First of all, compare offers from different rental agencies, but make sure the quotes are comparable.
There are many factors in car rental agreements that weigh into your decision—tax, insurance, local fees, hours of operation of the rental counter, a possible fee attributable to picking it up at the airport, deductibles on insurance, and models of cars.
Do you need insurance? In Italy, I would say yes. Even though in the U.S. our credit card company covers us for car insurance, in Italy we need to elect the optional insurance from the rental agency. You should check your own coverage, as this may vary between companies.
Know whether it is automatic or manual in advance and ask what kind of gas it takes.
Many rental cars in Europe are manual shift. If you need or want an automatic transmission, make certain that is specified in your reservation. Some rental cars require diesel fuel, which is less expensive. When you pick it up, find out what kind of fuel your rental requires—there may be a sticker on the car. Both unleaded and diesel gasoline are commonly available in Italy.
Figure out how to find reverse.
I know, this seems obvious to anyone familiar with manual shifts. I do, however, personally know a handful of experienced American drivers (who shall remain nameless) that had the misfortune of tapping the car in front of them in the parking garage when they tried to put their rental car into reverse!
The trick is normally to put your hand on the gearshift, pull up on the lever under the gear knob, and then ease it into reverse.
When should you pick up the car?
If you’re planning on being in a large city such as Rome, Milan, or Florence for a few days, you may be wise to wait until you are ready to leave the city. You probably will want to limit your driving in the bustling cities and you can save money by waiting until you’re ready to tour the countryside.
If you do pick up a car after the long transatlantic flight, know that you will be jet lagged. You may be interested in a jolt of caffeine before driving.
Ever been to an Agip?
This is the service station we stopped at after landing in the Rome airport and picking up our rental car. Why?
Not this ….
… Peroni beer on tap.
… were what we needed before hitting the road.
Normally at Agips and other service stations, you first pay for your items at the cashier. Hold onto your receipt as they may ask you to show it when you then order your food and beverages at the counter.
Now it’s time to hit the road!