Thursday, March 31, 2016

Europe 2015 - France: Scoring our wheels

So, technically, we were in France today. Okay, it was only me and only for an hour, picking up our leased car from Calais. Still, it's an important part of our trip and, perhaps, it was the most complex to plan (more on this later when I don't have to thumb type).

Here's me doing what you shouldn't: taking a quick snap crossing back into Belgium in our brand-spankin' new Peugeot while cruising at 108. Relax, that's kilometers per hour. The blue "mood lighting" dashboard gives a glimpse of our ride's posh-but-affordable sleekness.

Booking our U.S. - Turkey plane tickets with a month and a half "stop over" in Europe? No problem. Lining up AirBnB locations throughout Europe? A cinch. Renting a car for 37 days? Not so easy. The details and fine print would make most people's head spin, so here are the cliff notes. If you ever need to rent a car for more than 21 days in Europe (15 days minimum during special promotions), seriously consider Auto Europe's "Buy Back" program. It's a short-term lease program that gives you a new car right out of the factory with full, zero-deductible auto insurance; no extra driver fees; and a few other perks.

The only catch: you have to book the car at least a month out, and once you're within 30 days, there's no turning back - not without incurring a 1000-Euro fee. But when you consider getting full coverage - including collision and theft - through even a reputable car rental place is very expensive, the commitment seems worth it. For example, we priced 37 days with a comparable insurance package, and the cost was about $1,000 more, nearly doubling the cost of leasing through Auto Europe. The other option is to rent the car using a credit card that offers additional insurance - many cards offer this. This wasn't an option for us because they only cover for 30 days.

There is one other catch: If you pick up your Auto Europe car from one of the several locations in France, you're good to go. But if you need the car delivered to another city outside of France - say Brussels, like us - there's a $400 fee associated with picking up and dropping off. So we had to get creative: we booked a car to go pick up the car from Calais and a second car to go drop off the car, ultimately saving us $300 (instead of paying the $400, we would pay the $50 for each of the additional rentals).

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