Those readers planning to spend three or more weeks on vacation in France / Europe might want to consider a short-term car lease (i.e. purchase – repurchase program) from a European car manufacturer instead of renting from Hertz or Avis.
European car manufacturers have been doing short-term leasing programs (i.e. purchase – repurchase programs) for decades. Taxes appear to be a major reason for the existence of the programs, as the Value Added Tax (VAT) on a used vehicle is considerably lower than on a new vehicle. Thus, Europeans are eager to purchase “slightly used” vehicles from the manufacturers.
For the lessee there are several benefits:
- One gets to select a new car, with numerous models available.
- Short-term leases are cheaper because they are not subject to VAT; which can range from 16% to 21%.
- The vehicle comes with full comprehensive insurance with no deductible.
- It also comes with roadside assistance programs; which the Webmaster used once.
- One can pick-up and return the car at different locations throughout Europe.
- Driver age limits are minimal. Generally one can drive at age 18 as long as one has a valid U.S. license.
There are a few downsides:
- The minimum lease period is generally 3+ weeks.
- One’s permanent address must be outside the EU; so this limits who can participate.
- There are fewer pick-up and return points than for rental cars.
- The Webmaster found the insurance for “bodily harm to passengers” inadequate at €5,000 for medical costs and €38,000 for total permanent disability.
- The solution is to purchase a separate medical / evacuation insurance policy from an insurance company.
- Also, the chances of a serious accident in rural France are quite low; if one is a careful driver on the narrow, windy roads.
- The cars have a red license plate that locals notice when driving through a small town.
- That said, Rental cars also signal that one is an outsider: Most of them are registered in non-local Departments, and this number appears on the license plate. (The departmental number for Meuse is 55, Marne is 51, Ardennes is 08, for example.)
During his sabbatical, the Webmaster did a 170-day lease from Renault Eurodrive and he had a wonderful experience renting a Renault Kangoo. Sitting a bit higher than a car, this vehicle proved to be an excellent choice when navigating farm lanes and forestry roads. It also was roomy and comfortable for four people. Theoretically, it could hold seven, but that would be a stretch. During the 170 days he drove 40,392km (24,235 miles); a daily average of 238km (143 miles.)
Readers who are interested in exploring this option should look at these sites:
The Webmaster found it to be a relatively painful process. The hardest decision was selecting the model best suited for his tours.