- November 2008
One of the best ways to travel with kids in Europe is to do a long trip and have your own vehicle, for exploring wherever you want. With wheels, you can rent a villa, or try agritourism, staying at a farm B&B; or try a different style of vacation such as Eurocamp "holiday parks" with bungalows, waterslides, restaurants, etc.
And one of the best ways to get your own vehicle is through the Eurodrive service offered by French car manufacturer Renault.
"Car Lease Buy-Back Program"
Don't let the name throw you: Eurodrive is as convenient as any regular car rental program -- more convenient in some ways.
"Car Lease Buy-Back Programs" are offered by two French car manufacturers -Renault and Peugeot - to customers who are NOT residents of Europe. Here's the deal: France has a high tax on new car sales; by leasing a brand new car to a foreigner and then buying it back, the car manufacturer can subsequently sell the car as "used" and sidestep the tax. (Read details at About.com's Europe Travel site.)
Bottom Line for the Customer:
- brand new vehicles, sometimes with cool styling features we don't see in North America
- competitive price
- zero-deductible insurance
- fewer restrictions (regarding age of driver, for instance. Read more below.)
How It Works:
You'll need to start paperwork for your trip several weeks in advance: head to the Renault-Eurodrive site to begin. US residents will communicate with staff in New York. The paperwork's not onerous, but you must start it early.
Free pickup of the vehicle is available in many cities in France. For example, if you fly into Paris, you'll be met at the airport and shuttled to the pickup/return center a short distance away. You can also pay extra to pick up the car in cities outside France, such as Rome or Amsterdam.
Roadside Assistance: once you're on the road, 24/7 multi-lingual roadside assistance is available in 43 countries.
Return: you can return the car in a different city. Also: you're required to lease (and pay) for at least 21 days, but it's possible to return the car earlier.
Insurance with NO deductible: superb feature. During our first Eurodrive, someone (not naming names) bumped a low wall in a village in Greece, damaging the car; when we returned it, the agent didn't even glance at the vehicle. Zero-deductible, right?
Go where you wanna go: travel freely between countries; pickup and return in different countries, too.
Who's driving: drivers can be as young as 18 (though they must have a certain amount of experience), and there's no maximum age. Spouses can drive the vehicle with no extra charge.
Mileage: you can drive unlimited kilometers. You'll probably get pretty good miles per gallon, er, liter, too, as European cars tend to be efficient. Also, all the models we've sampled have all used diesel fuel, which is cheaper (and available at any gas station.)
The car comes with very little fuel. Not a good thing; who needs this stress, about finding the nearest gas station toute de suite? After a 10-hour flight and major time zone change, if you misread the map-- or simply forget to go immediately to the gas station-- suddenly you're on a freeway in Europe with no fuel in the car.
Drop Off Locations can be hard to locate. A possible solution: make sure you have GPS in the vehicle. More about that, below.
21-day minimum: you can return the car some days earlier, though. (But at the 21-day price.)
Note also that manual transmissions are much more common in Europe; if you want automatic, be sure to specify.
Tips on What to Rent:
Our favorite model is the unique Kangoo: roomy enough for a family of five with luggage, and with clever overhead storage.
We've also tried a five-seater Espace minivan, (also very well-designed), and the Megane hatchback.
For those with an eye on the budget: Renault usually has a monthly special for a particular model.
Whatever you opt for: get GPS! Even with good maps and printed driving direction, we got lost on our last trip, several times. Built-in GPS wasn't available on our Kangoo (in 2008); shortly thereafter, it became possible to rent a portable GPS when booking the vehicle. The other option is to use a portable GPS system of your own; or perhaps GPS is an application on your mobile phone. Just make sure to have it, by any means.
--continue to: The Kangoo model is terrific for families
- Review of Renault Eurodrive Car lease Buy-Back Program, by About.com's Guide for Italy Travel
- Are Buy Back Car Leases better than Car Rental in Europe?- at About.com's Europe Travel site
- Renault Eurodrive
- Peugeot "Buy Back" Car Leases - very similar.
As is common in the travel industry, the writer was provided with assistance in sampling this vehicle for the purpose of review. While it has not influenced this review, About.com believes in full disclosure of all potential conflicts of interest. For more information, see our ethics policy.
* Always check for updates about service and terms!