Renting a Car in Italy: Your Essential Guide to a Smooth Journey

PUBLISHED ON Feb, 21 2024


Need wheels for your Italian getaway? Renting a car in Italy can be a smooth ride or a bumpy road – our guide is here to ensure you navigate this journey with ease. Learn the must-knows, from documentation to choosing the right rental, for a trip as exquisite as the destination itself.

Key Takeaways

  • Decide if you need a rental car based on your Italian itinerary—essential for remote areas but not for city-focused trips.
  • Ensure you have the necessary documents like a full driving license and an International Driving Permit, and get ready to face extra charges if you’re a young driver.
  • Choose a reputable car rental company, book early to get the best deals and the car that suits your needs, and remember to consider insurance options.

Determining the Need for a Car Rental in Italy

Autumnal vineyards in Piedmont, Italy.

Narrow rural road among colorful autumnal vineyards on the hills of Piedmont, Northern Italy.

The need for a car rental in Italy largely depends on your itinerary. If you’re eager to explore remote areas, smaller villages, or hidden beaches, a rental car could be your best friend. Renting a car could be essential for regions like Tuscany, Sicily, and Puglia, where public transport is sparse. Imagine the freedom to stop at beautiful overlooks along the coast or start hikes in the Dolomites anytime you want. That’s the kind of liberty a rental car can offer.

Traveling with family or a group? A rental car can ensure a calm vacation, reducing chaos. Juggling luggage, adapting schedules, and catering to group preferences become a breeze with a vehicle at your disposal.

Yet, if your travel confines to cities or places like Cinque Terre, a car might be unnecessary. Guided tours can offer a stress-free alternative for visitors. So, carefully consider your itinerary before renting a car.

Essential Documents and Requirements for Renting a Car

Moving onto paperwork, a full driving license is a must to rent a car in Italy. If you’re a tourist from the US or another country outside the EU, you’ll also need an International Driving Permit along with your national driving license. Young drivers should be aware that while the minimum age for car rental is 19 in Italy, those under 21 or 25 may be subject to additional charges. Young drivers under 25 may need to pay an extra daily fee. This is a common practice among car rental companies..

There are also age limits on the upper end. Drivers must be over 18, possess a full driving license for at least one year, and the maximum age for renting a car is typically 70 or 75. Lastly, don’t forget to check the insurance coverage details with your rental company or other sources.

Choosing the Right Car Rental Company

Selecting a car rental company should prioritize comfort, reliability, and value, akin to picking the perfect pair of shoes for a long walk. So, while cheap car rentals might be tempting, focus on selecting a provider with a solid reputation and trusted service, as this is how car rental companies operate.

Among the many car rental companies in Italy, some are more recommended than others. Most car rental companies, such as Avis, Europcar, Hertz, and Sixt, have car rental locations throughout the country and offer competitive Italy car rental rates, making them perfect for Italy renting.

However, some companies like Goldcar and Maggiore have mixed reviews and should be considered with caution.

Positive customer feedback is a good indicator of a company’s service. For instance, companies like Avis and Hertz are lauded for their customer satisfaction in regions like Tuscany and Rome and have a substantial presence across Italy. While it might seem daunting to find the ideal company, comparison websites and review platforms like and  simplify the process by providing competitive offers and insight into various car rental services.

Picking the Perfect Vehicle for Your Italian Adventure

Family packing luggage into a car

Family packing luggage into a car

The selection of a car for your Italian journey boils down to personal preference, much like choosing a gelato flavor. Small economy cars like the Hyundai i10, Opel Corsa, and Fiat Panda are preferred for their agility, fuel efficiency, and easier parking in the narrow streets of Italian cities. If you’re traveling with a partner or a small family, mid-size vehicles like the Ford C Max and Jeep Renegade offer a good balance between size and maneuverability.

Larger families or groups should consider vehicles like the Citroen Space Tourer for adequate seating. Remember, these vehicles may need to be booked well in advance due to limited availability. If you’re traveling with children, ensure you use appropriate car seats or booster seats according to Italian law. And if you’re looking for a luxurious or special driving experience, premium vehicles, sporty models, and convertibles are available to enhance your scenic drives across Italy.

Timing and Planning Your Car Rental

Booking a car rental online

Booking a car rental online

In the context of car rental in Italy, timing is crucial. Early bookings, several weeks to months in advance, help secure the best rates and ensure availability, particularly for in-demand automatic vehicles. Just like planning a perfect Italian meal, there are certain ingredients you need to factor in. Renting a car in Italy involves additional expenses like fuel prices and toll roads, which can significantly impact your travel budget.

