Car Rentals in the Netherlands [Complete 2024 Guide]


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The Netherlands, with its picturesque canals, historic cities, and expansive countryside, is a fascinating destination to explore. Whether you’re a tourist eager to traverse its breadth, an expat plotting weekend getaways, or a student wanting to venture beyond campus confines, renting a car can offer unparalleled freedom. However, as with any foreign nation, the Netherlands presents its own set of car rental nuances.

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This guide is designed to be your straightforward roadmap to understanding the car rental process in the Netherlands, ensuring a smooth ride without any language barriers or unforeseen hurdles.

Key Takeaways

  • Renting a car in the Netherlands requires understanding specific essential requirements.
  • The Dutch traffic rules, while logical, have nuances worth noting for safety.
  • Various car rental companies operate in the Netherlands, each offering unique benefits.
  • Understanding insurance and coverages is vital to avoid unforeseen costs.
  • Advance booking and respecting parking rules ensure a hassle-free driving experience.
  • Returning the car involves thorough inspection and adherence to fuel policy.

Essential Requirements for Renting a Car

The process of renting a car in the Netherlands, while straightforward, requires you to meet specific criteria and provide the necessary documentation. Here’s a clear breakdown to ensure you’re well-prepared:

  • Age Restrictions: Typically, renters must be at least 21 years old to rent a car in the Netherlands. Some car rental agencies might have vehicles available for younger drivers, but often at higher rates. Those under 25 might also face young driver surcharges.
  • Driving License: If you’re from an EU/EEA country, your domestic driving license is valid in the Netherlands. However, if you’re from outside the EU/EEA, it’s recommended to have an International Driving Permit (IDP) alongside your original driver’s license. An IDP acts as a translation and is especially useful if your original license is not in English or Dutch.
  • Passport or ID: A valid passport is mandatory for non-EU/EEA citizens. EU/EEA citizens can usually present their national ID cards.
  • Credit Card: Car rental agencies in the Netherlands typically require a credit card in the main driver’s name for security deposits. Some agencies might accept debit cards, but it’s less common and often comes with additional stipulations.
  • Duration of License: Some agencies require that you’ve had your driver’s license for a minimum period, often a year or two, before renting. This varies by agency and car type.
  • Additional Requirements for Students or Expats: If you’re staying in the Netherlands for an extended period, it might be helpful to have proof of address or residence status. However, for short-term rentals, standard tourist documentation should suffice.

Related: Car Loan in the Netherlands – All You Need To Know in 2023

Understanding the Dutch Traffic Rules and Regulations

Understanding the Dutch Traffic Rules and Regulations

Navigating the picturesque Dutch roads can be a breeze, but being cognizant of local traffic norms is crucial. The Netherlands boasts an efficient and organized road system, but certain aspects might differ from what you’re accustomed to. Here’s a straightforward breakdown to ensure a safe and compliant driving experience:

Unlike some countries, the Dutch drive on the right-hand side of the road. This is paramount to remember, especially when making turns or entering roundabouts.

RoadSpeed Limit
Motorways130 km/h (exceptions apply, with some areas limited to 100 km/h)
National roads100 km/h
Built-up areas50 km/h
Residential areas30 km/h

Vehicles coming from the right generally have the right of way in areas without traffic signs. This might seem counterintuitive to some, but it’s a standard rule here.

The Netherlands is famously bike-friendly. Cyclists often have their own lanes and might have the right of way even when you think they don’t. Always be vigilant and give priority to cyclists.

The permissible blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.05%. However, the limit is stricter for new drivers with a license less than five years old at 0.02%. It’s always safest not to drink and drive.

Seat belts are mandatory for all passengers in the front and back. Children under 1.35 meters must be seated in approved child seats.

Using a mobile phone without a hands-free system while driving is strictly prohibited. Penalties for this can be hefty.

You’ll come across some traffic signs unique to the Netherlands. Familiarizing yourself with them before hitting the road can prevent confusion.

Some Dutch cities have environmental zones where high-emission vehicles are prohibited. Ensure your rented car meets the required standards if you plan to enter these zones.

Often, you need to pay to park in city centers. Look out for signs indicating payment requirements. In some areas, especially in Amsterdam, you’ll come across ‘blue zones’ where you can park for a limited time using a parking disc.

Popular Car Rental Companies in the Netherlands

When you’re in a foreign country, finding a reliable car rental agency can provide peace of mind, knowing you’re in trusted hands. The Netherlands hosts a mix of global and local car rental agencies, each with its own offerings and advantages.

Company NameMain LocationsUnique Benefit
AvisNationwideBroad range of vehicle options
EuropcarMajor citiesCompetitive rates
SixtAirports & citiesLuxury vehicles availability
BudgetTourist spotsAffordable deals
EnterpriseNationwideExcellent customer service
HertzMain transport hubsReliable fleet variety


Pros: A renowned global brand with extensive vehicle options and multiple pick-up/drop-off locations throughout the country. Their Gold Plus Rewards program can offer frequent renters benefits and discounts.

Cons: Sometimes pricier than local competitors, especially during peak seasons.


