deposit and will be refunded after the return of the car.
You can cancel most bookings 24 hours before the start of the rental period for free. Be aware that cancellations only count while the company has its office hours.
Check24 warns: „When picking up the car at 10 o'clock and handing it off at 12 o'clock the next day, customers have to pay in full for the day“.
Look out for discount coupons for example RetailMeNot.com, coupons.com or Groupon.
What insurance covers cost traps?
Make a note of previous damage: If the car is filthy when picking it up or already has minor damage, Check24.de recommends either to request another car or have all damage or soiling noted in the contract. Pay attention to scratches, dents and glass damage. Check the tires / rims, the tank, the windscreen wiper, the lights and the air conditioning. A handbook should be in the car.
Experienced drivers know this: An accident, even a small one, can happen faster than expected and sometimes you are not even guilty. Therefore, we would like to inform you in the following about what types of insurance exist and how you protect yourself from cost traps with an adequate insurance.
If you want to rent a car, certain insurance policies are automatically included in the loan. In any case, you need to know what insurance is included in your package.
The different types of car rental insurance
There are many insurance companies, but which ones do you really need? Do not let unnecessary car insurance turn up, but do not forget the really important ones. In order to give you some security when deciding on your rental car insurance, we present below the most important types of insurance.
For a rental car, we always recommend this type of insurance because it covers all damage caused by self-inflicted driving. Therefore, we do not recommend a partial coverage (Teilkaskoversicherung) insurance in any case.
Damage caused by heavy/rough negligence, the damage to the gear unit/transmission or the loss of the rental key are excluded from the comprehensive insurance. There is additional insurance for the loss of keys, but think twice about whether you really need this insurance. As a rule, the car key is a „well looked after“ item and is rarely lost.
With a comprehensive insurance you differentiate between a comprehensive insurance with self-participation and no self-participation. In the US, it is usually the case that there are only packages without deductibles. In other words: Should a major accident happen, then the car renter does not have to give any value to it. In Germany there are some providers who also offer packages with deductibles. If you ever have an accident with your rental car, then it may be that you then have to participate in a small part (usually it is a predetermined amount of € 300) itself. That's why we advise you to always ask for a comprehensive insurance before, whether it is a package with or without deductible.
Car rental liability insurance is also important if you want to rent a car in Germany. Here are covered damages, of objects or persons who are not in the car.
Theft insurance for rental cars intervenes when the car is stolen. However, if you have private items in the car, these are not included in the car rental theft insurance. Again, there are the packages: with deductibles and no excess. We also advise you to inquire beforehand which package the respective provider offers.
Glas- und Reifenversicherung
(Glass and tire insurance)
If there is damage on the windows, or if you have a flat tire, for example, then this is not automatically included in a comprehensive insurance. Therefore, there is an additional insurance called "glass and tire insurance". Inform yourself before closing a deal about the provider's insurance package and if it includes coverage for glass and tire damage. We recommend this insurance. Hitting a rock or striking an object can happen quickly and you should not be stressed unnecessarily, but be well protected.
CAUTION with unnecessary additional insurance offers
Some sellers get commissions for „renting out" a certain number of supplements - keep away from unimportant insurances!
What age restrictions exists?
The legal driving age is 18 in Germany. Renting a car in Germany starts at the age of 18 years and includes a young driver fee. Young drivers have to be in possession of a driving license for at least 6 months. Usually drivers have to be over 21 to rent a car and depending on the company, they may charge a premium until the age of 25/30.
A car rental under 25 years of age can also affect the variety of fleet categories available according to the regulations of each car rental company. Your options to rent larger car categories, luxury vehicles and sports cars may be limited, or refused due to car rental minimum age requirements.
There might be a maximum age at certain companies (around 65/75 years).
Read the conditions carefully.
What license requirements are needed?
A valid drivers license is needed from your home state or province. Every non-latin Arabic, Chinese, Japanese, Cyrillic etc. must be complemented by an international driver's permit (at any AAA location for about $15).
A drivers license from a foreign country is only valid if:
a) no visa has been entered in the passport.
b) the customer has a visa in his passport and at the time of hire has not been in Europe for longer than 6 months. If he has been in Europe for longer than 6 months, he must present a driver's license from an EU country.
The system on the road works because of a strict licensing test system. There are 14 required theory lessons and at least a dozen of driving sessions. The bottom line is that German drivers are well-schooled in handling no-speed-limit highways; Americans, unfortunately, aren’t.
For driver's licenses from countries not part of the international driver's license treaty, an official translation of the license must be presented with the original license.
A charge is levied for the additional driver, whose details are noted in the lease only if the additional driver presents a valid driver's license.
What time is best to rent a car?
The best time to book is as soon as possible. Search for rental cars before you fly to Germany, and reserve your car in advance before the departure day (at least 14 days before ideally). Pick your car up on a Thursday night or early weekend instead of picking it on a Sunday, Monday or Tuesday. You will get better rates than booking upon arrival. You can compare deals and still cancel bookings for free at most companies 2 days before the rent. As an added bonus, you will feel more relaxed knowing your car is waiting for you in Germany. The inventory gets booked out sooner in holiday season or peak travel times and the rates go up. Check the prices for better deals. Don´t cancel your old booking before you didn’t agree on the new booking and availability is checked.
Where in Germany are locations to rent a car in Germany?Companies offering car rental services in Germany are available across the country like in major cities as the capital which is Berlin or in Cologne and Dusseldorf which are considered as the economic centers of the country. Car rental services in Germany are very easy to find. For example do companies offer their service at the german airport areas and can easily be spotted around the airport. They are common for tourists who want convenience. Airport and train station rentals may be seen as premium locations and additional fees occur.
Can I drive across the borders with a rented car?
Also note that one-way solutions (usually to go into eastern countries) or dropping a car off at a different location or city than pick-up may result in additional fees. They can be restricted if you plan on crossing borders so it is best to check the detailed information for the specific countries. Details can be found in the rental conditions of the respective provider.
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