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Car Rental in the Netherlands: An Alternative to Car Ownership

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Moving to the Netherlands often brings a small culture shock – a lot of people ride bikes as their primary way to get around and not as many people use cars for short commutes. Rain or shine, people pedal their way to schools and workplaces, covering substantial distances daily. Notably, even young children aged 4 and 5 not rarely bike to school themselves, only assisted by parents. Plus, the Netherlands’ compact size and quite good public transport network make train or bus travel a relatively easy endeavor, allowing you to cross the entire country conveniently. Given this landscape, it’s natural to question the need to own a car in the Netherlands. This is indeed a valid question, so let’s explore the available alternatives (if you still feel you need a car, at least from time to time).

Why Consider Giving Up on Car Ownership as an Expat in the Netherlands

Certainly, the thought of forgoing car ownership in the Netherlands might have crossed your mind. The primary factor influencing this consideration is cost. Owning a car in this country is somewhat of a luxury. The expenses may begin with the process of importing a car, which involves payment of the BPM – the private motor vehicle and motorcycle – tax (known in Dutch as belastingen op personenauto’s en motorrijwielen). The amount of this tax depends on factors such as the vehicle’s CO2 emissions, age, and catalog value. If you’re importing a car from a non-EU country, there’s an additional import duty tax to contend with.

Should you decide to purchase a car within the Netherlands, the BPM tax only becomes applicable when acquiring a new vehicle (essentially, a fee for introducing a new vehicle to Dutch roads). The import duty tax would not be a concern in this scenario.

A significant ongoing expense related to car ownership in the Netherlands is fuel. While it is commonplace to fill up your tank regardless of your location, it’s worth noting that fuel costs in the Netherlands are among the highest in Europe, second only to Iceland (!). This places the country at the pinnacle of daily driving expenses in continental Europe. Consequently, the allure of cycling or utilizing public transportation for daily commutes becomes quite evident.

The price in Euro of Gasoline Euro95 on 28.08.2023 in selected European countries (source: Cargopedia):

Romania – 1.469
Czechia – 1.647
Spain – 1.727
Belgium – 1.836
Germany – 1.885
Norway – 2.094
Netherlands – 2.096
Iceland – 2.210

What is more, it is worth noting that the fuel price in the Netherlands doesn’t include the road tax, which is the case in numerous other countries. Essentially, this means an additional monthly or quarterly tax on top of your fuel expenses. Naturally, this is in addition to the costs associated with insurance, maintenance, and parking – all of which tend to be on the higher side. When you count up all these expenses and take into account the possibility that your car might not be actually used that often, it becomes a valid question of whether the investment is truly justified.

Car rental in the Netherlands

Among the alternatives to traditional car ownership, expats often consider renting a car. This option provides the flexibility of having a vehicle at your disposal for anything from a day trip to a business meeting, or even an extended period, without the commitment and financial burden of ownership.

Within the Netherlands, you can find most major international rental companies, which you might be familiar with from your home country or past vacation experiences such as Europcar, Sixt, and Hertz, offering an array of vehicle choices tailored to various needs.

  • Hertz – Global presence and wide range of vehicles. Offers additional services such as mobile Wi-Fi hotspots in a rented car,
  • Enterprise – Flexible deals and the possibility of paying by hours or kilometers, if needed.
  • Sixt – A broad range of options, but rather on the premium end. Available also as a car sharing or leasing option.
  • BB&L Car Rental – A local Dutch company known for its competitive prices, free airport delivery service, and focus on expats.
  • AutoRent Vitesse – Family Dutch company offering a variety of vehicles, but only in Utrecht.
  • Budget – Offers affordable rental options and has a simple online booking process.

A Rental Deal Example: Sixt

Let’s dive into Sixt as an example of what a rental company can offer on the Dutch market and how much it can cost. Known for its premium status, Sixt promises also reasonable pricing. With 19 pickup locations sprawled across the Netherlands, the company’s coverage is notably impressive considering the country’s size and the spread of its competitors. Beyond the usual locations like Randstadt (so, Amsterdam, Den Haag, Utrecht, Rotterdam) and major airports – Schiphol and Eindhoven, Sixt branches out to spots such as Alkmaar, Almelo, Apeldoorn, Assen, Deventer, Ede, Emmen, Gouda, Groningen, Heerlen, Hengelo, Hoofddorp, Hoorn, Maastricht, and Zoetermeer.

Sixt boldly asserts that its fleet’s average age doesn’t exceed 6 months, promising top-notch quality. As we didn’t have a chance to verify, we will take their word for this. The selection of cars is quite diverse – encompassing fully electric, hybrid, convertible, SUVs, family-oriented multi-seaters, and vans. Admittedly, not all options are available at every location.

Suppose we live in the heart of Amsterdam, embracing a car-free lifestyle due to parking permit-related costs and issues and the considerations we’ve covered so far. However, we’re itching for a weekend getaway, have a sustainable mindset, and are excited by the idea of taking a Tesla Model 3 for a ride. Here’s what our potential deal could shape up to be:

Pickup Location: Amsterdam Centraal Station

Pickup Date/Time: Friday, September 8, 2023, 14:00

Drop-off Date/Time: Sunday, September 10, 2023, 20:00 (worth highlighting – although the branch office closes at 16:00 on Sundays, drop-off remains available 24/7).

This package covers unlimited kilometers, a navigation system, 24/7 roadside assistance, and liability insurance. It’s wise to consider additional insurance options to safeguard against potential vehicle damage, along with extras like child seats or extra drivers. 

