Renting A Car In Italy

Need a guide for renting a car in Italy?

I had to go to Milan and did not have a car. So what to do? Should I rent a car? I was nervous and scared to drive in a country known for its crazy and aggressive drivers. But I was only heading out to the small towns in the Alps, so how bad can it get?

italy-mountain-roadWell, I did rent a car and turns out this stereotype about Italian drivers is exaggerated. It was quite an exciting experience. I have lived in Italy for about a year, and I would regularly rent a car whenever I needed to move from place to place. I also have visited Italy on several occasions, and the country’s beauty is one that must be explored by any nature loving person. The diversity of the cultures is one that takes you on a journey through history that will leave you astounded. To access and experience this rich history and culture among the Italian people, I strongly advise getting a car. Public transport can only get you so far, and you will be limited by tour companies’ budgets and schedules. Below are a few tips about renting a car in Italy that can help your experience be smooth and painless.

Here are some important tips about Renting A Car In Italy:

1. Is it worthwhile to rent a car in Italy?

railway-station-in-italyWell, renting a car has always been nerve-wracking and a risky affair, especially in a foreign country. But everything comes with a risk like boarding a train or a bus. If you choose to use a train, of which Italy has some of the best, they run on a schedule which sometimes can be stressful. The regional trains do not even have AC, which during the summer can be a nightmare.

Renting a car in Italy is probably not the best thing, especially if your primary purpose is a tourist visit. In Rome, for example, despite the slow traffic that is nearly bumper to bumper, its tourist sites are only accessible by foot, and you cannot even get it into Old town Florence. However, if you are considering visiting the path spots in the countryside, then you may not have a choice.

car-in-italyItalian roads are old, and some have existed for ages, so many may be narrow and not like those in America. So be careful of other vehicles on the way. Also note that theft from rental cars is rampant, especially in Southern Italy. In cities such as Sicily, you are better off parking with an attendant than leaving your car on the streets. Of importance to note is that you do not leave your valuables inside the vehicle.

2. Car rental insurance in Italy

Basic CDW car rental insurance in Italy is mandatory, unlike in other European countries. This is a legal requirement, and rental companies will not let you take their car off the lot until they are sure of your coverage status.

Credit cards do come with an insurance package. If you are planning to use this, then you may be required to sign a waiver that states that you are to pay for any damages upfront should a risk occur and later on claim o=it from the credit card company.

Of importance to note is that almost call credit card companies do not offer car rental insurance in Italy. So do not lie that you have the coverage while you do not because if the risk occurs, you will be on your own.

It is usually cheaper to include a CDW and theft cover or insurance in a car rate of rental that is prepaid when booking your car than booking a basic car rate then opting-in on the insurance at pick up.

3. Manual vs. Automatic

Well, the good news is that Italy is one of the cheapest European countries to rent a car. Most European cars are manual, so unless you specify on your reservation that you prefer an automatic car, then you will be given a manual car by default.

Whereas it may be easier to rent an automatic car, you may want to consider getting one with both transmissions, especially in the winter. If you get stuck in the snow, it is easier to get out of it with a manual car than an automatic one.

4. How old must you be to rent a car in Italy?


The legal driving age in Italy is eighteen years. However, you must have a valid driving license that has been operational for at least one year. Most rental companies will charge you an extra fee if you are below the age of 25.

Insurance companies do set a maximum age limit. Usually, it is 70 or 75, depending on the insurance provider.

5. How much does it cost to rent a car in Italy?

There are numerous sites where you can find rental cars in Italy. Just like any other country, there are also fraudsters waiting to pounce on unsuspecting tourists. The internet is filled with garbage and fake sites, and if you are not careful, you will end up getting conned. I would advise rentalcars because it searches among the most legitimate companies for rental cars then offers you the most competitive rates it finds in the market. Even though renting a car in Italy is cheaper than in some European countries, there are other costs that you cannot avoid, such as tolls and fuel.

Tolls are expensive in Italy. If you are planning on using some major highways, then get ready to pay a lot of money. For example, getting to Milan from Bolzano will set you back some 30 Euros. Also, ensure to carry cash with you since not all tolls accept credit card payments.

