The freedom a car can give you while on holiday in Europe is invaluable. With four wheels you can drive to all of a country’s must-see spots, so if you’re beginning to plan your next getaway you might be interested to know the cheapest European capitals to hire a car.
To find you the cheapest capitals, Uswitch collected car hire deals for each available location in every European capital city. The variables collected included:
Total price and price per day
Vehicle name and category
Insurance deal extras
To account for seasonal variance, it was necessary to collect hire rates for each month of the year. This reduces the likelihood of misrepresenting car hire prices with skewed samples and ensures the ranking is as definitive as possible.
At £25.19 a day, Moscow is the cheapest capital city to hire a car in Europe. The freedom of a car means you don’t need to use public transport to see other places in Russia. You could take a short car ride out from the capital and park up at Kolomna. There you’ll be able to explore museums and historic 16th-century churches.
As the central hub of EU activity, Brussels is a very busy city. By hiring a car at just £25.48 per day you can escape the bustle of the capital and see what else Belgium has to offer. Drive just 40 miles and you’ll be at the beautiful city of Dinant, where you can visit the stunning Caves of Han and the Grotto of Dinant.
Prague is a place that should be on everyone’s bucket list. And though walking and the extensive public transport network are the preferable ways to travel for most tourists, if you’re looking to head out of the capital city you’re going to need a car. Luckily, car hire costs just £28.18 a day, making it the third most affordable capital in Europe.
Warsaw is a city with plenty of character that sees a lot of tourists throughout the year. You can hire a cheap car in the capital (priced at just £28.79 for an entire day) and travel to Polish sites outside of the city too, such as the picturesque birthplace of Chopin at the banks of Utrata River in Żelazowa Wola.
You might be surprised to see Paris coming in fifth on this list. To hire a car for an entire day you’ll pay around £29.75. Make sure you research the rules and regulations around driving in Paris before your trip, then head out of the capital to see the legendary French countryside.
The Ukranian city of Kyiv is home to incredible street art, cultural sights like Independence Square (known as Maidan Nezalezhnosti in Ukrainian), and a host of talented street musicians. Ukraine is the second-largest country in Europe, so once you’re ready to head out of the capital it is worth hiring a car for £30.77 per day to visit its other landmarks.
Madrid (£31.68), Tirana (£32.31) and Bratislava (£32.96) come in as the seventh, eighth and ninth cheapest European capitals to hire a car. While these cities are largely pedestrianised, your own vehicle will make it easier to find the otherwise hard-to-reach sights away from the capitals.
Tallinn completes our top 10 with a car hire rate of £34.53 per day. While the rules on driving here are fairly relaxed – you are even allowed to drive in a lot of the Old Town – bear in mind that parking is usually limited. Even if you do decide to use the buses, trams, trolleybuses, trains and ferries of the city, a hire car can help you see parts of Estonia other tourists might miss.
Let’s take a look at the other end of the scale to see which capital cities are the most expensive to hire a car.
According to our research, the Slovenian city of Ljubljana is the most expensive of all, costing a whopping £80.20 per day. That’s over three times the rate in Moscow, which is the most affordable.
Vienna in Austria comes in at just under £70 (£69.09), which will amount to a fairly hefty bill if you want to spend your trip driving the 414 km² of the capital and its surrounding areas.
Hiring a car in Copenhagen, Helsinki and Bern are also pricey endeavours, setting you back £64.29, £58.37 and £55.93 respectively. But with some of the world’s must-see landscapes on offer, you might decide that getting out on the open road is worth it.
While driving abroad can grant you independence and travel opportunities, it’s not as easy as walking into a car hire company and being handed the keys. Here are some things you should bear in mind when hiring a car abroad.
Bring your driving licence with you to prove you’re entitled to drive
Declare any endorsements on your licence
Make sure you are covered by your car insurance or the one provided with the car
The type of insurance you need to drive a hired car will depend on the country itself. However, it will often be included in the overall hiring fee and outlined in the contract – you shouldn’t need to sort out your own insurance before hiring the car.
Injury or property damage suffered by a third party
Damage to the vehicle
Theft of the vehicle
Make sure you read the contract thoroughly beforehand to make sure insurance is part of the package and meets the regulations for the country. You may want to take out excess insurance in case you have an accident, so you don’t need to pay the excess charges. You can read everything you need to know about driving abroad here.
This information is stored electronically by the DVLA. If the car hire company requires this information, you can give them online access by using the DVLA’s Share Driving Licence service.
This service will generate a code, which the hire company can use to view the relevant parts of your driving licence. You can generate the code before you go away but if you're on an extended trip you may have to log in or call the DVLA while you’re abroad, as the code only stays active for 21 days. Alternatively, some hire companies may accept printouts of this information.
Although there are no particular EU laws on renting a car in Europe, you are still protected by consumer rights. These rights include the following:
Entitlement to a fair contract and access to alternative dispute resolution in the event of a disagreement with the rental firm
The right to unambiguous and clear information at all times
To avoid any disputes opening up and ruining your trip, follow these tips for hiring a car abroad:
Pay the full fee on a credit card – This way you can claim your money back if things go awry
Check the contract thoroughly for any additional fees – This is especially important if you used a broker rather than going directly to the car hire business.
Take photographs of any damage when you first pick the car up – This may take some time, but it will be worthwhile if there are any disagreements when you drop the car off at the end of your trip. Also make sure you take some photos of the rental car’s condition if you drop it off outside of business hours, since you may be held liable for any damage.
By following these tips and having sound knowledge of your consumer rights, you’re in a good place to have a positive experience, particularly if you opt for one of the cheapest capitals to hire a car.
Uswitch.com/car-insurance sought to identify the cheapest capital cities for car rentals, analysing 3,951 car rental deals in capital cities across Europe.
Dataset was sourced from TravelSupermarket, a price comparison website for holiday packages.
For car hire deals listed under each available capital city, the total price, price per day, vehicle name, insurance extras, deal extras and vehicle category were collected. For any cities where this data wasn’t available, they were omitted from the study.
The hire rates for each month of the year were collected to account for seasonal variance and to reduce the likelihood of biased samples.
Further, to keep results consistent and comparable, we limited the pick-up and drop off locations to airports, limited vehicles to economy class, and limited deals to those including unlimited mileage or collision damage waiver only.
The resulting dataset was aggregated by city, and the average total price per week and average price per day were calculated.
To focus the research on primary tourist destinations in Europe, annual inbound tourism rates per country were collected from the United Nations World Tourism Organisation and countries with tourism rates below the 25th percentile (3 million) were omitted. This left a final total of 25 cities analysed. Inbound tourism rates for the most recent years up until 2019 were used to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.
Data was collected on 03/08/2021 and is accurate as of then.
For quick cover, take a look into hourly car insurance policies. These are especially useful for insuring young drivers who's yearly policies may be more expensive.