Consider this before you rent a car
Switzerland has a well-maintained road network and beautiful mountain passes. Driving can be a good mode of transportation, but make sure you’ve considered this before you rent a car:
- compare car traveling to Switzerland’s excellent public transport network. We’ve listed pros and cons here;
- study the costs involved in car rental and driving. Include rental rates per day and don’t forget additional charges for fuel, parking, (possible) costs of dropping off your car atanother location than the pick-up point, and voluntary CO2-compensation;
- if you choose to drive, make sure to learn about Swiss traffic regulations and stick to them;
- consider whether you’re skilled enough for a road trip. This is especially important if you plan to explore Switzerland’s pass roads. Study how to drive in the mountains in advance, and only head off if you’re confident you can drive safely;
- mind that some rental companies have age limitations. Drivers of 18 years and older who have their driver’s license for at least one year can usually rent a car, but surcharges may apply to those under 26.
Choose a car that suits your needs
If you rent a car, you’ll need a type that suits your requirements and skills. Consider these criteria:
- fuel consumption is an important aspect of the total costs, especially if you’ll be making long trips. Cars with better fuel efficiency don’t only result in lower gas costs, but are also more eco-friendly. Note that a fully packed car will consume more fuel;
- decide whether you prefer automatic or manual transmission. Automatic transmission may be easier, as you can pay less attention to changing gears, and more to the unknown roads and traffic. When driving in the Swiss mountains, manual transmission provides a bit more control. Most automatic cars allow you to switch to a manual mode though;
- choose between limited or unlimited mileage. Limited mileage is usually cheaper, but if you exceed the fixed number of kilometres, costs add up quickly. Limited mileage is recommended if you have a fixed itinerary and won’t be needing any spontaneous route changes. For a driving holiday in Switzerland, unlimited mileage is easier. You can adjust your route and make side trips as you like. Roads might suddenly be blocked due to weather circumstances or rock slides, so it’s good to be flexible;
- think of the type of trip you plan to make. Short transfers require less comfort and extras than a driving holiday with long road trips. If you have to navigate and park in Swiss cities, a smaller-sized car is more convenient;
- consider the season in which you’ll be driving. Screen coverage and airconditioning are very comfortable in summer, as it can get pretty hot in Switzerland. Heated seats are perfect for a winter trip. Snow tires aren’t obligatory, but highly recommended when driving smaller roads in winter;
- if children under 12 years old travel along, arrange for car seats. They should be appropriate for the kids’ age and weight, and have to carry an official ECE label;
- check whether your rental car comes with the obligatory Swiss motorway vignette. If not, you’ll have to arrange for that separately;
- check whether the obligatory safety equipment is included in your rental car. For Switzerland, the minimum requirement is a warning triangle. A first aid box and safety vests are recommended;
- decide which extra comfort and safety options you prefer, such as navigation, parking aid, lane departure warning, etc.
Check insurance and cancellation policies
You’ll need proper insurance when renting a car. First up, you should check what’s included in your travel and health insurance policies. Then decide if you need additional insurance. Most rental companies have basic insurance included and offer extra options on top of that. Consider if you need theft insurance, collision damage waiver, or 3rd party liability insurance for example.
Also make sure to check cancellation policies before renting your car. The companies we recommend below offer free cancellation if you cancel 48 or even 24 hours in advance.
Choose your car rental country and location
If you’ll be driving in Switzerland only, you'd best rent your car there. Most companies offer pick-up and drop-off points throughout the country. They’re available at Switzerland’s airports, which is convenient if you enter and leave by plane:
Rental locations can also be found in the centers of larger towns and close to quite some railway stations. This allows for an easy switch to Switzerland’s train network.
If you plan to make a multi-country trip, picking a rental location is a bit trickier. You may have to drop off your car at another location than your pick-up point. Dropping off your car at other locations, and especially in other countries, usually comes with a significant cost increase. Carefully compare costs and offers. If you rent a car in a neighboring country, make sure to arrange for an additional motorway vignette.
If you’d rather avoid the hassle of picking a rental car and company, you may consider a holiday package with a rental car included.
Check your car before you head off
Once you pick up your car, you may want to drive off right away. Make sure to check some important things first though. Do the car and the extras exactly match what you signed up for? Are a motorway vignette, spare wheel and safety equipment included? Is the car fully refueled, and do all the lights and wiper blades work properly? If so, you’re ready to explore Switzerland’s roads!