Rental car driving in Germany. 3 Lessons Learned.

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My family recently visited Germany where we flew into Frankfurt airport, took a train to Cologne, then rented a car to drive to Baden-Baden, drove through the black forest, visited Neuschwanstein Castle, and then spent a couple days in Munich.  Overall: awesome trip.  And I learned a few things about driving a rental car in Germany…

#1 Autoslash is awesome

Autoslash is awesome for finding the best car rental deals. Plus, you can enter your rental program membership number to earn points and benefit from elite status.

Autoslash is ridiculously good at finding car rental deals.  Our itinerary involved picking up our rental car in downtown Cologne (not at the airport), then dropping it off 5 days later at the Munich airport.  And we needed room for at least four suitcases.  Autoslash found a rate of 157.91 EUR, all-in, from Hertz.  I don’t remember what Kayak quoted, but this was waaay cheaper.

I had to jump through a few hoops to get my Hertz membership number attached to the reservation, but only because I didn’t do some key reading first.  Autoslash has a blog post detailing exactly how to add your membership from the get-go (Hat Tip Miles4More).

Thanks to Hertz elite status, which I have from my Amex Platinum card (I think), my cheap rental with manual transmission was automatically upgraded to a Mercedes with automatic transmission.  Sweet.

I declined insurance since I paid with my Sapphire Reserve card (which includes primary auto rental insurance).

#2 The fastest I’ll drive on the autobahn? 175

In Germany, roads without posted speed limits have none. But, you do have to drive safely.  According to Wikipedia, the rule is as follows:

Any person driving a vehicle may only drive so fast that the car is under control. Speeds must be adapted to the road, traffic, visibility and weather conditions as well as the personal skills and characteristics of the vehicle and load.

At one point I inched my car up to 175. That’s 175 kilometers per hour, or about 108 miles per hour.  Honestly, I didn’t feel particularly safe driving at that speed, so I stuck to about 135 (83 mph) most of the time.  Yeah, I’m not a speed demon.

#3 Germany will mail you a souvenir photo

You know how they’ll take souvenir pictures of you at some amusement park rides and then you have the choice to buy the photo or not?  Driving in Germany is like that, except you don’t get a choice as to whether or not to pay.  And the photo quality isn’t very good.  Still, it’s great to have a souvenir of my time driving in Germany!

This speeding ticket was mailed to me after the trip.  I was doing 59 in a 50 kilometers per hour zone.  In US terms, I was doing about 36 in a 31 mph zone.  When Germany bothers to post speed limits, they enforce them!

In addition to having to pay 15 euros (about $17) for the ticket, Hertz charged me 29 euros for the effort of ratting me out to German authorities.

By the way, while in Munich we stayed at Hotel Laimer Hof, which was terrific.  The proprietor, Sebastian, was ridiculously nice.  I emailed him a scan of my speeding ticket to ask for a translation (I got the gist from Google Translate, but wasn’t sure how to pay the fine).  Sebastian not only translated for me, but also offered to pay the fine on my behalf and he charged my credit card.  It doesn’t get easier than that.

Hotel Laimer Hof, Munich. 
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tinytavosa

I can’t stop appreciating the comedic relief of your souvenir photo. Thank you! Haha.

[…] your picture (usually just the license plate area — I don’t have any souvenir shots like the one that Greg posted about this morning from his trip to Germany) and you get a fine in the mail. The fine is typically the maximum toll […]

iahphx

I love renting cars when I travel (whenever I’m venturing out of the cities), but the increasing use of electronic surveillance makes car rentals more annoying and expensive. Locals can learn and adapt to illogical traffic rules (like setting the speed limit 20 mph below what a reasonable driver would drive), but it’s very hard for travellers to be “perfect” all the time. Like your ticket for a trivial violation of a speed limit. Just look at how many speeding tickets DC issues to unsuspecting visitors. I wish there was a solution to this, but I’m pretty sure it’s just going to get worse, and the tickets will get increasingly expensive.

