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Car rentals - Non-smoking availability / Walk-up Prices

Minneapolis...
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Car rentals - Non-smoking availability / Walk-up Prices

We (family of 5 including kids ages 12, 11, 11) plan to rent a car or van in France for 10 days starting in Marseille to Normandy to Paris. It is a lot of miles but a train will not work for our situation.

We need help with some issues regarding car rentals in France:

Are cars from all major rental companies non-smoking? If not, what are your recommendations to get a vehicle that has not been smoked in?

Is there much of a price difference (greater than 10%) for renting a car at the airport counter versus making a reservation 15+ days in advance?

We are hoping to do a walk-up reservation as we do not know much about the French cars and vans as in many cases there is not a comparable model in the US. We’ll be driving a lot of miles and want to make the vehicle we choose is comfortable for our family (I’m tall and don’t fit well in some cars), quiet, non-smoking and will fit our baggage. We hope to use only 3 standard size suitcases plus backpacks for each of us, but the luggage capacity on many French cars shows a maximum of 2 standard suitcases plus 2 small suitcases. There is a possibility we will have 4 standard suitcases but I’m really hoping we can pack lighter than that! We definitely don’t want to reserve a car or van only to find it won’t meet our requirements. Other suggestions?

Paris, France
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1. Re: Car rentals - Non-smoking availability / Walk-up Prices

Walking up to do a car rental would be a recipe for disaster IMO. What if they don't have a car to suit your needs and there you are stranded in France. And the price will be considerably higher than if you book in advance - just like in the US.

I've always rented with AutoEurope, and when renting you choose the type of vehicle you want. Cars are cars, there isn't that much difference from a US model. As an FYI, automatic transmissions are not the norm in France, and even if you book one there is no guarantee that you will get one. I would think that your chances are better if you book ahead.

Ottawa, Canada
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2. Re: Car rentals - Non-smoking availability / Walk-up Prices

Look at http://www.parkers.co.uk after seeing what cars are available through AutoEurope mentioned above... they have multiple photos of interiors and load spaces to help you decide. Phone AutoEurope... their agents are very knowledgeable.

Waiting until you walk up will cost you more, often much more, and you may not even get a suitable vehicle.

Most cars are now non smoking... I don't know how you could guarantee it was impossible anyone had ever lit up in one though.

Le Bugue, France
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3. Re: Car rentals - Non-smoking availability / Walk-up Prices

Are you seriously thinking about doing a walk-up rental for a car for a family of 5 in France? Why on earth? It will cost you an arm and a leg, no doubt, you'll end up with pages and pages of legalize in French that you can't decipher unless you read technical French, and your choices of vehicles will be severely limited. And they may not have any car for days that fits your requirements.

Do what all sensible people do and rent ahead of time from AutoEurope or Kemwel, rent a 7-passenger van, CALL them and talk to their incredibly helpful service people, and arrange it well in advance.

An automatic will cost you. Every car I've rented from AutoEurope in the past few years has had a non-smoking requirement (and no ashtray - oh how times change!). Whether renters have observed it or not (I kind of doubt it - it's France, after all), I don't know, but the cars were clean and didn't smell.

Paris, France
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4. Re: Car rentals - Non-smoking availability / Walk-up Prices

An interesting post zorax22.

Firstly, attempting to drive from Marseille to Normandy will cost a great deal more than taking the train and will occupy the better part of two full days on the road, more specifically on the autoroutes or toll roads.

Secondly, it would be a huge mistake to attempt an auto rental without a reservation. Yes, the costs differential will definitely exceed 10% but perhaps more importantly, you are wrongly assuming that a car meeting your requirements will be available at all. I have never heard of a car guaranteed to be non-smoking. You could lease a car which would be a factory fresh car and you would be the first to drive it. Leases have about a 10 day minimum so one might fit your overall requirements.

Thirdly, what are ¨standard size¨ suitcases. If you mean 22¨, my definition of standard, then you should have plenty of room. Bags bigger than that and space could be a problem.

Fourthly, reservations or rental categories are not made for a specific car but rather for a general class of car. Within a rental class, there might be models that you find acceptable, there may be models you do not like but you usually do not have a choice unless again you lease a car.