Pros: Another global name, they offer a wide range of vehicles, from economy to luxury. Their loyalty program, Avis Preferred, can also provide benefits for regular customers.

Cons: Rates can be on the higher side, and some customers have reported upselling tactics.


Pros: With numerous locations in the Netherlands, they offer a diverse fleet and competitive pricing. Their Privilege loyalty program can yield free rentals and priority service.

Cons: As with other large chains, service experience can vary based on the specific location.


Pros: Known for modern cars and often new models, Sixt has a presence in major Dutch cities and airports. Their Express Card program speeds up the rental process.

Cons: Premium offerings often come with a premium price tag.


Pros: A local favorite, SternRent provides a broad range of vehicles, including environmentally friendly options. They often have transparent pricing without hidden fees.

Cons: Limited to fewer locations than global competitors, which may be a concern for some travelers.

BB&L Car Rental

Pros: A favorite for those arriving at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, they focus on straightforward service and clear contracts. They also offer free airport shuttle service.

Cons: Limited primarily to the Amsterdam area.

Insurance and Additional Coverage

Insurance and Additional Coverage

Renting a car in a foreign country inevitably leads to questions about insurance. Ensuring you’re appropriately covered while driving in the Netherlands not only guarantees peace of mind but also keeps you financially protected in case of mishaps. Here’s a straightforward overview of the Dutch car insurance landscape and some additional coverages to consider:

Third-Party Liability Insurance (Wettelijke Aansprakelijkheidsverzekering or WA)

This is the mandatory minimum insurance in the Netherlands. It covers damages to other people and their property if you are at fault in an accident.

While this is included in almost all rental agreements by default, it doesn’t cover damages to the rented car itself.

Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or Limited Damage Insurance

It limits your financial responsibility for damage to the rented vehicle, typically up to a certain amount known as the “excess” or “deductible.”

Not always included in the base rental price, so you might need to purchase it separately or ensure it’s part of your package.

Theft Protection (TP)

This insurance covers costs if the rental car is stolen, though like CDW, you may be responsible for an “excess” amount.

Given the low crime rate in the Netherlands, weigh the likelihood vs. the cost when considering this coverage.

Personal Accident Insurance (PAI)

It provides coverage for medical costs resulting from a car accident.

If you already have travel or health insurance, this might be redundant.

Personal Effects Coverage (PEC)

Protects personal belongings inside the car in case of theft or damage.

Your travel insurance might already cover this, so double-check before purchasing

Practical Tips

Check Your Credit Card Benefits: Some credit cards offer complimentary rental car insurance when you use them to pay for the rental. However, ensure you know the specifics of what’s covered.

Avoid Double Insurance: If you have travel insurance, check to see what’s already covered to avoid paying for the same coverage twice.

Understand the Excess: Know the deductible or excess amount, which is what you’ll have to pay out-of-pocket before insurance covers the rest.

Tips for a Smooth Rental Experience

Tips for a Smooth Rental Experience

Embarking on a road trip in the Netherlands can be both exhilarating and stress-free, provided you’re equipped with the right knowledge and foresight. Here are some practical tips to ensure your car rental experience in the Netherlands is as seamless as the country’s landscapes:

Book in Advance

Especially during peak tourist seasons or around popular events, rental cars can be in high demand. By booking early, you ensure availability and often get better rates.

Inspect the Car

Before driving off, thoroughly inspect the car for any existing damages. Take photos or videos as evidence to avoid potential disputes when returning the vehicle.

Familiarize Yourself with the Car

Before hitting the road, understand the car’s basic functions—lights, wipers, indicators, and emergency hazards. If unsure, ask the rental staff for a quick rundown.

Fuel Policy

Understand the car rental agency’s fuel policy. Some require a full-to-full policy (you pick up with a full tank and return it full), while others might have different arrangements. Avoid last-minute fueling charges by adhering to the policy.

GPS is Your Friend

While the Netherlands is well-signposted, GPS can be invaluable, especially with real-time traffic updates. If your rented car doesn’t have one, consider renting it as an add-on or use smartphone apps like Google Maps or Waze.

Toll Roads and Payments

While the Netherlands doesn’t have many toll roads, it’s good to be aware of them. Ensure you have a mode of payment, either cash or a card, handy.

Keep Important Numbers Saved

Store the contact numbers of your car rental agency and local emergency services on your phone. In case of any issues or accidents, this will expedite the resolution process.

Check Return Times

Some agencies might charge a full day’s rental for just an hour’s delay. Be sure to return the car on time, and if you anticipate any delays, inform the agency in advance.

Save Receipts

Whether it’s for fuel, tolls, or any additional charges, keep all receipts until after the rental period is concluded. This helps in case of discrepancies or if you need to claim expenses.

Respect Parking Rules

Dutch cities can be strict about parking. Always park in designated areas and pay the necessary fees. This can save you from getting a ticket or having the car towed.

Parking and Navigating Dutch Cities

The intricate network of canals, historical architecture, and bustling streets make Dutch cities a charm to explore. However, when it comes to driving and parking, it’s essential to be well-informed to avoid unnecessary complications. Here’s a clear guide on how to effortlessly navigate and park in Dutch cities:

Compact City Centers

Many Dutch cities have compact and pedestrian-friendly centers. If you’re visiting primarily for sightseeing, consider parking on the outskirts and using public transportation or walking to explore the core areas.

