Renting a car in the E.U.

Before renting the car it is recommended to compare the offers, so the one you choose corresponds to your needs, availability and allocated budget. As a rule, a car is rented having in mind three things:

  • number of persons you travel with and the luggage;
  • number of kilometers you want to travel;
  • the car’s characteristics, which are different based on the area you want to visit, for example, for a mountain area it is recommended to rent a high capacity car and for visiting a historic area a small car.

Don’t try to base your choice only on the price, the rental conditions should lead you to a safe rental!

A car can be rented directly in the rental company office or through an online booking (on the rental company website or on the specialized intermediary web platforms).

Before renting online a car, it is recommended you should verify what other consumers have said about the company from which you want to rent or about the web platform.

Before booking the car you should read the general booking terms and the general rental terms of the rental company to get to know the company liability exclusions and limitations, but also to be sure you fulfill all the requirements, such as having a credit card and not a debit card, having a valid driver’s license with a certain period since it was obtained.

The online platforms should give you, before proceeding with your booking, information about:

  • rental conditions of the partner rental companies;
  • category, brand, type and classes of the car for rental;
  • supplementary equipments;
  • age and driver’s license;
  • accepted methods of payment;
  • documents needed at the car pick-up;
  • rental price with all included services and supplementary taxes;
  • delivery and return conditions;
  • booking modification and cancellation.

The rental price payment is done with a credit card and in advance. In this situation, the rental companies mention explicitly the accepted credit card type, but also the fact at pick-up there is need to present the same credit card you used for the booking.

Some rental companies do not accept payment in cash or accept payment in cash only if it is accompanied by a credit card, for security reasons.

Usually, the amount of the guarantee deposit is blocked on your credit card at the car pick-up, no matter the way you booked the car, online or directly at the rental company office.

For the deposit to be made you must present the same credit card used for the booking. So, on your credit card you should have all the necessary amounts to pay the rental price, the supplementary services fees, if it is the case, and to make the deposit.

The guarantee deposit is returned if you delivered the car in the same condition you picked it up, if it does not have any scratch or defect and if you returned all equipments, accessories and documents you received.

The guarantee deposit is retained in part or in whole if the car suffered damages due to your fault and these are not covered by the insurances included in the price or those supplementary you paid. If the guarantee represents a damage excess, it is retained in whole.

Although the online booking is an online contract, it is excluded explicitly from the right of withdrawal. As a result, you will not be able to give up the booking in 14 days, if you change your mind.

The modification and cancellation policy, no matter the way you book, depends always on the rental company. In some cases, there is a minimum number of days in which you can modify or cancel a booking, without penalties. In other cases, you cannot modify or cancel at all the booking, as the price you were offered is a special one.

You should send a request to modify or cancel the booking to the rental company and the intermediary, if it is the case, to give all the needed information (your identity, the booking number, booking date), to attach the booking confirmation and the voucher you received and use a simple, polite language to explain your problem clearly, without losing yourself in details.

Checking the car is an advantage when you rent it straight in the rental company office. To be sure the car fulfills your requirements verify the exterior and the interior of the car. Any scratch or damage you notice must be written in the pick-up document.

The rental company has not onl to inform you on its rental terms and conditions, but also to explain you your rights and duties.

In order to not lose too much time at the counter it is recommended you find in advance the information on the rental terms and conditions on the company’s website and at the counter only to verify if what you read corresponds to what it is presented to you.

Usually, the rental agreement and the terms and conditions are presented in the language of the state from where you rent the car. But you must not be discouraged, as you can ask for their translation in English. The company’s refusal should make you wonder and determine you to ask for more information to be sure you understood your rights and obligations and the situations where the rental company is liable for problems linked to the rental. Do not sign the contract if you didn’t understand it.

If you understood the contract, don’t forget to take your copy and to ask for a payment proof and a proof a deposit was made, if it is the case.

Usually, the rental price includes the civil liability insurance. Some companies include also in their offer insurance against theft and CASCO.

The civil liability insurance is meant to cover the damages you provoked to other traffic participants. The risks covered by the civil liability insurance are material damages to the car, injuries or death of other persons due to your fault. The liability limits for such incidents are different from country to country, so it is recommended you should inform on this to find out if there is need for supplementary insurances.

