First you need to know that all rental companies guarantee by category, not specific make or model. When your reservation says “four-door, manual transmission, compact VW Golf or similar with a/c” it means that you’re guaranteed an air-conditioned car in the compact category with four doors and manual transmission. The “or similar” language means you will get a Golf or a car similar to a Golf, such as a Ford Focus, Opel Astra or other compact car.

Once in a while your reservation may specify a diesel engine, but for the most part this is a feature you must request at the time of rental. It is seldom guaranteed in advance though for €3 per day Avis will guarantee a diesel engine in Germany.

Higher end cars come with factory-installed GPS, but for most economy, compact or intermediate rental cars in Germany you’ll have to pay a few euros per day extra for a portable GPS device. Whether factory-installed or portable, don’t expect your GPS to work outside of Germany. If you want to be 100-percent certain of a GPS that works throughout Europe, take your own...just be sure to load European maps prior to leaving home.

Unlike a dozen or so years ago, most cars in Germany are now air-conditioned. Only a few of the smallest, economy cars are not.

Forget about requesting such items as a certain color, a hatchback, or a sunroof. You will be wasting your time. However, most economy and compact cars are hatchbacks and most of the sedans have a regular trunk. A few cars have sunroof, mostly intermediates and above, but it’s not a feature than can be guaranteed or even requested, except at the rental counter. Virtually all rental cars in Germany are equipped with a radio and CD player.

You can expect that your rental car in Germany will carry all necessary safety equipment required by law for driving in Germany, with the exception of winter tires, which are a substantial extra charge.

Some major cities have established “Green Zones” and require cars to have a special permit to drive in them. Your Germany rental car will have the necessary stickers. However, unless you get lucky, your car will not come with stickers for Autobahn travel in other countries that require them, such as Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic (see “Vignettes”).