Mark

Wonderful report.
Sorry to hear that our fellow country folks got you in spite of your cautiousness.
Ok … Let’s put some things in perspective here, for future reference for visitors to Germany:

1. To be precise (as Germans like to over-perform on):
The sentence “In Germany, roads without posted speed limits have none” is to be handled with caution.
It’s true for freeways (Autobahn), not for ANY other ‘roads’.

2. If you are uncertain about the speed limit on your Autobahn, drive 100 to 120 kilomteres per hour (60 to 70 mph), until you pass an exit of any sort. Shortly after this exit there will be a speed limit sign IF there’s a speed limit on the current stretch of Autobahn. If there’s no sign …. Heidewitzka, Herr Kapitaen !! … let her rip !!

3. ALL other roads, if not freeways, have a speed limit of 100 kmh, if country highways.
In cities, towns, etc. it’s 50 kmh (30 mph).

4. Do not go more than 5 over inside towns with a 50 kmh speed limit.

5. Do not go more than 15 over on the Autobahn if there’s a speed limit of 100 or 120 kmh.

6. The Wikipedia comment is a wonderful laugh for us …
It is NOT valid legal information. It’s common sense.

7. If you’re driving below 120 mph on the Autobahn – yes, I mean miles per hour – (= 190 kmh),
DO get over to a right lane !! Us Germans are not amused if we can’t go 150 mph :-).

Wishing you all the best and much fun on the Autobahn during your next visit.
Greetings from a German driver, living a stifled driver’s life in CA.

Gary

Also don’t forget about the nifty trick they sometimes do in Germany… They put a camera and radar gun in the back window of an old car, and park it in differing locations in the given city.

Mark

Absolutely right, Gary! This is some really insidious stuff that they do.

Mark

Most welcome, Greg.

Josh

Hey Greg, here’s another cool tip when using AutoSlash & Hertz I found. The Priceline URL it gives you has something like this in the URL: “partnerCorpDiscountCode=XXXXXXX”

You can then use that CDP to book at Hertz.com directly.

Mike & Maryanna

I liked your story. Two years ago we flew to Paris, took a cab to Versailles rather than rent and drive in that mess. Cruised around France before heading over to Germany, and Austria. We left the car in Frankfurt and took a train back to Paris. Other than Paris I would say driving in Europe is no problem. Their “interstates” were almost as wild as the autobahn, but man you can make some time!

voyager

I drove through Germany a month ago and also stayed in Munich a few days. Autoslash couldn’t offer me a better deal than Avis (pick up Amsterdam, drop off Paris). I suppose I soon will getting tickets too. I had a few camera flashes in Koblenz, which was disappointing. I was driving as fast as everybody else, then all of a sudden everybody slows down (e.g. in a tunnel), I have no idea why, and… FLASH. OK, I then drive with the speed limit and become an “old grandpa” on the road who holds the traffic (where it was one lane). Ok, I speed up again and flash again. So it looked like the locals simply know where the cameras are and they slow down in front of the cameras and speed up where they are not. Doh. The autobahns were OK, I expected a “superhighway” where you get on and keep going till the destination. But the speed limit changes all the time, it’s unrestricted for a few kms and then limited again, then unlimited, then limited, and mostly two lanes only with trucks coming on off the ramps while BMW’s flying by in the other lane. So you have to be paying close attention, definitely not for American style driving where you can put the car in auto cruise and chit chat about next Dodgers game : )

Skybuck

There are maps and apps that have locations of the speed cameras, like this one: https://www.scdb.info/en/karte/

Credit

This is why liberals should not be allowed to run the USA. They pass all the laws we need and then don’t enforce them. Enforce the freaking laws.

James

I rented a car in NE Germany last Sep from Lubeck to Berlin for a week. About 8 months later I got an email from Enterprise that they were charging me 20 euros (which they did) for a traffic infraction I had and that I would have to pay the rest when I got the actual ticket. I had booked with my SPG Amex, so I contacted them and they said they would investigate (and they refunded the ticket fee in the mean time.) About a month later I got a letter from them saying there was no infraction and they had no idea why Enterprise had charged me. Ugh.