For those seeking long-term rentals, consider a short-term lease from providers offering new vehicles with full insurance and no upper age limit, or using services specializing in longer-term hires to obtain better rates and support. Therefore, meticulous planning for your car rental is as important as detailing your Italian adventure itinerary.

Payment Methods and Credit Card Considerations

While renting a car without a credit card is possible, initiating a memorable journey often begins with a simple action – a credit card swipe. A credit card in the name of the main driver is typically required by car rental companies in Italy for picking up the car. Some companies may accept prepaid credit cards or debit cards, but this usually comes with additional charges or restrictions due to uncertainty regarding available funds.

The deposit for the car rental, which covers the excess in case of rental car damage, is generally reserved on the credit card’s available balance, potentially including car rental insurance coverage. In case the main driver doesn’t have a credit card, car rental bookings may be canceled and rebooked with a second driver as the main, which might incur extra costs.

For your convenience, we have gathered useful information about the deposits of some major rental car companies:

Navigating Insurance Options and Requirements

Navigating through insurance options for your rental car holds equivalent importance to maneuvering the serpentine roads of the Amalfi Coast. Here are some insurance options to consider for your rental car in Italy:

  1. Third-party insurance: This is included in car rentals in Italy and covers personal injury and property damage.
  2. Theft protection: This absolves the driver’s responsibility in case of vehicle theft, with certain exceptions.
  3. Collision Damage Waiver (CDW): This is standard with Italian car rentals, often featuring a high excess for damages. This underscores the importance of such coverage to limit liability for vehicle damage.

However, the basic CDW does not typically cover certain types of damage, like windscreens, tyre punctures, or undercarriage damage. That’s where Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW) comes to reduce the excess. If you want more comprehensive coverage, Full Protection packages can offer savings by bundling Excess Waiver, Roadside Assistance, and zero deductible excess.

While SCDW may double your rental cost, CarInsuRent’s car rental insurance for Italy stands out as a favorable choice for several reasons:

  1. Comprehensive Coverage: CarInsuRent offers extensive coverage for car hire excess, providing you peace of mind. This insurance covers expenses related to windscreen damage, theft, misfuelling, breakdown, and towing, up to a generous limit of US$ 4,500.
  2. Cost Savings: By opting for CarInsuRent’s Car Hire Excess Insurance, you can avoid overpaying at car hire desks abroad. Booking this insurance online before traveling ensures competitive rates and helps save money in comparison to purchasing excess coverage directly from rental companies.
  3. Ease of Booking: The process of booking our Car Hire Excess Insurance is straightforward and can be conveniently completed online before embarking on the trip. This simplicity ensures a hassle-free experience for you, allowing you to focus on enjoying their journey.
  4. Positive Reviews: CarInsuRent’s Car Hire Excess Insurance has garnered positive reviews from satisfied customers, highlighting its reliability and effectiveness in providing coverage during car rentals abroad. Such testimonials from previous users attest to the quality and value of this insurance option.

Compare and Buy Car Rental Insurance in Italy

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I have bought two yearly policies with CarInsurent so far based on the good reviews here. Thinking that I would never need to use it, unfortunately I was wrong and had an accident with my rental car while traveling abroad. I'm glad to say that CarInsuRent fully reimbursed me promptly for the excess that I was charged. I'm a very satisfied customer!

In summary, Our car rental insurance for Italy is a preferred choice due to its comprehensive coverage, cost-effectiveness, ease of booking, and positive customer feedback. It offers you the necessary protection and financial security while renting a car abroad.

Mastering Manual vs. Automatic Transmission

The choice between manual and automatic transmission is akin to choosing between gelato and tiramisu – both are splendid options, the selection is a matter of personal taste. Now, while manual transmission vehicles are standard in Italy, there’s a limited selection of automatic vehicles. Hence, if you’re more comfortable with an automatic car, be sure to book well in advance.

Automatic transmission vehicles are recommended for ease of driving on Italy’s hills, narrow roads, and in areas with extensive one-way traffic systems. Although automatic car rentals are more expensive than their manual counterparts, the higher cost can be worthwhile for renters not comfortable driving with a stick shift.

Inspecting and Collecting Your Rental Car

Inspecting rental car for damage

Inspecting rental car for damage

Receiving your rental car resonates with the excitement of unwrapping a gift, but it equally necessitates thorough scrutiny. Always inspect the interior and exterior of the rental car for pre-existing damage before driving off. If you find any damage, don’t forget to take photos with date stamps. This ensures there are no disputes related to pre-existing damage or false charges at the end of the rental period.

