The Bottom Line
If you need a car for at least three weeks when traveling in Italy or Europe, the lease buy-back program is an excellent alternative to car rentals. You see the exact price when you book, including any extras you may want to add on (like car seats or ski racks). You don't have to worry about insurance coverage, it's all included with no deductible or processing fee. Your family members can drive the car with no extra charge. Total cost is usually less than a rental. Best of all, you have a brand new car, exactly the model you choose.
- Cars come with great insurance coverage
- There are no hidden or extra charges
- Can pick up and drop off in different locations
- No need to fill the car with gas before drop off
- Only Italian pick-up locations are Milan and Rome airports
- Need to Book at Least 30 Days in Advance
- Car comes with very little gas
- You have to make a specific appointment time to return car
- Get a brand new Renault car of your choice with 0 deductible complete insurance coverage.
- You can drive in any European countries, get unlimited mileage, and there's no extra charge for family members to drive.
- Pick up and drop off free all over France. A fee applies for pick-up and drop-off in other countries.
- Cars should be booked at least 30 days in advance. Some advance paperwork is required but most can be completed online.
Guide Review - Renault Eurodrive Car Lease Buy-Back Program
I've done lease buy-back programs many times when traveling in Italy and Europe. If I'm traveling for at least three weeks, I always choose the lease buy-back program.
The Renault Clio diesel is my favorite car - it's small (making it easy to drive and park in Italy) and gets excellent gas mileage. If you're traveling with lots of luggage or four adults, you'll probably want a larger model.
Delivery charges apply outside France so I often choose to start or end my trip in France. Picking up at Nice airport, for example, is very convenient for driving to Italy. Other times I've paid the extra fee for the convenience of picking the car up at Rome, Milan, or other European airports.
The only difficulty I've encountered it that some of the drop-off locations are difficult to find so if you are dropping off right before your flight, allow a little extra time. Of course, if you pick up and drop off in the same location, you'll avoid that problem. Another inconvenience is that you must call the drop-off center three days in advance to book a specific drop-off appointment time.
Cars should be booked 30 days or more in advance. There is some paperwork to be completed but most of it can be done online, then printed out, signed and sent by fax or mail. Since your paperwork is done in advance, car pick up (and return) usually goes very quickly.
When you book your car, you are given instructions to follow on arrival. Usually you make a free call to the pick-up center and they come very quickly to pick you up and take you to the car center. Paperwork is already completed so the pick-up is usually hassle free. The agent explains the car's features and answers any questions including where to buy gas nearby. You'll have to fill up with gas quickly but you can return the car empty, no worrying about filling up before your drop off. Drop off goes very quickly also. Since the car is fully insured with no processing fee, there is no need for long inspections or worrying if you do have a small dent.
If you need assistance while using the car, there's a 24 hour toll-free number you can call. The car has its new car warranty and is well insured since they plan to sell it as a used car when you return it. It's a good deal for everyone.
Why do they do this? In France there's a 20% VAT on new car sales. By leasing the brand new car to a foreigner, buying it back, and selling it as used the tax can be avoided. Read more in Europe Travel's Buy Back Car Lease article.
Updated June, 2012: I've just returned from three months with a new Renault Clio and it was again an easy experience and great car to drive. Many cars now come with GPS, highly recommended, but be aware that in Italy there can be several towns with the same name so be sure you are heading to the correct one! Also I found that the speed limit shown on the GPS for Italian roads often did not match the real speed limit so don't just rely on your GPS.