Can You Rent A Car in Europe with US Drivers License?

If you intend to visit Europe from the USA, renting a car may be a top priority, especially if you love driving and moving around in your car, rented or otherwise. Renting a car is a reliable mode of transport and makes a lot of sense if you love traveling and discovering new territories without skipping on your privacy.

You can rent a car in Europe as a US citizen, as long as you have your passport and driver’s license. However, for some European countries like Austria, Greece, Italy, or Spain, you’ll require an International Driving Permit (IDP). 

If you’re wondering how to rent a car in Europe with a US driver’s license, this article provides a guideline on how to do it. We also explain everything you need to be aware of when hiring a car in Europe and the documents you should have to make the process easier.

Also read: Which European countries have the cheapest rates for car rental?

Renting a car in Europe with a US license: guide

Europe is a continent that offers fascinating culture, beautiful landscapes, and intriguing history that can only be explored when driving and getting a little lost in a foreign country.

Renting a car is generally cost-efficient. It also allows you to discover new territories at your pleasure.

While the transport system in Europe is generally fantastic, hiring a car can save you a chunk of time and money spent on travel costs. As an American, all you need to rent a car in Europe is your passport and driver’s license in most European countries. 

However, in some European countries such as Greece, Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Slovenia, Poland, and Slovakia, you’ll require an International Driving Permit. Ideally, an International Driving Permit (IDP) is required in addition to your driver’s license and your passport.

While an IDP is not a license in itself, it’s basically an internationally-recognized translation of your license into multiple languages.

It also comes in handy if you get stopped by the police or in the event of an accident, as the insurance company may not cover you without one.

That said, to get an IDP, you need to go to the American Automobile Association (AAA) or Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), where you’ll be required to bring the following:

  • Two passport-type photographs
  • A method of payment for the IDP payment (you can use cash or credit card)
  • Your valid regular license as proof you’re licensed to drive

How do I get an IDP in Europe?

If you can, it’s highly recommended to do it before you leave for Europe. However, if you’re in Europe already, it’ll take about 5-7 weeks to get it mailed to you. Ensure you have a home base to provide a street address.

Once you get the IDP, it’ll be valid for one year, and you should carry it along with your driver’s license.

What are the age limits for renting a car in Europe?

Rules may vary by country, the rental company, or the type of car, but usually, most renters prefer to rent a car to someone above the age of 21, preferably 25 years of age. 

However, this may depend on the car type and country. For young drivers, some renters may add extra fees to your rate (can be extra insurance or a surcharge) of between $15-40 daily.

If you’re a driver over 70, you might experience challenges renting a car in countries like the Czech Republic, Greece, Slovakia, Great Britain, Northern Ireland, Slovenia, Poland, and Turkey. Similarly, for drivers over age 80, renting a car in Denmark may be an uphill task.

In the Republic of Ireland, most renters will charge you extra to rent a car if you’re over 69. Although the official age limit in Ireland is 75, some rental companies may rent to drivers between the ages of 76-79 if they have enough proof of perfect health and road safety.

To avoid age restrictions, consider leasing a car instead of renting, as it’s more accommodating to people below or above the recommended age limit.

Are there any restrictions when crossing borders with a rented car in Europe?

Yes, some renters may have restrictions on eastward movements considering too many cases of car thefts.

It’s crucial to let your rental company know your travel plans when booking, especially if you plan to take your rental car anywhere that your contract forbids (always go through the paperwork when booking).

You may be required to pay extra or take a cheaper car when renting your car if you plan to travel to a country in Eastern or Southeastern Europe. This includes countries with closed borderlines like Croatia or Montenegro. 

Once you cross the borders, you may be required to provide a green card which is a document that shows proof of insurance. To err on the safe side, avoid taking your rental car to areas restricted by your rental company, as this may breach the contract on the insurance protection.

Can you rent a car in the UK with a US driver’s license?

If you’re coming from the US and want to rent a car in the UK, you only require your passport, credit card, and a valid driver’s license, which you’ll provide to the renting company.

However, when it comes to driving, it can be pretty challenging, mainly if you’re used to US freeways, as the UK has more complex road systems.

Additionally, you’ll be driving on the opposite side as opposed to what you’re used to on American roads. This can make movements quite challenging since your driver’s seat will be on the right-hand side. 

It’s also important to note that in the UK, the most popular mode of slowing people down is roundabouts instead of traffic lights. 

Although it’s legal to drive at 17 in the UK, some rental companies may add an extra fee for drivers between ages 17-25 and older ones between 70-80. This is because some insurance companies place these restrictions on age limits.

European countries that recognize US driver’s license

Some English-speaking European countries like Northern Ireland, Wales, England, Ireland, and Scotland accept the US driver’s license.

However, most European countries, including Austria, Greece, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Slovenia, Poland, Slovakia, and Spain, require an IDP for you to rent and drive a car.

When hiring a car, the rental companies will provide you with the license requirements you should provide when booking.

What documents do you need to rent and drive a car in Europe?

Generally, Americans and Canadians only require a valid driver’s license and a passport when renting a car in Europe.

However, rules may vary from country to country. If you’re looking to hire and drive a car in Europe, you need certain documents to avoid getting yourself in trouble. These documents may include the following:

  • An EU driving license
  • Your passport for identification
  • An international Driving Permit to complement your passport and driver’s license
  • A translation of the national driving license into the official language of the country you’re driving and the translated license
  • A driving license under Annex 6 of the International Convention on Road Traffic of 1968

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