Familiarize yourself with the vehicle controls and their layout, ensuring you’re comfortable with the car’s operation before departure. Also, read the rental contract thoroughly to be fully aware of what is included and understand any additional fees and return requirements to avoid unexpected costs.

Safe and Smart Driving Tips for Tourists

Driving in Italy can be equated to a dance, demanding rhythm, timing, and awareness of others, in this case, fellow drivers. Here are some important rules to remember:

  • All passengers must wear seatbelts in both front and back seats.
  • Turning right on a red light is not allowed.
  • At intersections without traffic signals, yield to the vehicle on the right.
  • If you’re being tailgated, it’s safer to pull over and let the aggressive driver pass.

Stay off your phone while driving as it’s prohibited, and remember that Italian drivers can be impatient, often using horns and eager to overtake. Also, always keep your headlights on when driving outside of urban areas, as required by law, and prepare for narrow, curvy country roads by planning extra travel time.

Caring for Your Rental Car and Avoiding Common Pitfalls

Preserving your rental car is similar to maintaining a borrowed book, with the aim to return it in the original condition. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Always lock your car and boot, avoid leaving them unlocked even momentarily.
  • Be cautious about where you park, especially overnight.
  • Resist the urge to showcase your luggage when opening the boot.
  • Don’t leave valuables visible in the car.

When parking, be aware of the challenges in coastal areas, and use parking discs in free zones to avoid penalties. Always check for street cleaning signs to avoid being towed, and park outside city centers to ease travel within chaotic traffic areas.

Lastly, if you notice new damage to the rental car, report it to the police and contact the rental agency, especially for severe damage which may require a car exchange.

Utilizing GPS and Offline Maps for Efficient Navigation

Using GPS for navigation in Italy

Using GPS for navigation in Italy

Traversing through Italy’s roads requires the same patience, strategy, and technological aid as solving a puzzle. GPS devices and apps like Google Maps provide real-time directions and traffic updates, significantly aiding navigation in Italy. However, don’t depend on them blindly due to potential routing to restricted zones.

Paper maps continue to be a reliable source for a broader perspective of the route, alternative paths, and a dependable fallback option when faced with technical issues like battery drain. Consider getting an Italian SIM card or E-SIM card from providers like TIM or Iliad, which offer affordable data packages. This enables access to real-time traffic updates and seamless navigation across the EU with free roaming.

When navigating with technology, use car mounts for safer viewing, car chargers to prevent battery depletion, and download maps to limit data usage.


And there you have it, your essential guide to renting a car in Italy! From choosing the right car and company to understanding insurance options and mastering Italian driving etiquette, you’re now ready to embark on your own Italian road trip. So, pack your bags, buckle up, and prepare for an unforgettable journey through Italy’s stunning landscapes, charming villages, and bustling cities. After all, isn’t life all about enjoying the ride?

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I rent a car in Italy with a US driver’s license?

Yes, you can rent a car in Italy with a US driver’s license, but you will also need an international driving permit, which is like a multi-lingual translation of your US license.

What insurance should I get for car rental in Italy?

When renting a car in Italy, it’s essential to have CDW insurance (Collision Damage Waiver) and theft protection coverage (TP) as they are required by law. Auto Europe includes these insurances in the price of all their Italian car rental options, making it simpler for you.

What side of the road do they drive on in Italy?

In Italy, they drive on the right-hand side of the road. It’s important to note that right turns during red lights are always illegal.

Do I need an International Driving Permit to rent a car in Italy?

Yes, if you are from a country outside the EU, including the US, you will need an International Driving Permit along with your national driving license to rent a car in Italy.

Which car rental company should I choose in Italy?

You should choose a reputable car rental company in Italy by researching customer reviews, comparing prices, and using comparison websites to find the best deals and service. This will help you make an informed decision and ensure a positive rental experience.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I buy a plan for just one day?

Yes. Insurance for a single day is available.

Can I buy a plan for part of my rental only?

No. We provide a single journey plan. You are covered from the time you pick up the rental car up to the time you return it or on the last date written on your Certificate of Insurance, whichever comes first.

Can I buy a plan when I pick up my rental car?

No. You should purchase a policy before starting your travel.

Find the answers you’re looking for to the most frequently asked car hire insurance questions as well as other questions relating to our products and services.

Visit the FAQ page