This article is part of a two-post series on renting cars and driving in France. This post in particular is specific to how to rent cars in France. If you want to learn about driving in France, then check out the other post here.
Recently, a friend asked me about driving in France. She wanted to rent a car and asked if I had any tips for her on how to go about it. I thought this would be a great question to share, as driving is an easy way to see France on your own terms. However, you should always be careful about driving in a new country. Here is the question she asked me:
Hey Danielle! Hope you’ve been well! I had a couple questions about renting a car here and was wondering if you could share some details/experience with me. What company did you use and how much was it? And what guidelines are there besides being at least 21?
For anyone else with similar questions, here are my best tips for how to go about renting a car in France, especially as a Canadian or an American.
You have to be 21, or it will probably cost you extra
Almost every single rental company or car share program in France will require that the driver be over 21. This isn’t only in France either – this is true in almost every country I’ve visited. If you do find someone who is willing to rent to someone under 21, there will likely be an additional insurance required. Your options will also be severely limited.
Try a car share program
Yes, many international car rental companies are available in France, as well as more French ones. This includes ones such as Hertz, Europcar, Sixt, Avis, Dollar, Budget, Enterprise and National. These are very easy to find, often located near big train stations and airports for convenience. These companies also tend to be the most expensive options for the same reasons, especially for anyone under 25 who will require an additional insurance policy due to their “inexperience” driving. That’s why I would recommend a car share program such as Drivy.
What is Drivy?
Drivy is best described as an AirBnB for cars. Locals rent out their cars for spare cash when they aren’t using them. You can search for vehicles near almost any location, and see photos and stats about each rental. I used Drivy when I visited Lyon with a group of friends since we wanted to drive into the Rhône-Alpes to do some exploring where public transit just didn’t go. Although my experience is specific to Drivy, the process is pretty much the same with any car-sharing program you choose.
Can I use my foreign license?
In France, sometimes a license will need to be in French in order to rent a car. This is particularly trues when using official car rental companies. In Canada, we are lucky because all of our licenses are default English and French. If yours isn’t in French and only just in English, check that this is okay. Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. An international driving license often solve this issue, but is usually applied for before leaving your home country. If you are from the EU, I believe any EU license will work, but check for certain beforehand. Although a license in English is commonly accepted in France, not all foreign languages are treated equally.
My experience using Drivy: Picking up the car
After a couple of searches, Drivy connected us with a local from Lyon. I arrived with a friend to meet the owner outside his apartment. He showed us the ins and outs of his car, where the necessary beepers and flashers were, as well as where the emergency triangles and equipment were in the trunk. I do recommend going with someone else to pick up the car. This is important not only for safety measures, but also in case you forget how the windshield wipers work, for instance. After the 20 minute lesson and all questions were answered, the owner took about 8-10 photos of the vehicle from all angles as proof of its pre-rental state and submitted them to the Drivy app. He also noted the mileage and how much gas was in the tank. I then had to submit photos of my driver’s license, front and back, then sign the rental contract on the app before the owner handed over the keys.
Returning the car
My friends and I used the renter’s car for the entire day, then gave him a call when the rental was over and we wanted to return the car. We had decided on a “return between x o’clock and y o’clock” beforehand. We filled the tank back to its pre-rental level, parked the car, then met with the owner. As before, he took pictures of the car from all angles again to compare with the before photos. He then checked the new mileage and gas levels. We had a hard time finding a gas station, and so the tank was a little lower than it was when we initially rented it, but we knew this already. We also went a touch over the estimated mileage for the day, but this wasn’t a big deal. We agreed on how much was necessary in order to top up the tank, as well as a bit extra for the additional mileage. The difference was a grand 15€.
What was the cost?
Even though we drove 439 km in that one road-trip, the cost of the rental was about 25% what the standard rental companies wanted. Split between the four of us, that one day road trip was ridiculously affordable. Drivy also included full coverage insurance for 6€ per car, per day, so if anything happened, we wouldn’t have to pay a cent.
In detail: The car rental was a base of 30€ for a mid-sized, 5 seater, manual transmission car for the day, plus 20€ for insurance and the huge mileage we were driving. Therefore the rental split amongst the four of us was about 12€. The local car rental companies quoted me a base of 90-100€, because I required extra for insurance for being under 25. They also declared a maximum of 250 kilometers distance allowance per day, therefore requiring a two day rental for our trip. This puts Drivy at about 50€ versus a rental company at about 200€.
Did I forget something?
Ask me below and I will give you any answers I have! Also, feel free to check out my video from my Lyon roadtrip to see the driving in action!