CaveDweller

Cool I was going to buy an Audi then hit Port of Nice for drop-off but could B a hassle as in NO !!

CHEERs

Mark P

Does CSR give you primary auto insurance outside of the US? I thought it was US-only.

Geoff

Agh! You outed my favorite place to stay in Munich (Hotel Laimer Hof)! 🙂

Very reasonably priced, located in a charming neighborhood, walking distance from Nymphenburg Palace and Hirschgarten, top-notch service, and the breakfast is worth the additional cost (I think it was 10 Euro when I was last there). For anyone visiting the area, there is no question that you should plan to stay there.

Christian

You forgot the most important thing….the left lane is for passing ONLY and not for driving leisurely as has become common practice in the US. You will get run off the road if you stay in the left hand land on the autobahn!

Shonuffharlem

I don’t understand how you got the automatic upgrade?

Shonuffharlem

I mean did you get it at the location or time of booking how did you get the upgrade not how did you get elite status.

never

unsubscribe me. clicking for ads and understanding you drove to quick… how childich and poor

CaveDweller

Sounds like fun how and who did the Ins and @ what cost ? I learned the hard way in Vegas I think I was one over(nuts) since then I drive by cruise control like 2 under no need to use gas ..

CHEERs

CaveDweller

Yes Thank You ..Sounds like a great side trip and I’m always careful on Ins. been in a Tram (people hurt $200K damage) and Bus accident . Don’t want to travel back for court $$$$$$$ .
More Details means LESS follow up questions .Cheap ticket paid like $250 in Vegas + school ..
Just coveted all 91K Marriott points to United 20% more I guess ..To much time looking to spend them THANKs for that Post saved me Time+ Money ..

CHEERs

Sonnie

I’m going to rent a car in Vienna, Austria for a couple of weeks in September. I used my Chase Ultimate Rewards points to book the rental, the points are going to cover the entire cost of the rental. So technically I’m not going to pay any cash. In this case will my CSR still act as primary rental car coverage? I’ll be renting through Alamo. I also understand that there’s some insurance already built into all rentals anyway.
Any advice on how I should go about getting insurance.

Smay

Perfect time my friend – we leave for Germany Monday night. I did autoslash and reserved a car. We will be returning the car 3 hours “late” so I was going to use Amex Plat. What if I pay with my CSR to avoid insurance cost.. I”m confused now. It is correct to say that they take the CC when the car is returned so I can choose then?

michael

Interesting reading, although I take 2 items from the piece

1. It reads like an avertisement for AutoSlash
2. It appears to make light of speeding / breaking the law while driving

Just my tuppence worth

Rich

I cannot believe this is what you got out of it.

James

I’ve used Autoslash a couple of times and they’re great. I don’t think this article is like an ad at all. You don’t use them instead of a rental company but in conjunction with them. Even if you book directly with Hertz, say, you can then register your booking with Autoslash and you’ll get notifications when the rates drop so you can rebook. I saved around $100 on a booking last year.

Chucks

Pardon us comrade, how dare he question the necessity of particular traffic regulations! The Wise Ones put in place this 31 mph zone because They know that was the maximum speed at which one could drive! 50 kph was placed as the limit not because it is a nice round number good nice for city driving but because Science dictates it for this road precisely!

Greg the Ignorant placed everyone in mortal danger by exceeding it by 5 mph. Whilst other good citizens drove at 31 mph or less, Greg the Ignorant barreled through at 36 mph, as women and children fled from the roadways, seeking shelter away from this absolute maniac! Pray he learnt his lesson through this punishment!

CaveDweller

That’s Rubbish to him u Cheapskate I spent $2k to Crush a Local Landowner Fool who Messed with a WH , Trolls are no better ..
Let Them Eat Cake !!! HaHa

CHEERs

dave

I can’t make sense of your comment. Have you already started drinking today?

CaveDweller

Go see a doc u could b brain damaged as in Reread his post and Reread mine . It’s not a Big Deal and there was no need to post that he was just being nice .I just don’t like Trolls wished u lived on my block Fool.
Vote 4 Bernie he can help u .

CHEERs

Kevin

Hilarious