Fuel is more expensive in Europe than in the US. In Italy, they refer to it as petrol. For Americans, it may appear cheaper. However, this is because the prices are displayed per litter and not per Gallon like in America. (1 Gallon=3.78 liter)

NOTE: Regardless of the rental company, book your car from your resident or home country rather than booking it in Italy. For example, if you are from Australia and traveling to Italy, book your vehicle online while still in Australia. Why? Because it is cheaper by quite a significant amount.

If your driving license is non-European, then you will not be subjected to extra taxes that are imposed on Europeans when driving in other European countries other than their country of origin. I’m talking about a substantial difference in prices here.

However, beware if you are thinking of cheating the system. The system is incredibly smart. If you try to book a car for the US while in Europe, then you must produce your European driver’s license at the rental counter else your reservation will not be valid.

6. Laws Tourist should know while driving in Italy

Being a tourist, you probably do not speak Italian. Italian road signs are written in Italian, and you will likely miss a vital road sign. Beware of Road signs that read Zona Traffico Limitato, which means limited traffic zone or Area Pedonale, which means Pedestrian zones. Avoid driving in such areas because even though you may not get stopped immediately, some cameras will spot you and take a photo of your license plate. You will then get a fine through the mail, or it may be sent to the rental car company, which you will have to pay when returning the car.

burner-italy The maximum speed limit is 130 Kilometre per hour. In towns and some curvy parts of a highway, it may be 60 kilometers per hour. You will see nearly everyone ignore these speed limits, but as a foreigner, do not be tempted.

Europeans are in love with roundabouts. There is one in every corner. Traffic flows seamlessly around an island that is usually decorated with ancient art. Do not be scared of them. Just follow everyone else and ensure to signal when exiting it.

Never turn right on a red traffic sign. This is illegal across Europe unless a sign expressly authorizes it. This is quite common in Germany.

7. returning a rental car in Italy

While most cars may come with a GPS navigation system, do not rely on it. Use your normal Google maps and if there are any highway closures, feel free to ask the rerouting people where to go.

If your rental car was rented to you full of petrol, unless you return it full of petrol – there is no other way, bring it back full!. This means to fill the car at the nearest petrol station to the rental company. If by any chance a little bit of gas is missing from the tank, you will be charged a higher amount for the fuel plus a refueling fee.
Also renting a car at the airport such as Rome Fiumicino Airport or the Milan Malpensa Airport can take you up to an hour. This is more so because the queue is usually long, regardless of the time of year.

However, please note that if you indicated on your reservation that you would pick your car at 10 am, and you are waiting in line, say until 11 Am, you may want to make yourself known to the attendant before the reservation time of 10 am. More often than not, they will give your car away if you do not pick it up on time!

8. Renting a car as an American

For years Italy did not care about non-Italian driving licenses. However, things have changed. Nowadays, you can get an International Driver’s Permit if you are coming from a non-EU country.

You can rent a car with your American or Non-EU driver’s license without any issues. However, if you get stopped, you may receive a fine.

The International Driver Permit will set you back $15, and you can apply through either AAA or the National AutoMobile club. However, beware some restrictions apply even if you have this permit.

Like in most countries, The United States requires that you must be 18 years old or older. Your immigration or residential status must be valid, and your permit is only valid for a year from the date of issue.

9. Why consider renting a car in Italy?

You can move around in Italy through trains and small commuter planes that are quite comfortable and cheap. However, to access the smaller towns or drive around the mountains, then you will need a car. The small towns would be hard to access since buses or forms of public transport hardly reach these towns.

I usually drive an automatic car for convenience around the country. Still, in the winter, a manual car or one that allows you to switch transmission can be quite handy, especially when stuck in the snow. Having a car can arguably help you explore the country at your own time. It also gives you the flexibility to alter your route as and when you feel like.

Exploring Italy is one of the most amazing experiences you can have in the world. There are so much history and scenery to go through. Having your car will help you assimilate some of these sites and get to choose the best viewpoints. Some of these sites are not accessible by public means. Tour guides may only show you what is convenient to their business and budgets. A culinary journey through Italy is also one you can squeeze into your schedule if you have a car. Culinary tours require patience, and it may take a day or two in a rural town to have a worthwhile gastronomical experience.

A car can also help get you away from crowds such as those on tour buses.