The pros and cons of hiring a car on your overseas trip

Car hire has some advantages when on holiday, but do they outweigh the disadvantages?

Should you hire a car overseas?

Getting around on your overseas holiday presents a number of options. You can forge out on your own by hiring a car, but there are always some inherent risks. Whereas if you stick with public transport or tour groups, you can find it difficult to get off the beaten track.

Here is our list of the pros and cons of hiring a car overseas to help you make your decision for your next holiday.

Freedom and flexibility

If you don’t want to be stuck to a hard and fast itinerary, car hire is definitely the way to go. Arrive at your destination in your own time, stay longer in places that have tickled your fancy or taken you by surprise, or get away from a city that isn’t living up to expectations.

Money-saving option
Depending on where you are travelling, hiring a car can sometimes be the cheaper option, especially if your alternative, when getting around cities, is with taxis or Uber. Countries with vast distances between tourist hotspots, like Canada and the United States, can make hiring a car the more cost-effective option.

Save your back
Not having to cart your luggage from one mode of transport to another is perhaps the best reason to consider hiring a car. The longer your holiday, the more luggage you are likely to pack, and the more appealing car hire will become.

City driving

Even in your home environment, city driving can be difficult. Once you add in an unfamiliar car, potentially driving on the other side of the road, and different road laws and behaviours, this can really test your ability behind the wheel – and potentially your relationship. There is also the added expense of parking and the trouble of finding parking once you’ve reached your destination.

Getting lost
If you are going to hire a car, make sure you invest in a good GPS device for the journey. You may think you will be able to rely on your smartphone to perform this function, but if you happen to lose your signal, you will need to have a very good sense of direction to find your way. Of course, getting lost could also add to the sense of adventure on your holiday, and may lead you to discover unexpected highlights.

Drinking problem
One of the most important things about going on holidays is letting your hair down and if that means having a few drinks, car hire is probably not for you. Getting around the wine regions of France is so much easier with a car, but it defeats the purpose if the driver has to stay dry during the day. Bus tours have a distinct advantage in this regard.

Have you ever hired a car when travelling overseas? Would you do it again? How did you find the experience?



    To make a comment, please register or login
    30th Jul 2018
    The ONLY con is driving in or near cities. This is where a GPS is worth its weight in gold. One tip: hire a car which comes standard with a GPS so that you do not fall victim to hiring this, especially if you are there for an extended time. There are vehicles which come with factory installed GPS but the hire company will tell you they'll lock the GPS unless you hire it. Last 2 trips that never occurred ...and I'd be asking for a refund if they tried that one on because the vehicle is more expensive BECAUSE of the technology...including the GPS. Don't be fooled
    Driving in places like Geneva, Milan and even smaller cities was taxing but we managed, saved a motza of money, saw things tour dwellers never see and had the flexibility to go where w wanted to go rather than the tour operator determined. Saw all of the normal sights plus so so much more.
    30th Jul 2018
    Don’t rent but lease a new car , Citroen or Peugeot . And buy a cheap GPS or bring your own with international capability . Saves heaps . Do your homework before leaving home and id the ‘must see’ spots . Self drive can be challenging but worth the effort . Do a few organised tours and then explore at leisure those that interest u . And enjoy !
    30th Jul 2018
    Hire a car - the only way the travel for me. Did five weeks in the US/Canada, paid for a standard SUV and was upgraded to a premium at pickup for free, that was a great start to a great drive, 6000 miles and you can leave in the mornings when YOU want to and stop in the afternoon again when YOU want to and we took lots of back roads, coffee in backwater cafes, lunch in some great parks and just the freedom you don't get on tours.

