Last Updated on September 18, 2023 by Kristin
Thinking about renting a car in France? Make the most of your trip by reading these important tips before you go.
Essential Tips for Renting a Car in France
Book from home.
It will be cheaper to book your car from the United States before you get to France. The further ahead you reserve your car, the better the chance of landing a deal because you can watch out for price drops.
You do not need an International Driving Permit.
Technically, your US- or Canadian-issued driver’s license in English will be accepted in France as long as you have a notarized translation. That’s exactly what an International Driving Permit is: a translated version of your state-issued driver’s license. If you’re going to be doing a lot of driving in France and/or other European countries it is a good idea to have one.
You’ll drive on the right.
Like in all of continental Europe, people drive on the right side of the road in France.
Pay for the rental in euros.
Although it may seem easier to be charged in dollars instead of euros, this option will cost you more in the long run. Pay in the local currency to avoid Dynamic Currency Conversion fees. If you opt to pay in U.S. dollars, the rental car company converts the purchase amount from the local currency on your behalf. But this process is entirely unnecessary, since your credit card company will process the transaction in either currency, and you will pay through the nose for the non-convenience.
Double check your insurance coverage.
Before you leave home, be sure to contact your credit card company to verify what collision coverage, if any, it offers on car rentals abroad. You may have to purchase collision insurance over the counter when you pick up the car.
It is required by law in France that drivers carry unlimited third-party liability insurance, and as a result liability coverage is automatically included in the price of all car rentals. The advantage of having this car rental insurance in France is that you are protected from injury, death or property damage to others which occur while operating your rental during your trip to France.
Expect to pay more for an automatic transmission.
Do you know how to drive a car with a stick shift? The vast majority of France’s rental vehicles have manual transmission. If you want a car with an automatic transmission, be sure to specify this when you book the car.
Prepare for high taxes and surcharges.
Rental car rates generally include France’s 20% Value Added Tax (VAT).
Inspect the car carefully before driving it off the lot.
Make sure to protect yourself from potential false damage claims by carefully look over your car before driving away. Document every nick, scratch or dent. Your smartphone will come in handy for taking photos of any imperfections to ensure you won’t have to pay for them later.
Don’t drive in Paris.
Driving is a great way to explore the French countryside, but cruising around the sprawling capital of Paris is not recommended for those who are unfamiliar with the city. Even if you consider yourself a pro at city driving, the high parking fees, narrow streets, traffic and confusing intersections will make for a stressful experience and, besides, Paris has an excellent public transportation system in its Métro. Plan to pick up the rental car when you’re ready to leave the city.