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Car Rental Strategy for Italy

Bob Little (Bob the Navigator)

How would you like to save perhaps $500 on your next car rental in Italy? Well, you probably can if you decide to start and end your trip in Germany or Switzerland. Here is an actual scenario that proves the point.

A recent client was shocked after getting a quote for a mid-sized car with automatic transmission for Malpensa airport (MXP) in Milan, Italy. He was quoted over $1300 for a ten day rental, with the drop off also at MXP. Wow, over $130/day was about twice what he had budgeted.

So, we changed his itinerary and saved him over $500. How? We decided to fly into Zurich and get the car in Lugano - not a bad diversion for any itinerary that includes the fabulous lakes region of northern Italy. After landing in Zurich he trained to Lucerne (Luzerne) for two nights before continuing on to Lugano by train to get the car. It proved to be an enjoyable addition to his trip that included two lake destinations in Italy and several days in the wine regions of the Piedmont (Piemonte).

Car rental prices in Italy are much higher than adjacent countries, primarily due to the mandatory insurance rates. Lower rental rates are also valid in Germany with Munich Airport (MUN) being a good choice as a launching pad for trips into most venues in northern Italy.

Book your rental car with AutoEurope

Book with AutoEurope

Ten Day Car Rental Price Comparisons

Prices in dollars (USD). Comparison shows 10-day car rentals with two brokers, AutoEurope and Gemut, with comparable insurance coverages, renting from three locations: MXP (airport in Milan, Italy), MUN (airport in Munich, Germany), LUG (Lugano, Switzerland). Picking up and dropping off at the same location.

BROKER COMPACT/MANUAL MIDSIZE/AUTOMATIC
MXP MUN LUG MXP MUN LUG
AUTOEUROPE 729 584 496 1303 993 853
GEMUT 663 388* 378 1235 621 583
AVERAGES 696 486 437 1269 807 718
SAVINGS N/A 210 259 N/A 462 551

*Price is for sub-compact with automatic upgrade to compact model.

DISCLAIMER: Rental prices can vary by season and locations. These prices are a snapshot in October 2007 for these two vendors only. Prices may vary when you actually get a quote, but the point is still valid. The prices will always be higher in Italy, especially for automatic models.

To complete this savings, you must also return the car in the country where you picked it up, or drop-off fees will apply. Remember, when taking a rental car into Italy, you must get full coverage (all inclusive) because most credit cards will not cover your car rental insurance for Italy.

Additional Benefits to this Strategy

There are additional benefits to considering this itinerary strategy. You get to add more options in your quest to find the best airfares, or free seats using award miles. Besides the obvious destinations of Munich and Zurich, you can also consider Stuttgart as a viable choice to save on airfares. That gives you three other options rather than just considering Milan and Venice when traveling to northern Italy.

But the primary benefits to me are the wonderful destinations that you can add to your northern Italy itinerary. I have always loved an itinerary that includes the Salzburg area, the castle country of Bavaria, the Dolomites, or even Lake Garda with other destinations in Italy. That is especially true for any family trip or for those who are seeking the ultimate in natural beauty. And, the drive from Munich airport to Val Gardena in the Dolomites is only four hours and includes some great scenery past Innsbruck and through the Brenner Pass. The drive to Salzburg or Garmisch is only about two hours.

Any Zurich itinerary should include at least two nights in lovely Lucerne (Luzerne) either going or coming, and one night in Zurich to enjoy this unique city. The additional rail costs will be offset by the fewer car rental days. Of course, you could get the car in Zurich, but I have always preferred using the very efficient rail system in Switzerland. And, Lugano itself is a terrific destination to enjoy for a few hours before driving an hour to Lake Como or wherever.

To me it is a win/win scenario. The only catch may be adding enough days to your trip to make it all feasible. You will probably need at least twelve days to include two or three Italy destinations with the transitional venues. I have included Tuscany in my own itinerary that began and ended in Munich, but it may be a bit of a stretch if your time is limited. But, saving between $200 to $500 on just the car expense for your next trip to Italy can sure buy you your fill of gelato and cappuccinos - always a good idea.


Bob the Navigator is a retired IBMer whose passion for European travel has evolved into a hobby and trip planning business - www.bobthenavigator.homestead.com (Slow Travel Classified Listing). See Bob's Slow Travel member page for a list of his articles.

© Bob Little, 2007

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