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HomeGerman FinanceHow to rent a car cheaply in Germany

How to rent a car cheaply in Germany

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When traveling in Germany, having a car gives you a lot of freedom and convenience. You can travel at your own pace, make many stops to admire the scenery, and visit certain locations that are difficult to get by public transit. Read this post to learn how to rent a car in Germany for a low price.

You need a rental car especially if you start your vacation by plane and want to be mobile again at the vacation spot. For many, it is also an alternative to their own car.

How much you have to pay for the rented car depends on a number of factors: When you rent, for how long and what other conditions apply.

It is all the more important that you compare the prices in peace before the rental period and do not book at short notice or even on site. Numerous rental car portals on the Internet will help you to find the cheapest offer. In this guide we will show you what to look out for.

Where can you find the best rental car deals?

rent a car cheaply

The offers of the rental car companies differ considerably. In addition, there are three types of providers on the market: On the one hand, there are the classic rental companies who offer you their own vehicles on site. These include Avis, Europcar and Hertz. In addition, small, local direct providers often offer their own rental cars.

There are also the so-called rental car agents, also known as brokers or tour operators. They do not rent their own vehicles, but only broker the vehicles of the direct providers.

Well-known intermediaries are:

Finally, there are various online platforms that bundle the offers from direct sellers and rental car brokers.

The advantage for you: There you will find the widest range; you can easily compare prices and conditions and also book directly.

How to find the cheapest rental car

It is best to use comparison portals to get an overview of prices and conditions before you book a car. This is far less time-consuming than asking individual landlords or renting them on site. It makes sense to query offers on several portals.

If you are a member of a car club, you can first see whether you can get rental cars from certain companies there for less. Then you compare the price with the offer on the portals.

Another alternative: You book the flight and rental car together with a travel agent. Advantage: If both travel services are sold to you in one package with a total price, it is a package tour. Then the mediator has to stand by you even if you have problems with your travel.

However, in our experience, rental cars are often more expensive this way and you have less choice of providers. We therefore think it makes more sense to book the flight and rental car separately.

We have been recommending the portals billiger-mietwagen.de, Check24 and happycar.de since our test in 2015. You can read more about our investigation here. We are currently working on a new comparison for 2021.

What should you pay attention to when booking a rental car?

Rental car prices are constantly changing. However, there are a few things you can do to save money:

Book as early as possible and from home

It is best to book as early as possible. Preferably before your departure. If something changes later in your wishes or you unexpectedly find a better price, you can always withdraw from your contract. Good comparison portals allow you to cancel your booking free of charge up to 24 hours in advance.

However, it is significantly more expensive to rent the rental car on site. And the other conditions are also often worse, such as the insurance benefits.

Use a German-language comparison portal

When looking for the ideal rental car, you should make sure that you use a German-language comparison portal. If there are later problems with the car rental company or the agent, you have a German-speaking contact person and you will find all information in your language.

Use different search settings

When comparing prices, vary the rental location as well as the date, time and rental period if possible. Reason: You often pay a surcharge for frequently used stations at the airport or main train station. Choosing a different branch or a city nearby can therefore be cheaper.

There are often special offers for weekends. Sometimes three days are even cheaper than two or a whole week is cheaper than five days – give it a try.

By the way, you can usually only reserve a certain vehicle category with a car rental company and not a specific car. If you want a specific model, you should ask the landlord about it directly. However, you are not entitled to this.

The best tank policy is “full-full”

There are different regulations with which tank filling you have to take over the car and return it again. Make sure that this variant applies to your booking.

In most countries, the “full-full” fuel policy is common and also the cheapest for you. The tank is full of fuel when you pick it up and should also be filled when you drop it off.

If, on the other hand, the rental station has to refuel the car, it is often significantly more expensive. In some countries it is also customary for you to pay a flat rate for the first tank of fuel and then return the car empty, that is to say “full-empty”. Residual quantities in the tank will then not be reimbursed.

Choose unlimited kilometers if you want to drive a lot

If you intend to cover a long distance, we recommend the “unlimited kilometers” option, because extra kilometers afterwards are expensive. However, if you can foresee that you do not want to make long journeys, you can opt for a vehicle with a limited number of included kilometers.

Beware of extra costs for one-way rentals

In principle, you have the option of dropping off the vehicle at a different location than where you picked it up. However, this so-called one-way rental incurs additional costs: depending on the landlord, up to 30 euros within Germany.

This extra can be considerably more expensive abroad; in the USA, for example, it costs up to 450 euros. The exact price can be found in the rental conditions of the respective provider.

Avoid expensive extras

Some additional services are expensive. Think about whether you really need this extra. And it can sometimes be cheaper to bring a child seat with you or to buy a new one on site than to rent it from a car rental company.

If you don’t want to do without extras such as automatic transmission, navigation device or air conditioning, it is best to book them in advance. This is cheaper and the landlord can provide the extras directly.

