Can Americans Drive in Europe: International Driver’s Licenses & Rentals (2023)

Can Americans Drive in Europe: International Driver’s Licenses & Rentals (1)

Driving in Europe can be a lot of fun, especially traveling with friends. The road rules are not that different from the US, but there are some quirks to know before hitting the highway. Understanding and mastering these slight differences can make your foreign driving safer, more exciting, and a much more enjoyable experience.

This article will answer all your questions about driving in Europe and help you prepare for your next trip across the pond.

Americans Driving in Europe

When traveling around the world, one of the most exciting things you can do is take a car or other motorized vehicle for a spin in a foreign country. It's always a good time to drive down roads you've never been on before, and doing that in a foreign country is even more exciting.

It's a common myth that Americans can't drive in Europe. If you have a valid license from your home state, you can drive in European countries for up to 90 days without further documentation.

However, once you have spent more than 90 days in Europe and wish to continue driving there, it is recommended that you get an International Driver’s License (IDL).

If you plan on driving in Europe for an extended period, it's best to get your international driver's license before leaving the country. Once you have your international driver's license, renting a car should be straightforward — though it can be expensive due to rental companies' high taxes and fees levied on renters.

Specifics for Americans Driving In Europe

Most European countries will let you drive away without problems if your rental car has an automatic transmission and four wheels (not three). However, if something goes wrong while driving in Europe (such as getting a ticket), don't worry. Like most things Europeans do better than Americans (like building roads without potholes), they also do traffic laws better than we do.

(Video) International Drivers Permit: 2021 Guide

It's straightforward for Americans to read up on European traffic laws online or through apps before traveling abroad, so they know what they're getting into when they get behind the wheel overseas (or when stopped).

France is one exception where renting a car is cheaper than buying one outright because the French government taxes cars based on how much pollution they emit rather than their value or style. If your vehicle emits fewer exhaust fumes than others nearby, then less money will be due at tax time next year.

International Driver's Licenses for Americans

International Driver's Licenses are not required in Europe. It is possible to drive without one, but if you are driving in another country and want a license that works internationally (meaning you can use it in multiple countries you will probably want to get an International Driver's License.

You can apply for an international driver's license at many American car rental companies. The cost varies depending on where you go and your license type, but expect to pay about $50-$100.

Some car rental companies like Enterprise allow customers to use their Alamo or National rental cars without having an IDL on file. They do this even though they are technically supposed to decline reservations unless made by someone with an IDL or equivalent document (such as an international driving permit).

Another option would be visiting AAA headquarters near your home airport before leaving America so they can print out two copies of the same IDL. One copy is for yourself, and the other can be used with any associates who need one while traveling abroad.

Getting a Rental Car in Europe

If you're planning to drive in Europe, you should know a few things. First, driving is more expensive than back home in America: gas prices are higher, and insurance costs more. So if riding the train or bus is an option for your travel route (and sometimes it will be), do so.

But even if you have to rent a car sometime during your trip, know that renting in Europe is easy. Go into any office with "rental" written and show them your driver's license. They'll take care of everything else from there.

(Video) International Driving Permit & Europe - What you need to know

Renting a car in Europe is one of the most popular ways for Americans to travel around, and it's easy to see why. Driving gives you freedom of movement and lets you explore every nook and cranny of whichever country you visit. It can also be one of the most expensive parts of your trip, so let's look at ways you can save money when renting a car in Europe.

Finer Details To Remember When Driving in Europe

  • Pay attention to mileage limits
  • Get insurance coverage beforehand
  • Plan your border crossings
  • Pay attention to parking rules

When traveling in Europe, there is a vast myriad of different things you should focus on and remember when driving and renting. While it can be hard to remember all the things, it gets a lot easier once you've done it for a little while.

Here are some essential things to think about when renting a car in Europe:

Pay Attention to Mileage Limits

While unlimited mileage may seem like the best deal, many rental cars don't come equipped with GPS navigation systems (such as TomTom or Waze). This means that if you want turn-by-turn directions while driving through foreign countries, it will cost extra per day (or even per hour) if you do not need this service.

At the same time, make sure there aren't any hidden fees on vacation. This isn't always obvious until after signing paperwork, so carefully review everything before making any commitments.

Get Insurance Coverage Beforehand

This might sound like common sense, but many people forget about this step which results in either paying way too much for insurance coverage during checkout or, even worse, losing money altogether due to lack thereof.

Plan Your Border Crossings

Crossing borders can be intricate if your license is not from one of the countries with which yours has an international agreement. You may need to apply for an international driver's license before crossing into some European countries or renting a car.

If you're driving through multiple countries on your trip, getting one of these licenses might make sense anyway — even if only as a backup.

(Video) Police Officer pulls over driver with the International Driver's License.

Pay Attention to Parking Rules

Parking rules differ widely between cities within Europe; however, there are some general patterns:

  • parking meters tend not to exist where there isn't metered parking (or in some cases, if there is metered parking, there won't be any at all),
  • street signs will warn about paying attention because of narrow roads and alleyways,
  • stop signs might not exist on smaller streets where traffic lights do exist at intersections where drivers must yield right-of-way before entering such streets.

In general, though people seem less frantic about rushing through intersections when required by law - they usually wait until they're sure nobody else is coming.

Refueling in Europe

If you're renting a car, it will come with a full gas tank. The gas price in Europe is higher than in the US, so be sure to fill up your rental before leaving for your destination.

You can save money by renting a car with a smaller engine; most rentals have both automatic and manual transmission options at their disposal, so compare the prices and see which one works best for you.

Many European cars that Americans would likely not expect also run on diesel. If you ever have to refuel your vehicle, make sure you know what kind of fuel it takes — accidentally putting in the wrong fuel can damage the car, which can be very expensive.

Make sure everything you do to a vehicle you're renting is what is prescribed for it.


The bottom line is that Americans can drive in Europe. If you plan on renting a car, check if your home country requires an international driver's license. If there is no requirement for an IDL, then you should have no problems renting one from the rental company of your choice. Remember that many countries require that all drivers carry local insurance policies for their rental vehicles.

If you are planning on driving in Europe without an IDL, check with your credit card company and auto insurance provider before leaving home. They may not cover any potential accidents while abroad.

(Video) What Americans Need To Know About Driving in Europe

Additionally, some countries require tourists to register their vehicles with local authorities before entering the country. Registration could take up to two weeks or longer depending on how busy they are at the time of registration.

Your flight from the U.S. to an EU country will require an ETIAS from 2024 onward. American citizens will not be exempt from needing the new travel authorisation when it comes into force. You can keep yourself informed of the latest EU travel authorization rules by visiting the current ETIAS requirements page.


IDL International

Think U.S. gas prices are high? Here's how far $40 goes around the world | Washington Post

Driving Europe: International Driver Licenses Requirements | Trip Savvy

ETIAS for American Citizens

ETIAS Requirements

(Video) How To Get An International Driver’s License in 15 minutes (United States)


1. How to drive in the US with foreign country driver's license
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2. 8 Tips for Renting a Car in Europe
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3. Can I travel abroad with just a drivers license?
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4. WATCH THIS Before Driving in GERMANY! | 5 Tips for Americans Driving in Germany | How to Drive in DE
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5. What You Should Know About Renting a Car in Europe
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6. 10 Tips Renting a Car in Europe 2021
(International Drivers Association)


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