Do you need to hire a car during your stay in France? Then here are some tips to get you started. By Lynette Eyb.
Where to hire
All the major international car hire firms operate in France – shop around for the best prices as hire costs and extras such as paying to reduce the collision damage waiver can vary considerably.
We've used Sixt, Europcar and Alamo at various times and found their prices competitive, while Hertz is also active in major cities and airports. You could also try a price comparison website such as Rhino Car Hire or Carrentals.
If you are staying in one particular area and planning on returning the car to where you pick it up, it can be useful to ask your hotel or B&B for a recommendation as they may know a small, local firm that offers competitive prices. We did this in Albert, in the Somme, and saved quite a few euro.
What to hire
If you are looking to stash a couple of cyclists, bike boxes and luggage – or full assembled bikes you need something big.
Citroën Berlingo (pictured below) and other hybrid car-van styes are usually a safe choice. Peugeot has a Rifter model that is comparable, as well as the Peugeot Partner Tepee. The Fiat Doblo is designed along similar lines and we're told it comfortably takes 2 fully assembled bikes and a bike box/large suitcase (or more bikes with the wheels off).
In the family car or estate category, we have a Peugeot 508 that takes 3 people and 3 bikes (without wheels) with the two of the back seats folded down. Skoda's Superb Estate and other estates will do a similar job.
The Ford Galaxy MPV (pictured below) and similar people movers are ideal for up to seven passengers, though you'll want to trade some of those off for bike boxes or bikes (with or without wheels).
Tips for hiring cars if you have bikes
Throw some bungee cords or short ropes in your suitcase if you are packing bikes in the back of a hire car. These can help secure the bikes. Pack also some extra towels or you can use clothes as padding to prevent them bashing into each other.
Advice on campervans and larger cars
If you're looking to hire a campervan or large car/van during the summer holidays – and in particular when the Tour de France is on – then book as far ahead as possible.
Car racks for bikes
Few standard car hire firms will have bike racks available for hire (but it's worth asking just in case), however you may be able to arrange this through a local bike hire shop, especially in popular road cycling areas such as the Alps and Pyrenees. Otherwise you can buy one relatively cheaply – see here.