The same applies to additional drivers. Give each driver of the rental car to the rental company. Otherwise, there is no full insurance coverage. However, an additional driver usually costs a fee.

You have to reckon with an additional 10 euros per day. In this case, another offer that already includes the additional driver may be cheaper.

In winter: Include tires in your search query

In Germany it has been mandatory since 2010 to have winter or all-season tires fitted in wintry road conditions. Nevertheless, it happens again and again that car rental companies offer vehicles without winter tires during these months.

Or they ask for a surcharge for this “extra equipment”. Include winter tires in your search query right away. The offers on the portals are hardly more expensive as a result.

What kind of insurance do you need?

rent a car cheaply

In addition to the price of the rental car, you should also pay attention to good insurance cover. The offers differ mainly in how much you have to pay as a co-payment in the event of a damage and the maximum amount of damage that the insurance covers.

Fully comprehensive insurance without excess

Fully comprehensive insurance covers damage to your own car that occurs as a result of an accident – even if the insured person was responsible for the accident. But the performances are different. The rental conditions state which damage is insured.

You should opt for an offer with no excess. Otherwise, a claim can quickly become expensive for you. Because the deductible is between 950 and 1,100 euros, depending on the offer. Sometimes credit card companies also reimburse the deductible if you paid by credit card.

There are two different models of how you can protect yourself without a deductible. In the classic variant, you do not have to pay any money to the landlord in the event of damage. The second variant is often called “with reimbursement”: In this case, in the event of damage, you first make an advance payment and get the money back later.

Of course, the variant without any advance payment is preferable to the other. In some of our price queries, however, the model with advance payment was cheaper. So always compare both variants and consider whether the advance payment is an option for you if you save money on the vehicle rental.

Glass and tire damage as well as roof and underbody damage are normally not included and cost extra. Extra insurance for tire or underbody damage is particularly useful in countries with poorly developed roads. Sometimes they do not increase the rental price or only slightly, in other cases you have to pay an extra charge.

Fully comprehensive insurance does not cover damage to the interior or the loss of the car key. The insurance also does not pay if you acted with gross negligence, for example because you drove drunk.

If a driver has not been registered with the rental company, there is also no insurance cover. Also check which services your credit card company would take over in the event of a claim if you paid by credit card.

Liability insurance with high coverage

Liability insurance covers the cost of damage caused by the driver to others. You can filter the offers on good comparison portals – but usually only according to the coverage amount from one million euros. But that’s still very little, because personal injuries in particular can quickly exceed this amount.

In our opinion, the coverage should cover at least 15 million. Basically, the higher the better. So, if you find a rental vehicle among the offers that has a significantly higher sum insured for the same or a little more money (for example 50 or 100 million euros), you should rather opt for this vehicle.

Theft insurance with co-payment

Theft insurance covers this if the rented car is stolen. It is usually included in all offers, but often with a deductible.

Do you already have a motor vehicle liability insurance?

Some German motor vehicle liability insurances also cover damage to rental cars in other European countries. This is the so-called Mallorca Policy, which raises the liability insurance sum for a rental car abroad to the German level. So, if you have your own car liability insurance, check your contract conditions.

Motor vehicle liability insurance is also sometimes included in protection letters and credit cards. So, check whether you already have insurance coverage that adequately covers damage.

rent a car cheaply

What do you have to pay attention to in the rental conditions?

Important information can be hidden in the rental conditions. You should therefore clarify any open questions with the provider – preferably before you pick up the car.

Cancellation deadlines

With good providers you can cancel free of charge up to 24 hours before the start of the rental – depending on the booking by email or on the phone. However, the agents only accept cancellation of the booking during their opening hours.

Important: The opening times are also used when calculating the 24-hour period. If you want to cancel outside of the opening times, contact the landlord directly and notify the agent.

Payment options

To book a rental car you usually need a credit card and at the latest when you pick it up on site for the deposit. The car rental company blocks the money on your credit card as security, but only debits it in the event of damage. You must always present the driver’s credit card. As a rule, this cannot be a prepaid credit card.

To avoid problems if the landlord blocks the deposit, you should know the PIN and the daily limit of your credit card.

Driver’s license and minimum age

Some rental companies require that the drivers of the rental cars have had their driver’s license for at least a year. You can find information on this in the rental conditions of the respective offer. There is also the minimum age to rent a car.

Depending on the provider and vehicle class, the driver must be older than 19, usually even 21 or 23 years old. Those younger than 25 often have to pay an additional fee. Calculate with 12 to 20 euros per day.

Some rental companies offer packages for special periods (such as weekends) or for certain types of vehicles (such as vans) that are aimed specifically at drivers aged 18 and over. The young driver fee is already included in these tariffs.

Whether such offers are cheaper than a regular tariff plus fee depends on the individual case. The same applies here: Try it out.


