Drove a leased Renault in Italy

We returned Oct. 16, ’03, from a month in Italy, where we had a car for 24 days. We found that if you’re planning to drive in Europe for 17 days or more, it generally pays to lease a car rather than to rent. We leased a brand-new mid-size Renault Laguna with air-conditioning and manual transmission for $1,337, everything included (all taxes; all insurance, including CDW, theft and liability; airport surcharges, etc.). There was nothing else to pay.

We booked through Renault at www.renaultusa.com with a modest down payment. Pickup and dropoff (at different airport locations) went smoothly.

With the lease car, we were entitled to rent a cell phone at a reasonable cost, although we didn’t do that.

Unlike most car rental agencies, Renault doesn’t impose an upper age limit for drivers. An international driver’s license is recommended although not required, so we got ours from AAA for $10. Better safe than sorry, we thought.

Driving in Italy isn’t as bad as you may have heard, although it isn’t for the faint of heart. One must have excellent driving skills, quick reflexes and nerves of steel, but it’s well worth it to have the freedom of a car. We raced down the autostradas (lots of tolls!), negotiated the Amalfi coast road (stunning) and maneuvered narrow, winding medieval streets without a mishap.

Before driving in Europe, we will always compare the lease cost with the rental cost.