How to Rent a BMW in Europe

How to Rent a BMW in Europe

by Steven Jay Bernstein, BMWCCA #83901


This is the definitive FAQ for information on renting a BMW (or Benz) in Europe. Admittedly, it is geared towards people from the United States who are travelling to/from Europe. If you are originating in Europe, I don't see any reason why you couldn't make the same arrangements through friends in the USA. Every time I have travelled to Europe for business or pleasure, I have managed to find excellent deals on rental cars. I've taken the time to investigate the various options available for reserving a car from the US prior to visiting Europe. One thing is clear: you must have a reservation, or the rates will be obscene.

Enjoy searching through the FAQ, and if you find new information, please feel free to pass it along to me via e-mail. Remember, check out the additional notes on renting that apply to all European car rentals. Please read the important safety information before you get behind the wheel!

Have a fun and safe fahrt!!!

Before You Travel

There are basically two types of automobile rental agencies covered in this FAQ, and they provide cars that can be picked up at the airport in Frankfurt, Germany. I concentrated on this airport, since it is centrally located in Europe, and it has traditionally had the best selection of cars. The first group of agencies are the large traditional companies: Hertz, Avis, Budget, etc. You can rent from them directly. The second type of company is a broker that works with the large outfits. I have included them here, but I find them to be less flexible in choice of car. With these establishments, while you can save some money, it will be more difficult to make changes once you arrive at the airport if your car of choice isn't available.

Use this information as a guideline, since the prices can and will change. In calling the larger outfits, when I asked for a BMW, the 4-door, 5-speed 316i was the most commonly quoted as being available. In contrast to previous years, one can now occasionally obtain a 318i, 320i, or 325i. In some instances, I was able to get prices on 5-ers, which are a lot more fun than 3-ers, particularly if it's the new E39 body. Be careful, however, since some of these outfits are passing along cars with automatic transmissions and claiming they're BMWs. But seriously, one theme was apparent: in most cases, unless the 316i (or 520i) was the *only* car within a "class", they could not guarantee the BMW, they could only guarantee a car within its "class". You can state a preference, and often they have the car when you get to the counter at the airport, but on occasion, they have been out of the BMW. In some cases where BMWs are no longer in the fleet, I included a bit of information for those interested in renting a Mercedes-Benz.

Driving on the Autobahns of Europe

This is no joke. Europeans take their driving very seriously, and if you plan on using the highways, you must unlearn all of the bad habits that you may have learned in the United States. I strongly urge you to contact your AAA or local auto club in your area to find out the rules for the country you will be driving in. For example, in Belgium, on many secondary roads, cars approaching an intersection from the right have right-of-way. This is not the type of rule you want to learn while merrily driving down a straight road with no stop signs!

For driving on the highways, pass on the left. Keep to the right. Watch your mirrors. Take heed of your speed differential. And please, no eating, talking on the phone, playing with the radio, or other bad habits you may consider normal in the USA. You'll get yourself killed. That always makes for a real bummer vacation! If you don't have the discipline to simply drive, please take the trains. They're very nice, too.

If driving on the highway doesn't provide enough excitement for you, there's always the Nürburgring. This is the world famous race track that, for a small fee, you can explore the upper limits of your driving potential.

The Rental Companies

Alamo Avis Hertz Dollar
National Budget Thrifty

Auto Europe Europe By Car European Car Reservations
Bon Voyage Kemwell Meiers
Kenning Auto Exclusiv


Alamo Phone: +1 800 327 9633
Airport: +49 69 6907 2360
Fax: +49 69 6905 9114
Hours: 24 hours
Notes: Sorry, they don't rent BMWs. They rent the Opel Omega (Cadillac is going to be importing these as the RWD Catera) and the Audi A4. They do rent Benz' but they're all automatics.


Avis Phone: +1 800 331 1084
Airport:+49 69 6902 7771
Hours: 5:30-11:30 CST
Notes: I made 6 different calls and received 6 different answers. Different operators had different information available to them. A limited number of Discover Europe rates were available; this was rarely a problem with a 14-day advance booking. Price #1 is pre-pay or Discover Europe; price #2 is non-prepay. While they have carried BMWs for many years, the operators I spoke to claimed there are none in the fleet in 1997. Call the airport to confirm.

Group E:
Cars: Opel Omega 2.0, Audi A4 1.6, MB C180
Features: 5-speed, 4-dr, radio/cass, mnrf, abs
1. $54/day
2. $54/day

Group F:
Cars: Audi A6 2.5, MB E200
Features: 5-speed, 4-dr, a/c, radio/cass, abs
1. $67/day
2. $67/day

Group G:
Cars: MB E230
Features: 4-dr, radio/cass, abs, a/c, mnrf
1. $88/day
2. $88/day

Group H:
Car: S320
Features: 4-dr, radio/cass, abs, a/c, mnrf
1. $114/day
2. $114/day


Budget Phone: +1 800 472 3325
Airport: +49 69 697 0070
Hours: 7-days, 7am-midn, CST
Notes: NO BMWs in the current fleet, no pre-payment available, no driving out of Germany!