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Across national borders

It is best to contact the provider in advance if you want to drive the car across national borders. Such journeys are usually not a problem in Western Europe. In Eastern Europe the rules are stricter. Note that there may be a fee for this. Sometimes you also have to announce trips with a ferry and pay extra.

So you can pick up the rental car without any problems

rent a car cheaply

When you pick up the car, you will need to show the driver’s license, ID card and credit card. A passenger’s credit card is not sufficient even if you booked the car with this credit card.

If an additional driver is to be registered, he must also be present and present a driver’s license and ID card. You should also bring the booking confirmation or the so-called voucher that you will receive after booking. Read the rental agreement and don’t be afraid to ask if anything is unclear.

If someone wants to talk you into additional benefits such as insurance, do not rush to accept them. If you have followed our advice, you will have booked all the insurances and extras you want in advance through the operator – this is much cheaper than on site.

Before picking up your documents, mark the passage with the services you have booked, including all insurance, in your documents. Then, in case of doubt, you can present this information spontaneously and without a time-consuming search.

Check the car before driving. Take your time for this and resist the inner impulse to get the matter over with quickly. Pay particular attention to scratches, dents, and glass damage.

If possible, also check the tires and rims, the windscreen wipers, the lights, the brakes and the air conditioning. A manual should be in the car, as well as a warning triangle, safety vest and first-aid kit. Also make sure that the vehicle is not very dirty outside or inside.

Use your mobile phone to take a picture of the fuel level and mileage, so that you can later better prove how much fuel you have used.

If you discover any damage or defects, it is essential to have them noted in the handover protocol. Because everything that you do not state can be blamed on you later. If you want to be absolutely sure, you can also take photos of the damage.

The return also runs smoothly

Returning the rental vehicle is straightforward. During the opening hours you can hand in the car in person and have it checked directly.

Outside the opening times, it is sufficient to park the car in the designated parking lot and to throw the keys with papers in the mailbox. Keep the last fuel receipt for a while in case there is trouble with the billing later.

When you return, stick to the agreed time. In the event of delays, you will be billed for another day, possibly at poor terms. Some landlords accept delays of up to 30 minutes as a gesture of goodwill. But you shouldn’t rely on it.

Have the car checked as soon as possible and confirm that it has been returned in writing. It is best to formulate your own text, because rental stations sometimes do not have a form for this and refuse to write a confirmation letter.

In this way you can prevent later being held liable for damage for which you are not at all responsible. If that is not possible, take photos of the car.

Keep the car rental contact details for a while longer. You might have left something in the car after all.

What about rental car fines?

If you violate the road traffic regulations while driving a rental car, for example because you are driving too fast or parking incorrectly, the landlord will charge a processing fee of up to 30 euros in addition to the fine. A warning for wrong parking of originally 15 euros becomes really expensive at 45 euros. Depending on the country, these flat rates are even higher.

Our tip: try to pay the fine directly on site. Then the landlord will probably not be involved and you will save the processing fee.

Look at the parking ticket or ask whether the responsible office offers this option. Perhaps a quick transfer will also prevent the warning from being delivered.

Basically, you should definitely pay the ticket before leaving the country. Otherwise, there may be difficulties with the next entry. In addition, fines from other EU countries with a minimum limit of 70 euros can also be enforced in Germany.

Since a processing fee is often added, this can also be the case with lower penalties.

What to do in the event of damage?

Even if you are traveling abroad with a rental car, something can happen quickly. In the event of damage or an accident, notify the landlord on site immediately. You are entitled to a replacement car – discuss this with him directly.

In addition, it is essential to call the police, because the insurance often only pays if there is a police accident report. The landlord also creates a damage report later.

To be on the safe side, you can also write a short accident report yourself and take plenty of photos of the scene of the accident and the vehicles involved. Also make a note of the names and addresses of everyone involved and have their IDs shown to you.

Even if you have booked an offer without a deductible, the car rental company may initially withhold part of your deposit. You will get this money back later from the rental car agent.

Please keep your rental agreement and receipt for this. Some credit card companies also offer reimbursement of the deductible.

Who can help in case of trouble with the landlord?

Unfortunately, it often happens that there are problems when picking up or returning a rental car. Our readers confirmed this again in a survey in June 2021. It often happens that landlord at the pick-up point try to sell customers extra insurance. Often the damage report is not handled properly or damage is subsequently calculated that the tenant did not cause.

The better you have documented delivery and return, the better you can assert yourself in the event of a dispute. If you have booked the car on a comparison portal, you can first inquire there and ask for support. If that doesn’t work, you can contact the consumer advice centers in Germany.

If you have rented a rental car in another EU country (and Iceland and Norway), the European Consumer Center (EVZ) will help you. The advice there is free of charge for you.

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Michelle Halterman
USA, China, South Africa and now Munich - Michelle has come a long way in the world. She is an outdoor person and loves to be in nature with friends and on her mountain bike. Or she meets up with friends for pasta, vino, cappaccino & Co.
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