CASCO insurance covers damages to the car except theft for which a special insurance is needed. Although CASCO insurance covers a large number of risks (accidents, scratches, skids, explosions etc.) there are also exceptions, such as:

  • damages to consumables (tires, wind screen), tarps, covers or losing/deteriorating key cars;
  • damages due to influences of the temperature on the car motor;
  • damages to the motor and gearbox, as a result of the overheating from other reasons than those in the insurance.

To be sure you are exonerated from the payment of damages due to car theft or to car impact with animals or due to natural phenomenons (lightning, storm, hay or flood), ask information on whether these insurances are or not included in the rental price. For the case where they are not included, you can ask information on their cost and the conditions you can opt for them.

This “insurance” type is a supplementary option which guarantees you the reduction of your liability for the damage cost to the amount you paid, with the exception of cases when you intentionally provoked the damages or used the car inadequately, for example, you drove the car outside paved roads or sub-rented the car.

For CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) the company gives up its right to ask you compensations for the damages to the car, the repair costs being limited to the amount you paid. So, the amount you paid is not reimbursed if the car has been returned without damages. Although this insurance covers liability for damages to the car or parts and accessories, in most cases damages to wind shields, tires, locks or lateral mirrors are not covered by this supplementary options.

No matter the type of the insurance included in the price or for which you opted and paid for supplementary you must know that if you have any accident on the road, you should contact the rental company and inform them, declare the incident to the Police and obtain the necessary documents to exclude your liability, if it is the case.

To pick up the car you should present the following documents:

  • the confirmation e-mail and the voucher, if the booking was done online; the voucher should contain the same information you introduced during the booking (car type, rental period, pick-up/drop-off locations, rental and supplementary options price;
  • valid identity document;
  • valid driver’s license.

Besides these, you should present an accepted credit card, the same card you used to book the car, if you did it online. In several cases, consumers have given at the counter for pick up another credit card type or a debit card and this lead to the company taking from the card the amount already paid at the moment of the booking. To recover the amount paid initially a reimbursement procedure must be started, which has proved many times very difficult.

The pick-up and drop off of the rented car are done, usually, at the office of the rental company from which you rented. At your request, the car can be picked-up/dropped off in an airport, at the hotel or in other locations, after you pay a fee.

The pick-up and drop off of the rented car are done in the presence of the company’s representative, after the rental agreement is signed and the payment of the price. In both situations a document should be drafted in which all observations regarding the car technical condition (scratches, damages etc.).

To avoid a dispute with the rental company, it is recommended:

  • to verify the car condition before signing the pick-up document;
  • to check if the car has all supplementary equipments you asked and paid for;
  • to ask the company’s representative to note in the pick-up document all the damages you noticed, the number of kilometers and the level of fuel at pick-up and drop off; if you go over the number of kilometers you opted for or you return the car with a lower level of fuel you may pay extra fees;
  • to make photos of the damages and scratches already existent, to be able to present them to the company in case it blames you for them;
  • to verify the level of fuel; usually, the car is given with a full tank and must be returned the same way;
  • to keep all receipts from gas stations in case the company disputes the fuel volume;
  • not to sign the pick-up document before checking if all your observations have been recorded;
  • to ensure the pick-up document is signed also by the rental company’s representative;
  • to ensure you returned and parked the car in special designated places; make photos of the place to avoid having to pay fines for illegal parking.

In case of an accident you should inform both the rental company and the police for an investigation. The police report and copies of the documents pertaining to the persons involved in the accident (insurance policy, identity card, driver’s license, registration certificate) must be sent to the rental company. If these documents lack, you can be made liable for the total costs of the repairs and other damages.

In case of a technical problem you should inform the rental company for assistance. If the defect cannot be remedied on spot, the rental company should give you an exchange car.

Any irregularity/problem you noticed during the booking or the rental should be notified as soon as possible.

If the problem regards aspects linked to the effective rental, such as refusal to rent, refusal to reimburse the deposit or blaiming you for car damages, you should complain to the company you signed the rental agreement with, no matter if the booking was made online or through a specialized platform.

Usually, online platforms only act as intermediaries and give consumers possibility to rent from one of their partners. The agreement signing attracts the rental company liability. Sure, it is not excluded to try obtaining a solution with the intermediary, but for a quick solution it is recommended you should send the complaint to the rental company you signed the agreement with.

If the problem is not solved after you contacted the rental company and it is situated in another member state than Romania, you can contact the European Consumer Centre Romania  (ECC Romania) by phone, fax, e-mail or the cross-border complaint form on www.eccromania.ro, for an amicable solution of your dispute. All services given by the European Consumer Centres are free.