Car rentals and leases for the young at heart

By Philip Wagenaar

(First of three parts)

“You are too old,” the representative said bluntly. Moments earlier my wife, Flory, and I had arrived at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. When I protested to the rep, he retorted, “Just take the shuttle to the Hertz lot, where an agent will have you drive around. If you do all right, we will give you the car.”

After easily maneuvering through the crowded parking area, I was told I had passed the test!

I was reminded of the above incident when ITN’s editor asked me to respond to a letter from Mr. C. Schroeder of El Cajon, California, regarding “driver’s insurance for the 70-plus crowd.”

I promptly started researching the many facets of renting a vehicle overseas. Below you will find the results.

The upper age limit

Whenever I reserve a car, I pick up the phone and talk to a live agent. I find that easier than trying to ferret out the desired information on the Internet.

Since I am over 65, my first question — after stating my pickup city — invariably is “Do you have an upper age limit?”

While there are general rules for every country, each rental office can set a different age cap depending upon the firm’s ownership (be it corporate, franchise or local independent). This, in turn, relates to the underlying insurance, thus it behooves you to call all the companies that provide rentals at the desired location.

Besides the direct suppliers, such as Avis, Hertz, Budget, etc., also check out the wholesalers, such as Auto Europe, Kemwel and Europe By Car.

The latter three contract to deliver an auto to you at a set price, which you prepay either in part or in full. They, in turn, direct you to one of the suppliers for the vehicle pickup. When appropriate, they will look for a firm that doesn’t have an upper age limit. The wholesalers frequently offer cheaper rates than the suppliers, as they buy discounted rentals in volume.

While Auto Europe and Kemwel offer fully refundable rental contracts, Europe By Car has a cancellation fee.

On the following pages, you will find tables of upper age limits in selected countries (accurate at the time this article was researched in February 2005). For the latest updates, please call each company.

Alternative solutions

Once you have tried every supplier and wholesaler for a specific location, what can you do if you are unsuccessful?

Table 1: Upper Age Limits (suppliers)

“No” means country has no upper age limit. “NA” means company has no presence in that country.

Rental agency Country Avis 800/ 331-1084 Hertz 800/ 654-3001 Alamo 800/ 327-9633 Europcar 877/ 940-6000 Budget 800/ 472-3325 National 800/ 227-7368 Thrifty 800/ 847-4389
U.K. No No 70 75 70 No 70
Australia No No 99 No No 99 79
N. Zealand No No No NA No No No
Ireland 65-74* 75** 74 69 75 74 74
S. Africa No No 70 NA 70 70 70
Israel No No 92 NA 75 92 NA
Morocco No 75 80 NA 60 80 NA
Tahiti No 75 NA NA NA NA NA
Romania No No 70 70 70 70 No
Greece No No No 70 No No No

*Depends upon car group,

** Those ages 75 to 79 must meet the following requirements:

1) must drive regularly

2) must provide letter from doctor certifying good health during the past year and

3) must provide letter from insurance company stating to have had no accidents for five years.

1. Rent in a country nearby — For instance, you could take delivery of an automobile in Belfast (Northern Ireland) and drive it to Ireland (check for restrictions).

2. Lease a car (available in Europe only) — While guaranteed resale leases offered solely by Peugeot or Renault originate in France, you can pick up and return an automobile in a number of other European countries for an additional charge. As the expense of transporting a vehicle from France to other locations has increased in the past few years, the cost of leasing may be higher than that of renting. Make all arrangements before you leave, since leasing once you are in Europe is approximately 30% more expensive.

The minimum period is 17 days. The rate includes unlimited mileage, VAT and collision, fire and theft insurance without deductible. There is no age cap. You have to pay for routine maintenance, such as changing oil. As several countries are off limits, check where you are allowed to take the car.

To reserve a Peugeot, get in touch with AutoFrance (800/572-9655 or, Auto Europe, Europe By Car or Kemwel (see Table 2).

Table 2: Upper Age Limits (wholesalers)

“No” means country has no upper age limit.

“NA” means the company has no presence in country.

Rental agency/Country Auto Europe 800/ 223-5555 Europe By Car 800/ 223-1516 Kemwel 877/ 820-0668 www.kemwel. com
U.K. No No No
Australia No NA No
New Zealand No NA No
Ireland 75 75 75
South Africa No NA No
Israel 75 NA 75
Morocco No NA No
Tahiti NA NA NA
Romania No NA No
Greece No No No

For a Renault, contact Renault Eurodrive (800/221-1052 or ) or Europe By Car.

3. Get a chauffeur-driven automobile — While you could obtain a chauffeur-driven vehicle from one of the above-mentioned firms, I found the cost prohibitive.

I tried Google and typed “chauffeur driven cars + Turkey” (or the appropriate country). However, none of the sites would give the rate until I had registered, an exercise I did not want to pursue.

One way to get a car with driver at a reasonable cost would be to inquire at travel agencies or local car rental companies once you are overseas. We did this a number of years ago in Sri Lanka. The rate with driver turned out to be cheaper than the self-drive cost.

Another way would be to check with a U.S. or overseas travel agency before you leave.

4. Find a guide — Have a guide or younger person hire and drive the vehicle and reimburse him/her. The person must have a credit card in his/her own name and must be able to satisfy all the rental requirements. If the credit card doesn’t cover the CDW (Collision Damage Waiver), you may have to buy it.

To find a guide, besides the ones recommended in ITN, click on the “Thorn Tree Forum” at For additional help, type in Google “guides + (the particular country and/or city)” — try it with and without quotation marks — or visit the tourist office website of the chosen region.

5. Use rejuvenating pills.

Next month I will discuss other important rental and lease-related factors.