Renting a car can make business travel smoother, allowing you to cover more ground in less time. But car rental can be a major expense, especially in Europe, where both rental and fuel costs are substantially higher than in North America.

Do you really need a car?

Before comparing rental costs, decide whether you really need a car. If your destination is a major European city your business meetings and hotel will be in the city centre, using taxis or public transport may be easier as well as cheaper.

If your trip is to several cities, or to several destinations outside the city centre, car rental is more likely to be the best way to go. Also if you are travelling with a colleague or with heavy luggage such as promotional material, rental makes more sense.

Airport versus city centre

Major airports in Europe and North America normally have up to six car rental desks operated by competing companies and picking up your car at the airport can be the easiest way to go. Alternatively, consider picking up your car from the company's downtown desk. Benefits include:

  • Usually a wider choice of special deals and cheaper rental than at airport desks
  • If arriving late at night from a long haul flight, you may not wish to drive immediately on arrival, but to pick up your car at a downtown office the following day

Chauffeur drive

Renting a car with driver can be cost-effective even in Europe or North America, saving you time and allowing you to concentrate on work. In the former Soviet Union, Middle East, Asia and Africa, chauffeur drive is not a luxury but a necessity. The most expensive chauffeur drive options are offered by major car rental chains. Hiring a car and driver locally through your hotel is a cheaper option. Cheapest of all is hiring a taxi through a local firm by the day – but make sure the firm is reputable and fully insured.

In 2000, Europcar became the first car rental company to offer a flat 'Eurorate', offering a Vauxhall Vectra or similar car in Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK for only ({@denom})39 per day, including tax, CDW, and 200 miles. It may also be worth visiting Easycarrental.com – although it's mainly for holidaymakers it could provide value for money.