This story perfectly illustrates a very important reason you should book your European rental car through us.

Last week, we received an email from our customer "Jack" saying his rental had gone very well except that he had been 2.5 hours late in returning the car and had just gotten a notice from the supplier in Italy (one of the top three rental companies in Europe) of a $290 charge for an extra day of rental.

The rental voucher we issued to Jack through Auto Europe prior to his trip to Italy called for a daily rate of $51, including all taxes and insurance. He assumed that if he was a couple of hours late the most he could be charged would be one full day...at his current daily rate of $51. Sorry. Big, nasty surprise.

The supplier took the position that the voucher covered only the 17-day rental and the extra 2.5 hours constituted an 18th day to which the voucher did not apply. For that added day, they imposed their local rate...a price they would charge to a customer who walked up to the counter to rent a car for a single day.

Jack turned to us for help. We took his case to Auto Europe who told us the supplier was within their contractual right to charge the local rate as the 18th day was outside the voucher dates. However, at our request they agreed to take Jack's case to the supplier who agreed to accept Auto Europe's proposal for a new 18-day voucher at the original daily rate. The supplier then refunded Jack's $290. The charge for the extra 2.5 hours thus became $51, not $290.

Why would the supplier give back $239 when it didn't have to? Because the supplier's best customer asked them to. And why would Auto Europe ask the supplier to return money that, by contract, they had the right to keep? Because one of their top customers for 17 years, Gemut.com, requested they do so.

So remember, when you're a Gemut.com customer, we've got your back. When you book with us, it's not just you alone vs the rental company; you have strong, influential advocates on your team, Gemut.com and Auto Europe.

Get a quote on a European rental car.

Check these rental car prices (actual bookings made by our travel services department):

  • France, economy, 28 days, $440 or $15.71/day;
  • Germany, 42 days, fullsize (Mercedes C-Class or similar), $852 or $20.29/day; and
  • Dublin Airport, compact car, 14 days, $78 (not a misprint) or $5.57/day. All these includes taxes and unlimited miles.

Get a quote.

Those who plan to rent a car in Germany in 2012 should really reserve now. Book a compact car (VW Golf or similar, 4 doors, air, manual) for a week for as little as $151, INCLUDING 19% value added tax. Get a guaranteed intermediate to fullsize upgrade (Mercedes C-Class or similar) for a week for just $166, including tax.

The above two deals are for cars picked up prior to April 1, but there are some great rates for rentals between April 1 and December 31.

For example, check these one-week rentals in Germany (all include the 19% VAT):

  • Intermediate (VW Passat or similar): $211
  • Compact Station Wagon (VW Golf Wagon or similar): $210
  • Intermediate Station Wagon (VW Passat Wagon): $259

Rental car prices are more volatile now than at anytime in the 22 years I've been in the car rental business, so lock-in early with a credit card. If your plans change you can cancel and not lose a penny. An early booking carries zero risk.

Get a written quote or phone Andy, our car rental manager, at 800-521-6722 x 1.

Remember, too, that we can book a car for you anywhere in Europe.

So you want to drive a rental car in Europe's "eastern" countries (essentially those that were behind the Iron Curtain until 1989). Since most travelers fly to western Europe, landing in cities like Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna, Paris and Rome, the most common eastern travel scenario is to rent the car somewhere in the west and drive into the east. The most visited countries by car from the west are the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland. Slovenia and Croatia are also popular. Only the most adventurous head for countries such as Bosnia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Lithuania.

Since rental cars are the least expensive in Germany, it's probably the best place to start when considering an eastern auto tour. Vienna's proximity to several eastern countries, makes it the next-best starting point.

An "Open jaw" itinerary is appealing but expensive. The idea of picking up a car in Munich or Frankfurt and dropping it in Prague or Budapest, then flying home or continuing the trip by rail from there, is a good one but rental companies won't cooperate. Technically, it is possible. The few companies that will allow one-way rentals between eastern and western countries charge substantial drop fees, usually in the $300 to $500 range. That's in addition to the usual rental costs. For some, less-accessible eastern cities than Prague or Budapest, we've seen drop fees quoted of over $2,000.

Auto rental companies aren't keen about letting their cars go east. Unintended "one-way" rentals (the car is stolen) are still a not uncommon occurrence. Thus, rental companies only allow certain car categories and makes into the east. Forget Mercedes, BMW, or Audi. If you're taking a car east, it will likely be an Opel, Ford, or Skoda. You'll also find it difficult to rent an automatic transmission car that's allowed to go east. No matter what kind of car you drive east, make sure you park it overnight in a locked or patrolled garage, and be careful where you park during the day.

Depending on the countries to be visited, there is usually a bit of a premium charged to drive east. A compact car for one week in Germany, including 19% value added tax, is $175. If the same car is to be driven to what most car rental companies refer to as "Zone 1" — Czech Republic, Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia, and Slovenia—the price rises to $188. The price for a midsize car is $180 without eastern travel and $193 for Zone 1. An intermediate for Zone two—countries such as Romania and Lithuania—is $212. A Zone 1 compact from Vienna is about $342 plus a 72 euro security fee.

Though borders are open these days, and you may not need paperwork to cross them, don't let that tempt you to take a car east without permission of the rental company. To do so would violate the rental contract and thus void all insurance coverage. Check other requirements for driving in eastern countries. Poland, for example, requires an international driver's license. In the Czech Republic you'll need a windshield sticker to drive legally.

If you're getting quotes online at websites such as Expedia, Travelocity, or the rental companies' own websites, don't assume that the prices quoted will allow for east travel. Bottom line is, in almost every case, you'll need the car rental company's written permission to drive into any eastern country, so it's best to pick up the phone and speak to a live reservationist. Of course, the best prices and the most knowledgeable advice on eastern travel by car is at 800-521-6722 or get an online quote here.