The rail and inter-country flights in Europe are an extremely convenient mode of transportation when travelling through Europe, but some of the best places to be discovered are found in more rural towns and rustic villages that are better discovered by car. Driving through Europe can be an amazing adventure if you meet the requirements for foreign car rental. While it's relatively easy to rent a car in Europe, one of the leading limitations has to do with age. Age restrictions vary greatly by region and can be effected by the type and size of car, as well as the company you are renting from.
The minimum age to rent a car varies by region, company and type of car. Most companies will require that a driver be at least 21 years old, though this will not always be the case. A 25-year old will be able to rent almost anywhere. Austria and Italy have the loosest restrictions regarding age, allowing a 19-year old to rent without restrictions. Restrictions apply on vehicle types and class. For example, a 23-year old renting a car in Greece can rent a car in the small class type, but any cars in the intermediate class type will require a driver to be 25. The minimum age for a driver in Cyprus is 23, and there are no young driver fees. In Germany, the minimum rental age is 21 and additional fees apply for 21-24 year olds. Ireland and the United Kingdom require their drivers to be 25 years old in order to rent a car. Additional fees may apply for young drivers, with some companies asking for surcharges for people up to the age of 30. Also, if a young driver is on the agreement as an additional driver, additional charges will always apply.
While some companies do offer younger drivers allowances on car rental, you will often get stuck with an additional fee and added insurance costs. Drivers between the ages of 21 and 25 may be required to buy additional young driver coverage or pay a surcharge that can run between £9 to £16/day. STA Travel, however, seeks out young renters, and is a great resource (see Resources). Youth isn't the only thing one should consider when thinking about renting a car in Europe. Older drivers may run into issues renting as well. In the Republic of Ireland, a driver between the ages of 70 and 74 will be required to pay a surcharge. Drivers over the age of 70 may also have trouble renting in specific locations, like Poland, Turkey and Greece, among others. Some car rental companies in the UK and Ireland won't rent to drivers over 69, while the absolute maximum age to drive in Denmark, for example, is 80. If you have age restrictions, consider leasing (see Resources), which has less stringent age restrictions.
There is no such thing as an International Drivers License. There is, however, an International Driving Permit (IDP). This permit has nothing to do with a driver's age. While many rental car companies will try to sell you an IDP, your UK driver's license is all you need in most European countries. All the IDP does is provide a booklet that translates your UK ID for foreign authorities. An IDP may not be necessary, but it can come in handy if you are a younger driver, because police officers tend to be more aggressive when fining young adults. If you plan on staying in campgrounds or renting equipment like skis or bikes, an IDP may be a good investment, because it can stand as a substitute for your passport if you have to leave a photo ID as deposit.
Be sure that you know the rental car age limits and driving rules in the countries you are crossing into while you are renting a car. If you get pulled over in Eastern Europe with a rental car from Western Europe you may run into problems with your age. Most rental car agreements should come with the necessary insurance and paperwork to cross borders with ease in most of Europe, but be sure to talk to your rental company and tell them your plans. Crossing into some regions may require a green card, which shows proof of insurance, so be sure that you have these documents on hand if they are required. They may fine young drivers on account of sheer frustration. You will not be arrested for not having an IDP, but you can get fined. An IDP does not take the place of your British driver's license, so be sure to carry both of them on you at all times.
In March of 1997, a suit was brought against Alamo Rental Cars for age discrimination, but the courts upheld that age restrictions did not constitute age discrimination. Fast forward to November of 2008, when an Australian man won a settlement suit against an Irish car rental company for age discrimination. Irish Car Rentals Limited were accused of charging the man a surcharge based on his age. The suit also questioned the legality of age minimums and maximums in the company policies. The rental car company has since changed its policy, claiming to make decisions on age on a case-by-case basis. Other rental car companies throughout Europe have followed suit.
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