VW Touran 3First, come to grips with the reality that there are no Ford Victorias or Lincoln Town Cars in European rental fleets. That kind of passenger room and trunk space doesn't exist. You can rent S-class Mercedes, 7-series BMWs, and Audi A8s, but they start at about $1200 per week, require two credit cards at pickup, can't be driven into Italy or any eastern country, and are probably excluded from insurance coverage by your credit card. So get used to the idea of Opel Astras, VW Passats, Opel Vectra station wagons, VW Tourans, and seven and nine-passenger minivans with limited luggage space.

Subcompact

Typical cars: Opel Corsa, VW Polo, Fiat Punto. Okay for two persons not interested in burning up the Autobahn. Trunk space is small and frequently there is no air-conditioning.

Compact

Typical cars: Opel Astra, VW Golf, Ford Focus, Peugeot 307. Comfortable at 80 to 90 mph. Good trunk—figure one big suitcase and two small ones, or two large ones. Should also be room for a garment bag and/or a soft duffel or two. Both two-door and four-door models, occasionally with a sunroof. Fine for three adults who go easy on the luggage. Air-conditioned.

Intermediate

Typical cars: Opel Vectra, VW Passat, Renault Laguna, Audi A4. Our recommended category for two couples. O.K. on the Autobahn but underpowered with four people and luggage.

Intermediate Special/Intermediate Van/Intermediate Monospace

Typical cars: VW Touran, Ford C-Max, Opel Zafira, Renault Scenic. A relatively new rental category for so-called “crossover” vehicles that are part SUV, part station wagon and part van. OK in a pinch for five passengers provided they are judicious with luggage and understand that the middle, rear seat is not comfortable for long trips. We prefer this category to the intermediate station wagon.

Full-size

Typical cars: Mercedes C-class, Opel Signum, Peugeot 607. Full-size is a misnomer. Most of the cars in this category are no larger, in some cases smaller, than the intermediate VW Passat. If you want a nicer car (perhaps a C-Class Mercedes, Audi A4, 3-series BMW), by all means rent a full-size; but if you're only moving up for extra passenger and luggage space, forget it, you're wasting your money.

Station Wagon

Sometimes referred to in Europe as a Kombi. Come in three sizes - compact (VW Golf, Opel Astra), midsize (Vectra, VW Passat) and full-size (Volvo V70). You pay more for a wagon than for the same model sedan. Can hold more gear but it is often exposed. For four people we like the midsize sedan over the compact wagon; more passenger comfort and almost as much luggage room. If absolutely necessary, midsize and full-size wagons can carry five people but it is hardly an ideal situation as someone has to ride in the rear center seat and luggage for five may be a problem. No European sedans or wagons we know of have a front bench seat, so carrying six passengers is not an option in these vehicles.

Vans

Mostly seven and nine-passenger vehicles with three rows of seating, similar to US minivans. The nine-passenger assumes three persons per seat-three in front, three in the center seat and three in back. Seven-passenger vans have front buckets, a shorter center bench seat or two buckets, and a rear bench. Minivans are fine for four or five people, but beyond that, luggage space is a problem. Do not plan to rely on a credit card for CDW and theft insurance when renting a nine-passenger van. Some credit card companies exclude it from their insurance coverage. Vans become scarce every summer. Book early. It may be cheaper to rent two midsize sedans. Read Renting a Van in Europe.

Luxury Cars

Power and engineering make them somewhat safer than the run-of-the-mill Opels, VWs, Skodas, and Fords, but at a hefty price. Expect to pay more than $500 per week in Germany for an E-class Mercedes, 5-series BMW, or Audi A6. Weekly prices exceed $1200 for S-Class Mercedes, 7-series BMW, or Audi A8.

Book your rental car in Europe with Gemütlichkeit's travel department and get the best rates, personalized, knowledgeable service and our unique at-the-rental-counter safety net that ensures our customers get what they are promised. We book with all the major companies in more than 35 countries. If you have questions about rentals in Europe, or simply prefer to deal in-person, phone us at 800-521-6722.