    I just used my phone and Google Maps and found the driving and where to go very easy.
    30th Jul 2018
    Always use Enterprise car Hire! Make sure you take Photos of Car on Pick Up.Have Car Insurance as part of your Travel Insuranace.Some Car Hir Companies insist on you having an International Drivers Licence,Enterprise Don't! Book on line is much cheaper and Guarantees your car will be there1
    30th Jul 2018
    Google maps will automatically download directions so it doesn't matter if you lose reception. The only time losing reception matters is if it's lost, you can't plan a new trip until you again receive reception
    30th Jul 2018
    What ever you do DO NOT HIRE A CAR FROM If you do you will soon find out they run a scam and if they have a car for you forget your deposit returned.
    Please check the following consumeraffairs/travel/carhireuk You will see the scams they pull.
    ie no deposit returns, not the car ordered and paid for, accidents to the vehicle. The repairer really gets his share, speeding tickets, parking fine all of a sudden appear on your account.
    Get your own back by booking a car,use credit card-new one only days old at the start of the billing period. pick up the car. Wait for the car rep to leave. don't drive the car. leave it in the same location and not the location they request to be left and catch the plane back home. Report the credit card lost within the 24 hrs of the car pick up. Once home block any emails or phone calls from the car hire. Let them look for the car. Hourly rate at Heathrow is approx GBP10/hr. They may find it about a week after you where required to drop off the car at Heathrow No 4 parking. The cost for the parking at Heathrow No 2 will be way over the top. Some medicine for the car hire mob. Better still DO not HIGH from carhireuk.
    30th Jul 2018
    There some great comments here already so can only hope to add to them. I have hired and leased and anything over minimum times lease is the GO. New car, all insurances and usually better fees if extras are added in.
    Local tours defeat the driving and drinking problem. Park the car and get locals to show you around.
    City driving anywhere is the pits. But good GPS and learning to programme accurately make a world of difference. (Central Paris would have been far easier if I started with the post code :))
    Have fun...
    31st Jul 2018
    We have had many successful self-drive trips using our smartphone + using offline google maps for the area in which we are driving. This way it does not matter whether you have mobile phone access. Just make use of wi-fi access before you depart as offline maps are good for 30 days or longer if you update periodically. Right now we are 2 weeks into a tour around the UK West Country using Google's offline maps.
    31st Jul 2018
    Hired car for a month in Greece and a few weeks in UK. UK easy used iPad with google or Apple maps and same side of road and similar road rules. Greece was initially intimidating in Athens but quickly got used to other side of road, main freeway signs in English too it’s only in rural areas and street signs where can be difficult as all naturally in Greek. But learn the Greek alphabet and even these OK. Again Apple or google maps is all you need in the cities and I’d recommend planning your route using an old fashioned paper map and is good to use as a back up just in case you get lost outside the cities. Biggest challenge in Europe I found was the sometimes very narrow roads where had to fold in side mirrors to pass or reverse a few hundred metres to allow a tourist bus to pass....but all part of the fun and experience.
    31st Jul 2018
    Yep paper maps are the go, you can't plan with those GPS units and even hard on PC - every time you zoom out you lose the detail.
    31st Jul 2018
    tikitik. Did that on one occasion. good option, picked it up in Amsterdam an dropped it of there as well. No extra cost. Easier for me to buy a car when over for longer periods and flog it or dump it at the wreckers.
    31st Jul 2018
    Vincent - we did the same . Booked the lease car thru Global in Australia on line and picked up the new Citreon near Schiphol Amsterdam . Made a home base in Lelystad Nederland where we rented an upstairs downstairs and from there toured Scotland , England , Nederland , Germany , Spain ,Gibraltar, Belgium , France etc . Each time returning to the home base to recuperate and plan the next trip . Relaxing & enjoyable . Took the new lease car in for its first service in Scotland . Global were amazed that we had taken time out to do this . Dropped it off in Amsterdam from the pick up point . We had also extended the initial lease by three weeks and Global were very accommodating . Bought a cheap gps which was very useful but also resorted to maps in some areas . Did think about your idea of buying a car next time and leaving it at the airport/ wreckers on departure as many people seem to do - don’t know if I could be bothered organising insurance etc but it’s still an option for consideration . Each to their own I guess for those who want to rent - but we found a new lease car cheaper than rentals with full insurance and road side coverage plus no hidden extra costs .
    8th Aug 2018
    My big question is: Do you really need the latest model car with all the latest bells & whistles?

    It's hard to not get any scratches/dents on the car when you're driving in small lanes that in the UK pass for 'B' roads, or if you get 'door bumped' by another car in the car park. That's why a used car would be better - OK, you don't have all the 'bells & whistles', but if the car gets you from A to B, then it's worth the purchase.

    I wouldn't hire a car in the UK again! Paid for the rental up front before I left and was told to present the card when I went to collect the car. They didn't know to tell me that a Pre-paid travel card (even though it had the 16 digits like a 'normal' credit card, and had no name on it - just 'Valued Customer') is not accepted at any rental company world-wide, even here in Australia. It took nearly 3 hours for them to accept that I was using the same card that I had paid for the advance hire with, but it didn't have my name on it! That was the problem. I told them the all my funds for the trip were on the card, and I didn't have my home Visa debit card with me (I had all the cash I would need to get me home). In the end they relented and accepted the card and I was told in no uncertain terms that I wasn't to use a pre-paid card again. The other option is to pay cash for the deposit/hold, but you have to return to the same airport to get your money back.

    It all depends on how much the car hire is in the first place. Do your research. If you're paying over AU$3000, then it may be cheaper to purchase a car. There are some very good websites like where you can search for a car. OK it may not be the latest & greatest, but at least it should get you around on your trip. You'll need the postcode of the first hotel you're staying at to search for the cars.

    The next time I travel to the UK, I'll be purchasing a car and getting it registered to a cousin's name & address then when I leave to come come, the car goes to them. The only problem with this is, you need to have comprehensive insurance. You can get it OK, but it's usually only for a maximum of 28 days, then you have to renew it.

    If your first accommodation is near a rail station or a bus stop, then do you really need a car to get into the city. Take this time to really look around for a good used car.

    Join YOURLifeChoices, it’s free

    • Receive our daily enewsletter
    • Enter competitions
    • Comment on articles

    You May Like