Lastly, if you really want to know about the car you are renting, rent a Mercedes or BMW. The models available in France will be virtually identical to those available in the US thus precluding any unknown.

Tampa, Florida
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5. Re: Car rentals - Non-smoking availability / Walk-up Prices

leases are for 17 days, if I'm not mistaken.

I agree with the recommendations to phone AutoEurope -- their prices are great, and their customer service is impeccable.

They also have excellent information about sizes and comfort.

And no, I wouldn't drive from Marseille to Normandy if there was any possible way to avoid it.

Minneapolis...
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6. Re: Car rentals - Non-smoking availability / Walk-up Prices

So everyone doesn't think we're entirely crazy driving from Southern to Northern France, I forgot to mention we are going to go to the Loire Valley on the way and will stay there to explore castles to break up the trip. We're from Minnesota and are used to 3 to 4 hour drives "Up North". It'll take about 6.5 hours of driving (not including rest stops) to get to the Tours area - not a joy - but I think I'll prefer the drive to taking the train.

Thank you everyone for all of your good advice. I found it interesting that none of the major US operations (Hertz, Avis, National, etc.) customer service personal for international reservations could provide any information as to whether their French franchisees had smoking or non-smoking fleets. The CSRs were literally clueless - not their fault as they should have more information.

I also checked some of the French versions of the websites of many of the companies and it was difficult, if not impossible, to find smoking policies.

Based on the consensus of everyone here, we're going to reserve ahead of time. Thanks for the tips about Auto Europe - it had some nice options. Nevertheless, We're going to go with Sixt because their entire fleet is supposed to be smoke free and they offer an E-Class Mercedes.

Sarastro, funny you should suggest it, but our plan is to go with a Mercedes E-Class which we know will fit our luggage and possibly change to a van or something else if it is available and fits our needs better. Neither my wife nor I have trouble driving a "stick" as we are old enough to have grown up with them.

We're chickening out regarding not getting the vehicle we want as we don't really want a substituted vehicle. Worst case for us in this situation is that they don't have an E-Class Mercedes and switch us to a 5-Series BMW. Either way, I'll rest easier knowing what were getting.

We'll certainly pay more, but we're already spoiled with nice vehicles at home and will appreciate the nice, comfortable, quite ride for all of the hours we will spend going from Southern France to Northern France.

Thank you all for your help!

Paris, France
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7. Re: Car rentals - Non-smoking availability / Walk-up Prices

You didn't ask if it was a good idea to make this drive, that's why it wasn't addressed. And you stated that taking the train wasn't an option.

But I will question flying to Marseilles if Tours and Normandy are your destinations.

Minneapolis...
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8. Re: Car rentals - Non-smoking availability / Walk-up Prices

F1Racegirl - I noticed an oops in my message regarding travel days as you mention regarding flying into Marseilles.

We're actually spending 15 total days in France. My wife wanted to start in Marseille. We're spending 4 days in Avignon touring the area, 2 in Loire Valley, 3 in Normandy, 1 in Chartres for the first 10 days. We'll then spend another 5 days in Paris.

Maybe our itinerary makes more sense from that perspective. We want to get a "taste" of each the areas and hopefully go back in the future to the areas we enjoyed the most.

Edited: 17 February 2013, 05:16
Atlanta
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9. Re: Car rentals - Non-smoking availability / Walk-up Prices

I'd save Normandy for another trip - just too much driving, esp for the little ones.

Sixt is often more expensive than AutoEurope. And while one does rent a class of auto rather than a specific model, I've never been disappointed (tho often apprehensive).

As a long term smoker I'm sad to report that you basically can't get a smoker's car any more. Decline of Western Civilization, you know.

Tampa, Florida
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10. Re: Car rentals - Non-smoking availability / Walk-up Prices

I agree -- we only touched on driving from Provence to Normandy because that wasn't the question.

But if you're asking -- yes, it's loopy -- it doesn't matter how many hours you're accustomed to driving in the US, because it really isn't like driving in Europe, and you cannot draw that comparison.

It's an enormous amount of time that is fraught with delays for numerous reasons, and you're setting yourself up to blow 2 hard days of your vacation trapped in a car.

You asked.