Leasing a car in Italy

How to arrange for a short-term lease on a brand-new car in Italy—cheaper than a rental for longer periods of three weeks or more, and far better insured

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A tractor parked in a town square in IrelandLeasing can be cost-cutter, especially for unusual vehicles like vans or SUVs (though not, sadly, tractors). The military policeman stopped my car just outside Trieste, and as I handed over my papers, I knew there was going to be some explaining to do.

The carabiniere officer, part of a routine anti-smuggling roadblock near the Italy-Slovenia border, became confused as he shuffled through the car's title (which, like the plates, was French), ownership papers (which stated I'd purchased it in Milan), and my driver's license (which said I lived in Pennsylvania).

"It's a short-term lease," I tried to explain. He stared at me suspiciously.

"Sir, please step out of the vehicle and open the trunk."

That's the sum total of problems I've ever encountered when leasing a car in Europe—and since my trunk wasn't full of Slovenian cigarettes, I was back on my way shortly.

Where to lease a car in Italy

PartnerAuto Europe (www.autoeurope.com) - Since Auto Europe does both short-term leases (they call it their "Peugeot Open Europe Buy Back Program") as well as regular rentals (at the best rates in the business), they're the best place to shop first to see which method—renting or leasing—will cost you the least in the long run. They do cheap cell phone rentals and consolidators airfares, too.

Europe By Car (www.europebycar.com) - Europe By Car saves you some legwork by grouping together both of the factory programs, allowing you lease a brand-new automobile direct from either Peugeot or Renault.

Renault Eurodrive (www.renaultusa.com) - Direct line to the Renault short-term leasing program.

The upsides to leasing a car in Italy

The benefits of a lease—often called a buy-back, or purchase/repurchase, program—are legion.

The downsides to leasing a car

OK, you know there's got to be a downside, and there is: the 17-day minimum. Leasing won’t work for your two-week vacation—though even then, the math sometimes still works out in your favor to do a minimum 17-day lease and simply turn in in car three days early. There are other cons (or at least considerations):

The price point where leasing makes sense

At what point does leasing become more cost-effective than renting? "In France, it's closer to 17 days," said Alexander Roy, president of leasing specialist Europe By Car. "In Italy or Germany, closer to 30 days," though "for people who always buy all the insurances, the breaking point will be closer to 17."

I ran my own numbers pitting the three leasing agencies against both Hertz and Avis. I won’t bore you with the details (except to say that Hertz was priciest by a long shot every time), but the practical upshot was that, if you’re the type to refuse the CDW and other insurances (an unrealistic scenario in countries where it's required, including Italy and Spain), rentals can be cheaper over a 17-day period (by 30–36%) and even a 30-day period (15%), but a lease clocks in at 10% cheaper on a six-week period.

However, once you compare apples to apples and tack the insurances and airport surcharges to the rental costs, leasing always comes out on top: 28% cheaper on the 17-day option, 45 percent cheaper for a month, and 70% cheaper over six weeks.

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This article was written by Reid Bramblett and was last updated in December 2010. All information was accurate at the time.

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