Driving in Switzerland? Hire your car in France

We’re about to set out on a month-long journey through Europe.  There’ll be plenty of articles over the next few weeks as we travel through Italy, Germany, Switzerland and France.

When we were in planning stages for this trip, we wanted to hire a car after our time in Venice. The plan was to drive from there to my brother’s place in Malsburg-Marzell via Innsbruck, Liechtenstein and Lucerne over the space of about a week.

It was an ambitious plan and one that was scuttled as soon as I told my brother. He casually told me to double check my figures, which I did, and immediately booked a flight instead. The prohibitive rates for picking up, and dropping off in different countries are certainly up there. From memory it was going to cost about an extra $AU1500 to do this. We also had a look at the extremely useful ViaMichelin site which told us we’d be up for around 150 Euros in tolls, fuel and road tax.

We decided to skip Innsbruck and so instead flew from Venice to Mulhouse.  We’re spending a week driving through Switzerland and France.  Yeah, life’s tough.

Being that my brother is quite close to the French, German and Swiss borders, there’s a bit of choice, and not just in his part of the world.

If you want to spend a lot of money, do something in Switzerland. If you want to do something in Switzerland and not spend so much money- start in France.

Mulhouse is a border town and the one we’ll be going through.   Geneva is also a border town, so much of this will apply there as well.

You can go to any rental car site and select which country you’re going to rent from.  For this example, I’ve used Hertz.  I’ve gone through the booking process for the same car, with the same inclusions for two different countries.

One in France, the other is Switzerland.

Both are from Mulhouse.  Yes, the same airport.

I daresay both Hertz offices are next to each other in the airport, if not exactly the same place.


As you can see, hiring the car in France is going to cost $AU230-250.  To get much the same car in Switzerland is $AU700-800. That’s more than three times the price.  For the same car.

Here’s some additional information that I found, but please double check this with your car hire company too- my information may be out of date, and may, in fact, have no relevance to your rental company…

As far as I have been able to see, the standard terms and conditions of most major rental companies (Avis, Europcar, Hertz) allow their cars to be taken into any country in mainland western Europe without any extra charge.

If your rental is between 1 November & 1 April, cars in Switzerland & Germany must have winter tyres. Cars rented in France will not normally have them unless ordered & paid for in advance.

Cars rented in France may not have a Swiss highway vignette, which is required to drive on the highways in Switzerland. You can buy one at the rental counter for around 40€.

If you really want to be certain, ask your rental company.

As far as pricing goes, it found it valuable to search first with Auto Europe, as they aggregate through most of the car rental companies.   As an Australian driving in Europe, I’m pretty keen on having an Auto as I don’t want to have to think about changing gears with my right hand which is completely alien to me. The Auto Europe search is great in that you can select auto transmission right at the beginning of your search.

HertzAvis and Europcar all have offices in Mulhouse and Geneva, so have a go yourself- look at the difference between a Swiss or a French hire car…

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