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age to drive in europe car rental

Are Traveling Seniors Too Old to Drive in Europe?

A traveling senior I know (age 81) recently arranged to rent a car at Italy’s Bari Airport, only to be denied the car on arrival. He arranged the deal through an online discount agency, which issued a confirmation for a local airport agency. Although he had entered his age during the process, when he arrived, the rental desk informed him that it could not rent to travelers age 75 or over.

What are senior travelers to do in a situation like this? For him, rather than start a transatlantic battle with the booking agency, he went to the Avis counter and got a car—for a higher price—to be able to head for his destination without further hassle.

The Rules for Renting a Car in Europe as a Senior

Can seniors in their 70s, 80s, and 90s rent cars in Europe? The answer is almost always yes, with a few exceptions. But can they rent from any company? No. Here’s how that works.

The Legality: No E.U. country sets a legal maximum age to drive in Europe. Motor vehicle departments or their equivalents can deny licenses to seniors who appear to be senile or otherwise risky, but seniors able to drive safely are allowed on the road no matter what their age.

Companies to Use: As a corporate policy, the big three global rental groups—Avis/Budget, Enterprise/National/Alamo, or Hertz—don’t set an age maximum for rentals.

But smaller rental car companies in Europe can and do set a maximum age to drive for rentals, as do some locally owned and operated stations of the global companies. This is the situation in Ireland, where many rental information sources say seniors 71 or over can’t rent. Even in Ireland, however, seniors 71 years and older can still find rentals with other companies. You’re more likely to local find age limits at smaller rental locations than at the large ones found in major airports.

How to Book: If you’re over 70 and want to rent a car in Europe, you can usually find a rental through one of the big three global giants: Avis/Budget, Enterprise/National/Alamo, and Hertz. If you’re looking for a lower price, check with Auto Europe which has a good track record for finding seniors rentals with local agencies.

Even after you have a firm deal, however, you should check directly with the rental location specified in your reservation to make sure you won’t face a problem.

More from SmarterTravel:

Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuses every day at SmarterTravel.

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