Renting a car still boggles my mind. It is nerve racking. I have rented cars in Europe for bike trips, tourist trips, hiking/climbing trips, and to simply transfer between towns. Every time I rent, I still question how much car insurance I need, and who will cover damage. In fact, we have begun leasing cars simply because they come fully insured.
My own car mysteriously gathers weekly parking lot dents, but other than that, its life is pretty boring (although sorely neglected). Driving in Europe is an entirely different ball of wax. Driving is different there, and things just sort happen when you are busy being a tourist in someone else's country.
Let's see there was the time my brother's car got stuck in a steep narrow street in Italy and slid backwards into the retaining wall that was probably pre-roman and required the assistance of a local to drive it out of there. Or the scratch he put on the rear view mirror during the I think we can make it mode in an alley in Sevilla. The time I crunched the back bumper after dropping off the edge of a blind steep town exit in the French Pyrenees and popped the bumper back in place and reconnected the rear light. Or when I left the car in a parking lot in Girona, Spain, for two days because I was too afraid of the prehistoric underground pillars to get it back out. Or when I said, "No" to a non-welcoming hotel garage in Toulouse where the sides were marked with enormous I thought we could make it since it was a hotel parking lot mistakes.
How about the unexpected navigation on 4-wheel drive roads in a 2-wheel drive car. The rotations of the traffic circle 3 times before exiting. Steep starts with an unfamiliar clutch on gravel roads. Far too many narrow mountain roads and near misses while holding my breath. Dogs, cows, horses, tractors, road barriers, rock walls, tunnels, construction, gravel, on-coming Tour buses, one way streets, two-way farm roads, local delivery trucks, constant toll-booths, and god help me - cyclists on the road!
I remember cycling announcer Bob Roll joking after he had returned the rental car they used for a month working the Tour de France, "We trashed the car, if you get this car after us, sorry, sorry about the burned out clutch".
My brother advised, "first do no harm" don't hurt anyone, what ever else happens, can be dealt with. Still I was getting increasingly wigged-out driving on the tiny roads in France. With no co-pilot other than the car GPS system, any time I successfully reached a destination, I celebrated! I survived, every one else survived, this was a good day in France!
Clearly, if you did not proclaim "whoa!!" three times a day while in France - you were not driving a car.
I say, insure me. I learned that my Capital One World Master Card, covers my car insurance, but only up to 30 days of rental. (*tip: sort through your credit cards to know which ones do not charge transactions fees, and which card to use for renting a car when traveling abroad). You need to call the credit card you use to book the rental car to ask exactly what they cover abroad and the time frame and method of reporting incidents. My brother found this helpful article in the New York Times about renting cars: When Renting Cars Abroad, It’s Renter Beware
This will give you the feeling - try this for 100km a day. Thrilling.
One of my favorite roads to ride on a bike, is much trickier in a car - Col du Soulor:
Roads in Provence:
This is a city I often drive through - and it seems like one of the easy ones:
Also please revisit my post from June 2010 when I was in Saint Savin, France. There is a video clip at the end of the post of driving a car into the town of Saint Savin:
France is a place to be enjoyed slowly
*if you want the perfect rental car model for cyclists with bike cases, try a Renault Scenic, or a Ford C-Max. Without bike cases, the smaller Renault or the VW golf will do just fine.