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What to Know Before Renting a Car in France

What to Know Before Renting a Car in France

Renting a car in a country like France can be the perfect way to explore new landscapes from a different perspective and to experience the countryside with total freedom. 

I was very cautious during my first few visits to France and opted for public transportation. However, when visiting Provence I realized that without a car it wouldn’t have been the same. Since then I’ve rented a car on numerous occasions and driven daily when I used to live in France with my family.

Driving in France turned out to be easier than expected (although maybe not in Nice, haha!) and I’ve done it a bunch of times ever since: solo, with my husband, with a baby, cat – you name it.

Here are some basic things to know about renting a car in France that will help make your experience as smooth and convenient as possible. 

A car driving in France along cliffside roads with sweeping views and blossoming wildflowers
Typical road in Provence, France.

Is it a Good Idea to Rent a Car in France?

It’s almost always a good idea to rent a car when traveling because it allows you to visit places at your own pace and follow your own timetable. It’s always good to have the freedom to avoid busy bus or train times and to be able to travel in the early hours of the morning or late at night if that suits you better.

This, of course, depends on where you are in the country. While you can get to some castles in Loire Valley without a car (I’ve done it myself), visit Giverny or Auvers sur Oise, or really anywhere with close proximity to Paris without any issues, when it comes to southern France things are slightly different.

France has a very good public transport system, with an efficient high-speed rail network but these only run at specific times and may not go to smaller remote areas that may be on your list.
This includes famous lavender fields in Valensole and other fantastic spots in the South of France. Check out my proposed itineraries for Provence & French Riviera road trip.

Having your own wheels can also often work out much cheaper than taking a busy organized tour or getting a taxi – like for instance to Mont St-Michel.

The roads themselves vary from place to place but are mostly well-kept. The thing you may want to be wary of is driving in busy city areas like Paris. The roads in the city can be quite narrow, busy, and confusing which could increase the risk of scratching the car if you aren’t used to it. This can be quite frustrating and costly but it’s also difficult and expensive to find parking in cities.

Unless you’re staying in the outskirts of Paris, I’d say rent your car after you’re done exploring the city of love.

Essentially, you’ll be better off walking or cycling around the city and most central areas (the ‘centre ville’) are pedestrian-only areas anyway. However, it’s definitely a good idea to rent a car when traveling out of the city and into smaller towns and countryside areas.

The ochre landscape of Roussillon offering a striking contrast with the lush greenery, a scenic drive destination in the French countryside that you can take if you decide to rent a car in France
Colorado Provencal – one of many spots only reachable by car.

Driving a Car in France with a Foreign License

An international driver’s license in France isn’t required by law.

It’s generally recommended to get an international driving license translated from your native language if it’s not French. These are not difficult to obtain and usually cost around $20.

If you’re from the US and you’ll be in the country for less than 90 days (basically the length you’re allowed to stay in the Schengen zone anyway), you can use your US license. 

Do remember that although the legal driving age is 18 in France, you do have to be at least 21 years old in order to be able to rent a car. Some places may ask you if you’ve had your license for at least a year.

Compact car parked on a dirt road beside the vibrant lavender fields of Valensole, where renting a car is essential in rural France.
Visiting lavender fields in Valensole – a car is a must!

Main Requirements for Renting a Car in France

If you plan on driving in France, you need to be aware that there are certain requirements. The following are the documents that you must have with you at all times and other driving requirements for legally driving in France.

  • You need to be over 18 years
  • Valid Driver’s License: issued over a year prior to renting a car
  • Current registration of a rental
  • Valid Passport: It includes everyone in your car, especially when driving near French borders
  • Valid Car Insurance
  • Credit Card to Pay the Deposit (or debit if rental agency agrees)

Car Rental Insurance in France

When driving in France you’ll need to be internationally insured beforehand and you will have to carry show proof of insurance identification, license, and vehicle registration when on the roads, in case you get stopped.

Insurance is generally included in rental prices in the form of unlimited third-party liability insurance which covers damage and injury incurred by a third party and their vehicle, even if you are responsible for it.

However, this insurance does not cover damage or injury to the driver of the rented car or their car, so this may come at an extra cost.

When you rent a car you will have the option of purchasing what’s known as a collision damage waiver (CWD) or deductible insurance but you may want to compare some prices first because these could work out to be very expensive.

Payment terminal screen displaying a zero balance, one of the costs associated with renting a car in France
Highways are expensive in France: example from the road leading to Annecy from Paris…

How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Car in France?

Prices can vary depending on the company, season, and car, but most places will offer a discount if you reserve the car a while in advance of your arrival in France.

It usually costs about $30-60 per day for the cheapest automatic car before adding additional insurance, fuel or tolls.

