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Reader question: What are the longer-term alternatives to car hire in Italy?

Reader question: What are the longer-term alternatives to car hire in Italy?
Alternatives are available for those wanting to explore Italy while avoiding hefty car rental fees. Photo by Daniel Hansen on Unsplash

Planning a leisurely summer break in Italy but baulk at the cost of booking a rental car for more than a couple of weeks? This guide's for you.

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Question: I am planning on spending around two months in Italy this summer, and I am wondering what my best options are regarding hiring a car. Standard car hire daily rates would be cost prohibitive, so I'm wondering whether something like short term car leasing would be an option?

If you're going to Italy on holiday and want to expand your horizons beyond Rome, Venice and Florence, rental cars can be an easy and convenient way to get around.

But if you're planning on devoting your whole summer to exploring Italy, renting a vehicle for the duration of your stay can indeed quickly become expensive - and constant worrying about small scratches and scrapes can suck the joy out of the experience.

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Here are a few alternatives if you want to maximise your time in the country while avoiding paying a small fortune in car rental fees.

Car buy-back lease schemes

A car buy-back lease programme is one in which you technically (but don't really) 'buy' a car with the guarantee that a rental company will buy it back from you when you've finished using it.

The programme is most widespread in France (as it's French car manufacturers who offer the service through a French government tourism incentive scheme), but it's also available in Italy, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Belgium, the Netherlands and the UK.

The advantages of this set-up are that you get a brand new car (usually with built-in GPS at no extra cost), you don't have to pay VAT, you get zero-deductible insurance as part of the package, and you can add additional drivers free of charge - all of which can amount to some significant savings, especially if you're staying for more than a few weeks.

READ ALSO: Can second-home owners get an Italian residence permit?

You can also freely travel to eastern European countries like Hungary, Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina on a leased car, an option that isn't normally available with rental companies without a hefty surcharge.

To take advantage of the scheme, you need to reside outside the European Union and be at least 18 years old. You can lease a car for anywhere between 21 days and five and a half months.

The three main companies that offer the service in Italy are represented by Auto Europe. You can book online through their website at the links below for:

You will need to pick the car up and drop it off in either Milan or Rome, as these are the only two locations available in Italy.

Bear in mind that as a leased car is manufactured from scratch, you will need to make your order several weeks in advance.

Combine train travel with occasional short-term rental

Italy's public transport services can be patchy depending on whereabouts in the country you are, but its long-distance fast trains are typically frequent and reliable.

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If you're planning a multi-week holiday that will incorporate a mix of city-based and countryside/ mountain/ coastal stays, consider using trains to get from one region to the next, and renting a car for a few days at a time only when it's really necessary. 

For getting around the Amalfi coast, the Dolomites, or parts of the South, for example, you'll probably want a car to give you total autonomy and access to more remote locations.

But if you're moving between these places and better-connected urban areas up north, you likely won't need a car for a good portion of your trip.

READ ALSO: 23 famous quotes to inspire you to travel to Italy

Driving along a road in Grimaldi in Calabria, southern Italy. Photo by Chris Holgersson on Unsplash

Most Italian cities have decent enough public transport networks as far as tourists are concerned, but if you prefer to get everywhere by car, car-sharing apps which allow you to rent for very short journeys at the touch of a button are available in the majority of Italy's urban centres.

Ride sharing

This is a slightly more labour-intensive but very budget-friendly option best suited to small groups of people travelling without children (as it involves car pooling with another person/people who are unlikely to have space in their car for an entire family).

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Websites like BlaBlaCar allow you to book a lift with someone who happens to be driving to your destination at the same time as you for a very small fee, as well as suggesting cheap coach and public transport alternatives.

READ ALSO: Seven crowd-free alternatives to Italy’s tourist hotspots

The disadvantage, of course, is that you may not be able to find someone who wants to take your exact route on your desired day and time, so you have to be flexible and willing to make up your plans on the fly.

You'll also be thrown into the company of a stranger for a few hours, which you might see as either a benefit or a drawback depending on the kind of person you are.

If you're a spontaneous extrovert and time is on your side, however, this is a very cost-effective and illuminating way to see the country, and you're bound to get insights you wouldn't otherwise have access to through conversations on the long car drives with locals.

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Comments (2)

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Anonymous 2022/02/23 14:44
This is of interest to us because we plan on spending weeks to months in northern Italy and need a car. Does anyone have a recommendation on which car companies to use, approx costs, tips , suggestions? Would appreciate any info on long term car rentals. Grazie
Anonymous 2022/02/23 14:42
Lease a Peugeot from Auto France. Worth the extra delivery charge, or fly into Geneva and pick it up on the French side. One month comes out to about 37 euros a day for a great car.

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