Class E:
Car: MB E180
Features: 5-spd, no A/C
Non-prepay: 63.57DM/day ($43.09)

Class G:
Car: MB E200
Features: 5-spd, no A/C
Non-prepay: 85.71DM/day ($58.10)

Class H:
Car: MB E220
Features: 5-spd, no A/C
Non-prepay: 199.13DM/day ($135)

Dollar (Eurodollar)

Eurodollar Phone: +1 800 800 6000
Airport: +49 69 692 534
FAX: +49 69 694 569
Hours: M-F 7-10; Sat,Sun 8-5 CST

Class D:
Car: 316i or equivalent
Features: 5-spd, 4-door, no a/c
Non-prepay: 72DM/day ($50)


Hertz Phone: +1 800 654 3001
Airport: +49 69 6905 0131
Hours: 24 hours
Notes: Price #1 is 14-day prepay and price #2 is the Affordable Europe rate non-prepay, which is, in fact, less expensive. BMW CCA discount will get you another 5% off the non-prepay rates.

Group F:
Car: 316i
Features: 5-spd, 4-dr, moonroof, ABS, cntllock, SRS, radio/cass, pwind
1. $45/day
2. 61DM/day ($39)

Group H:
Car: 520i
Features: 5-spd, A/C, moonroof, ABS, cntllock, SRS, radio/cass, pwind
1. $60/day
2. 87DM/day ($55)

Group J:
Car: 523iA
Features: A/C, moonroof, ABS, cntllock, SRS, radio/cass, phone
1. $110/day
2. 163DM/day ($110)

Group K:
Cars: 728iA
Features: A/C, moonroof, ABS, cntllock, SRS, radio/cass, phone
1. $146.50/day (includes all taxes)
2. 179DM/day ($122)

National (Interent EuropeCar)

National Phone: +1 800 227 3876
Airport:+49 69 6905 4641
Hours: M-F 7-11; Sat,Sun 8-11 CST
Notes: Passport rate currently is better than pre-pay

Group H:
Car: 316i or equivalent
Features: 5-spd, mnrf, rad/cass, SRS, A/C, 4-door
Passport: 61 DM/day ($41)
Prepay 14-day: $50/day (incl. VAT)

Group M:
Car: 520i or equivalent
Features: 5-spd, mnrf, rad/cass, SRS, A/C, 4-door
Passport: 93DM/day ($63)
Prepay: $75/day (incl. VAT)


Thrifty Phone: +1 800 367 2277
Notes: No longer in Germany; no BMWs or MBs in the fleet anywhere in Europe.

Autoeurope (Maine)

Phone: +1 800 223 5555
Phone: +1 207 236 8235
Hours: Open 24 hours
Notes: Very ignorant service (surprising for Mainers).They also claim to have 328i, 523i, and MB 320E, 320S, 500S, and 600S, but they also insisted that the fullsize cars are ALL front-wheel drive (apparently that was on the screen they were viewing).

Cars: 316i, MB 180
Features: 5-spd, 4-dr, A/C, ABS, cntllock, SRS, radio/cass
Call for prices

Fullsize (big):
Cars: 520i, MB 200, Opel Omega, Saab 900, Audi A4
Features: 5-spd, 4-dr, radio/cass, ABS, SRS, cntllock, pwind, folding seats
Call for Prices

Europe by Car (NY)

Phone: +1 212 581 3040
Hours: M-F 9:15-5:30 EST
Notes: They've had a 316i and 520i in the past. Call for prices.

European Car Reservations (NY)

Phone: +1 800 535 3303
Hours: M-F 8:30-5:30 EST
Notes: They've had 316i, 318i, 520i, and MB E230. Call for prices.

Bon Voyage by Car (CA)

Phone: +1 800 272 3299
Phone: +1 818 786 1960
Hours: M-F 8-4:30 PST
Notes: They've had a 316i in the past. Call for prices.

Kemwell (NY)

Phone: +1 800 678 0678
Phone: +1 914 835 5555
FAX: +1 800 846 0846
Hours: M-F 8-8; Sat 9-4; sun 11-4 EST
Notes: They've had a 316i in the past. Call for prices


Phone: +1 800 937 0700
Notes: They've had a 316i and 520i in the past. Call for prices.


Phone: +1 800 227 8990
Hours: M-F 9-6 EST
Notes: No BMWs or Mercedes in the fleet; call to confirm.

Auto Exclusiv Heusenstamm

Phone: +49 06104 3060
FAX: +49 06104 65960

They're located near Frankfurt airport. They'll probably arrange a taxi. I didn't actually call them, since I don't plan on renting a 911 Cabrio. I read about them in the Roundel. Very professional, but very pricey.

Additional Notes for ALL rentals:

Travel links for Europe

These travel links were copied from an advertisement in the New York Times.

And, if you're unable to drive, there's Rail Europe!!

Disclaimer: The information in this FAQ is only a guideline. I don't work for a rental company. These prices were compiled during 1996 and 1997. Prices can and do change. In general, you can expect prices to rise in the busy travel season. As well, many packages quoted required advance reservations for the best prices available. Ask the operator when you call the agency. Like I said, if you have any comments or suggestions, please send e-mail.

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Steven Jay Bernstein
P. O. Box 11242
Hauppauge, NY 11788 USA
updated Saturday, July 19, 1997 03:30:56