As Tesla is obviously an electric car, a few noteworthy points need to be mentioned:

– Access to Charging Points: Sixt offers access to 350,000 charging points through their partners across 35 European countries. This includes easily locatable charging stations like Shell’s Recharge. All charging locations can be found via Sixt’s app;

– Return Charging Service: There is a charging service available at the drop-off, so you don’t have to return the car fully charged. This comes at a rate that’s quite fair when benchmarked against the market average. To ensure your spot, consider pre-booking this service;

– Charging Accessories: As part of the rental, a charging cable (type 2) and a home charger are included.

Now, if the “budget-friendly” route suits better your wallet, the most economical options for the same period (as of early September) would be:

–          the MG ZS (€140.97),

–          Opel Adam (€141.98),

–          Audi A1 (€146.97),

–          and VW Golf (€148.99).

Car Sharing: A Fresh Perspective for Non-Car Owners

Now, renting a car isn’t the sole option for those deciding not to own a car. If your aim is just getting from point A to B and calling it a day – then car sharing might pique your interest. Believe it or not, there are various options in this realm too!

SnappCar – Embracing the Circular Economy

Possibly one of the reasons you’re considering life without owning a car is a genuine concern for the environment. And in a world increasingly aware of sustainable practices, the car rental sector also boasts options aligned (some more, some less) with the ethos of shared economy. One of them is SnappCar – a Dutch peer-to-peer (!) car-sharing platform. The owners state that the platform aims to decrease the number of cars by promoting sharing, thus contributing to more sustainable transport.

The premise behind SnappCar is rather simple – an online marketplace connecting car owners willing to lend out their vehicles during periods of non-use (while earning some extra income) with drivers in need of short-term rent. The platform handles the service, from matching cars and drivers to managing payments and insurance, resulting in a quite efficient, cost-effective, and personalized process. With over 13,000 cars available, chances are high that you’ll find one in your neighborhood.

Let’s put this to the test by replicating the same kind of trip we considered with Sixt rental:

–          Setting the Dates and Location: Upon inputting the desired dates and location, we are presented with a whopping 190 cars available within a 3-kilometer radius, or 14 cars within just 1 kilometer,

–         Pricing: As with the rental services, prices will fluctuate based on the car’s type and the owner’s valuation of their vehicle’s rentworthiness. This spectrum spans from €75 for a Citroen 1, Ford Ka, or Hyundai i20 for a weekend with 300 kilometers included, up to €445 Tesla 3 with a 600-kilometer limit.

–         Non-Keyless or Keyless Pick-Up: Once you’ve identified your ride and sealed the deal (both direct and by-confirmation bookings are available), you have two pick-up options. The first is the traditional in-person handover, where you’ll get the keys in a straightforward manner. The second, more intriguingly, is the keyless method. This entails unlocking the car with a SnappCar app (!) and finding the keys in the unlocked glove compartment. Clever, isn’t it?

Car Sharing via Rental Companies

Now, let’s circle back to Sixt for a moment as they also offer car sharing option (however, this is using their own fleet). Their app allows for exploring available cars in the neighborhood and paying only for the duration you’re using a car (with an added €1 “car opening” fee). The costs and packages?  

–          Dynamic Pricing: This system operates in a dynamic pricing fashion, meaning costs are fine-tuned based on variables such as time, location, and the specific car model. Think of it as a supply-and-demand model reminiscent of what you’d find in services like Uber.

–          Pay by minutes or hours – the more the cheaper: The range of options available is pretty nifty. You’ve got rates per minute (starting at €0.19 per minute), rates per hour – 3 hours with an 80km allowance could fall between €34 and €47, and the daily deal –24 hours with a 200km cap, setting you back anywhere from €69 to €95. Of course, it all depends on the car type. The longer you want to use the car, the cheaper it gets per minute/hour.

–          Location Limitation: The feature is currently limited to Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, and Utrecht.

Private leasing is new buying

For those seeking the perks of car ownership without the commitments or financial complexities, private leasing is an increasingly popular alternative. The idea operates on a simple premise: you pay a fixed monthly fee to use a car, without having to worry about issues like depreciation, maintenance, and resale. It’s like renting a car but for an extended period. This arrangement offers several advantages, particularly for those who need a car for a bit longer than just short-term rental or are staying in the Netherlands temporarily.

For deeper insights into this topic, you can delve into our previous posts:

1.       How to Lease a Car in the Netherlands https://www.moneysavingexpat.nl/travel/how-to-lease-a-car-in-the-netherlands-find-the-best-deals/

2.       Buying or Leasing an EV in NL: http://moneysavingexpat.nl/travel/electric-cars-netherlands/

and for those self-employed (ZZP’ers):

3.       Navigating Business Auto Lease in the Netherlands as an Expat https://www.moneysavingexpat.nl/uncategorised/navigating-business-auto-lease-in-the-netherlands-as-an-expat/

Or explore the offers of the providers we have discussed in the posts above:

–          JustLease,

–          IkRij.nl,

–          ANWB Lease,

–          XLEasy,

–          Auto.nl

Did You Know?

Ever thought electric cars were a recent innovation? Surprisingly, their roots trace back much further. Although their surge in popularity occurred during the last decade, the very first electric car was conceptualized around 1832 – well before the advent of gasoline-powered counterparts. This pioneering creation was attributed to Robert Anderson, although it wasn’t fully operational. Fast forward to around 1890, when chemist William Morrison from Iowa introduced the first functional electric car. Essentially an electrified wagon, Morrison’s invention accommodated six passengers and reached a maximum speed of 14 miles per hour.

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