Bigger cars can be more expensive so you may want to opt for a smaller vehicle which will also benefit you on smaller roads. However, a big car can sometimes be better on gas. When we had a big Citroen Space Tour and drove across the country I was impressed by how little gas it used.

Renting a manual car is always significantly cheaper than an automatic one. Automatic cars aren’t super common among rental agencies.

You may want to check out Discover Cars to compare the different prices for your dates and find the best deals. You can get some good deals from world-renowned rental companies like Avis, Sixt Car Hire, Europcar and others.

I personally rented from different providers at Marseille Airport, Nice Downtown, Nice Airport, Paris Downtown, Annecy Town, and Paris CDG Airport that booked through Discover Cars. I also use them all the time when I’m in Italy (and as I lived there I must have rented about 30 times if not more).

IMPORTANT: Avoid Rhodium at Nice Airport at all costs. It may seem cheaper and therefore attractive, but last time I rented from them they literally tried to scam every customer they had, refusing already purchase coverage, denying a particular car you booked unless you pay extra, and other things an unreliable operator would do. 

The more costly aspect comes in when considering fuel and highway tolls, but that’s to be expected of any more developed area. Highways are very expensive so keep it in mind!

Rental car key drop boxes, a convenient way to return your car keys after renting a car in France
Quite often in France you just need to leave your car rental keys in a box when returning the car.

Crossing Borders from France to Monaco & Italy with a Rental Car

You’ll have to double-check with your rental company beforehand if they allow you to take the vehicle into another country, to ensure that your insurance remains valid wherever you go. 

Usually, traveling to Monaco and Italy in a car rented in France should not be a problem, as long as you have valid insurance.

The only thing I had to show was my passport, as I was stopped by the police. They frequently do these checks to make sure that non-EU tourists don’t overstay their 90-day Schengen visas. 

Crossing Borders from France to Switzerland with a Rental Car

You can drive your French rental car to Switzerland, as long as you purchase “vignette” at the border. It’s a sticker that you need to place on our car’s dashboard to pay for Swiss highways. It costs 40 Swiss Francs and is valid for a year.

While you just drive through the border without stopping, you cannot drive in Switzerland without the vignette. Agents are controlling if everyone got one at the border and also on the road – fines in Switzerland aren’t exactly low, so better be safe than sorry.

You also cannot return a car rented in France in Switzerland.

Car parked on a rural road with a backdrop of the French Alps and a castle, illustrating the picturesque drives awaiting when you rent a car in France.


Don’t forget to arrange health insurance before heading to France. The easiest and the most reliable travel insurance is World Nomads Travel Insurance. Get it before your trip to skip unnecessary troubles that might ruin your holidays!

Why Should You Rent a Car in France?

Renting a car in France will give you the unique chance to see all of the smaller towns away from the busy cities and crowded tours and public transport, that you may otherwise not be able to see otherwise.

What to know before renting a car in France

Explore this beautiful European country at your own pace and your own timetable. Make your way through the South of France and the picturesque areas like Provence and the French Riviera. 

Any questions? Don’t be afraid to ask me!


eugenia davis

Saturday 20th of July 2024

This site looks fantastic - would love to receive new posts and have access to former posts!


Tuesday 9th of April 2024

What about driv8ng into Belgium from France?. Any tips there about crossing the border


Tuesday 9th of April 2024

Belgium to France there are no specific requirements.

Dawn Guidone

Saturday 2nd of March 2024

We are traveling to France early March. We are arriving in Paris and taking the train down to Marseille for a few days. I wanted to rent a car in Marseille to travel over to Nice where we will be departing back to Paris a few days later. Do you recommend having the car for the week or just for the one day that we are traveling between Marseille and Nice? I am concerned about parking as I have read it is difficult in both the cities and we are comfortable with public transportation so our day trips to Aix and Monaco can be done without the car unless you think it will be worth having it the whole time. My main reason for having it was to enjoy the ride along the coast between Marseille and Nice. Thank you.


Monday 4th of March 2024

The road from Marseille to Nice isn't really a coastal road though. Only a small part from Cannes to Nice, but that's also the road with the worst drivers ;-) A car can be good as you can stop at other spots on the way to Monaco like Eze, Villafranche sur Mer, smaller towns around Aix. Check my other posts on spots worth seeing in the area:

Rebecca zicket

Saturday 16th of December 2023

Would you recommend a car rental agency verses Turo when renting in Paris? We want to drive to Mont st michel. Any tips would be greatly appreciated.

Richard Freeland

Friday 8th of December 2023

Do car rental companies in France have policies regarding an upper age limit. I am 82 years old. Will I be able to rent a car in France. Can you advise me on the policies of specific companies in this respect. Thank you.


Saturday 9th of December 2023

Most companies might have an inusrance surcharge for people over 70, but you need to reach out to a specific rental company directly.

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