Why I hate renting cars abroad


As Drew mentioned in his recap of our July Expenses, we rented a car yet again, even though we always swear we hate it.

And even though I wouldn’t necessarily say I regret renting the car, I am going to stand by my statement that I hate renting cars.

Why do we hate renting cars?

  1. Renting a car is always always always more expensive than we think it’s going to be, or more trouble than we think it’s going to be…or both. Tolls are expensive in Europe and it seems there’s no free parking anywhere. And the cost of fuel is a lot more expensive outside of the US. Not to mention you never know if you’ll get a ticket (again, read the July Expenses post), or two flat tires in a row.
  2. It seems like a very nickel and dime-y industry.  In Costa Rica example our daily rental rate was technically $8 a day and renting a GPS on top of that would have been $10 a day.  Seeing as we got lost quite a bit, it may have been worth it but out of principle alone it felt ridiculous to pay more for a GPS than we did for the car.  THEN the insurance up-sale (which is mandatory in Costa Rica, regardless of whether or not you have your own coverage) was an extra $100 ish!
  3.  Renting a car decreases the odds we’ll meet locals.  We made a friend on a train ride once who found out Drew liked motorcycles and let us come out to his house in the country and ride his BMW around the Hungarian and Slovakian countryside.  Even when we don’t meet locals, we get more exposure to the day in day out routine of a place when we’re not isolating ourselves in our own little private car.
  4. I am an EXTREMELY navigationally challenged person, so getting lost is kind of status quo for me. This is not helped by the fact that in Europe, you don’t tend to see signs indicating which direction you’re going. Instead you see signs indicating which towns you’re approaching. So if you don’t stay very familiar with your route and the towns all along that route, you can easily become confused about which way you’re going. With public transit, I just have to make sure I get on the right bus and I’ll be fine.

  5. You never know what the road quality is going to be in a foreign culture. This can add a lot of hours to a drive you thought would be only a few hours, or can add a lot of hazard to a drive you thought would be easy.
  6. It sucks getting pulled over in the States. But it sucks more getting pulled over in a foreign country. As I mentioned before, we got a ticket in Bosnia & Herzegovina that we still aren’t totally sure was legitimate. The police made some fairly intimidating statements and requests, and it was really stressful not knowing whether they were really following protocol or prompting us for a bribe. You can read Drew’s July expense post for more discussion on that.


 Rental car successes…

  1. We had an amazing time for our D.I.Y. safari in Pilanesburg.  It was not only cheaper to rent our own vehicle, but gave us a better view of the wildlife than a group vehicle would have.  We saw pretty much everything.
  2. We rented a car for a few days in New Zealand and really enjoyed it, mostly because one of New Zealand’s most attractive assets is its wide-open wilderness and admittedly, a car does make such places more accessible.  In fact, New Zealand is so uncrowded that it was a very stress-free place to rent a car.  Not that much traffic in the wilderness.  Next time I think we’ll rent one of the camper-vans and do it that way.
  3. The reason I titled this post “Why I hate renting cars abroad,” is because many of these stresses are obsolete in the States. We still don’t rent cars in the States very often, but when we do, it’s much less stressful than our rentals abroad.



As much as I hate renting cars, if we have a limited amount of time somewhere, and yet want to hit some more obscure or out-of-the-way places, a car really is the best option.

It’s just one of those unfortunate realities- sometimes a rental car is the best solution for your itinerary. But as for me, I will make certain my itinerary is worth it and necessitates a car before I’ll feel ok about renting a car.

(Two resources we’ll often use for car rentals are Kayak.com and autoslash.com).


How about for all of you? Have you had rental car disasters? Do you love it? Hate it? Let me know in the comments.

8 Comments on “Why I hate renting cars abroad

  1. Speaking of car rentals, are there specific credit cards I could apply for where bonus points could be used to reduce my car rental expenses?

    • hmmmm well, lots of points can be used for car rentals, just not at a very good rate. So unfortunately there are no cards I can think of to recommend for car rentals specifically. :-/ A bummer because rentals get sooo expensive

  2. Right there with you. In the states, renting a car is fine, USUALLY not a problem. Every time I have rented a card abroad, there has been an issue. From minor things (up-selling me a lot, dealing with parking hassles, gas prices, etc) to more major things (them charging me for damage that wasn’t there or, even better, already there even after they noted it when I first took the car). It is absolutely a last resort for me, unfortunately, it seems I have to do it more often than not for work. Sigh.

  3. Hate but do it! We will be on the S. Island of New Zealand in about 3 weeks. Do you have any recommendations or knowledge to share about renting there? We want to rent in Christchurch and keep the car about 2 weeks. Don’t want to rent at the airport if we don’t have to. Thanks to you and Drew for your Blogs that help keep us inspired without most of the BS some of the other Blogs have

    • thanks for your comment!
      So exciting that you’re going to S. Island New Zealand. (One of my favorite destinations to this day, honestly.)

      I don’t remember what we rented but I do remember this car rental company called “Juicy” that had good deals for longer rental periods. In fact that’s the only reason we didn’t go with them- we were only renting for a few days. Also if I recall, they had those vans that were repurposed as camper vans. If I went back, that’s definitely what I would do because New Zealand is such a cool destination for that.

      I’m sure there are loads of other companies that are good but Juicy (Jucy?) is what I remember most.

  4. Is there anyway to get around the additional insurance charges in Costa Rica?

    • They assured us there was not. At the time it really seemed like we were not getting that car without complying so if there is a way around it, we never learned of it. :-/ sorry!

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