P+R (Park and Ride) Facilities

Most major cities, including Amsterdam, Utrecht, and Rotterdam, offer P+R facilities. These are parking areas situated on the city outskirts, where you can park your car for a very reasonable fee and then take public transport into the city. It’s cost-effective and often faster than navigating city traffic.

Blue Zones

In certain areas, especially residential ones, you might encounter ‘blue zones’. Here, parking is free but limited to a specific duration. To indicate your arrival time, you’ll need a parking disc (often provided by car rental agencies).

Many city centers require payment for parking. Look for a ticket machine nearby (often labeled as ‘parkeerautomaat’). Ensure you clearly display the ticket on your dashboard.

Permit-Only Areas

Be cautious of zones marked for permit holders only. Parking in these without a valid permit can result in a fine.

Street-side Parking

In cities like Amsterdam, you might find canal-side parking. Ensure your car is parked well within the designated lines to avoid penalties.

Parking Garages

While slightly pricier, parking garages offer the convenience of location, especially in city centers. They’re also a safer option if you’re unfamiliar with street parking rules.

Cyclists and Pedestrians

Dutch cities are renowned for their bike-friendly approach. Always be vigilant, especially when turning or opening car doors, to avoid potential collisions with cyclists or pedestrians.

One-way Streets

Many streets, particularly in historical city centers, are one-way. Ensure you follow the indicated direction and rely on your GPS to guide you through the maze.

Environmental Zones

Some cities have zones where older or higher-emission vehicles are restricted. Check if your rental car meets the necessary criteria if you plan to enter these zones.

Returning the Car

Returning the Car What to Expect

The conclusion of your Dutch road journey circles back to the rental agency’s doorstep. The process of returning a rented car is as crucial as the initial rental to ensure no unexpected issues or costs arise. Here’s a clear breakdown of what to anticipate and how to prepare:

Fuel Level Check

Recall the fuel policy you agreed upon. If it was a ‘full-to-full’ policy, ensure the tank is filled up before returning. Nearby petrol stations to the drop-off location are typically busier and might be pricier, so plan a little ahead.

Vehicle Inspection

The rental agency will inspect the car for damages. It’s a good practice to conduct your own inspection, preferably in well-lit conditions. The photos or videos you took at the start will come in handy now for any discrepancies.


While agencies expect a certain level of wear and tear, a car that’s excessively dirty might incur cleaning fees. Ensure the interiors are reasonably clean, and remove any trash.

Return Timing

Be punctual. As mentioned earlier, even a slight delay could result in an extra day’s charge. If you foresee a delay, inform the agency in advance.

Document Handover

Ensure you return all documents provided at the start of the rental. This includes the car’s registration, insurance documents, and any other relevant paperwork.

Key Drop-off

During out-of-hours returns, agencies usually have a key drop box. Make sure you’re aware of the process and location.

Final Invoice

Review your final invoice for any additional charges. This might include tolls, additional mileage (if there was a limit), or other services availed of during the rental period.

Deposit Release

If you had a security deposit, inquire about its release. Understand the timeline and ensure all conditions have been met for its full return.

Feedback and Reviews

Many agencies value customer feedback. If you had a particularly good (or not-so-good) experience, consider leaving a review. This helps future renters make informed decisions.

Lost and Found

Do a thorough check of the car’s interiors, glove compartment, and trunk for any personal belongings. It’s easier to retrieve forgotten items on the spot than later.

Cost-saving Tips and Tricks

Renting a car in the Netherlands can be a delightful experience, offering the freedom to explore at your own pace. However, the costs can add up if you’re not mindful. Here are some pragmatic tips to ensure you get the most value for your money without compromising on your experience:

Early Bird Gets the Deal

Booking well in advance can secure better rates. It’s especially true during peak tourist seasons when demand surges.

Avoid Airport Premiums

Rental locations at airports often charge a premium. If possible, consider renting from a city or town location, even if it means a short transit.

Compare Before You Commit

Use comparison websites to get an overview of the rates offered by different companies. This allows you to pick the best deal based on your needs and budget.

Limit Additional Drivers

While it might be tempting to share the driving load, additional drivers can increase the rental cost. Limit them unless absolutely necessary.

Stick to Standard

Luxury or special cars can be fun, but standard or economy vehicles often provide the best value for money. They’re also typically more fuel-efficient.

Manual vs. Automatic

Manual transmission cars are usually cheaper in Europe than automatic ones. If you’re comfortable driving a stick shift, opt for manual.

Bring Your Own Accessories

Items like GPS devices, child seats, or roof racks can be rented at an additional cost. If feasible, bring your own to save on these extras.

Stay Within Mileage Limits

If your rental has a mileage limit, be aware of it. Exceeding this can result in hefty per-kilometer charges.

Fill Up Yourself

It’s almost always cheaper to refill the tank yourself rather than opt for the rental agency’s refueling service.

Check for Discounts

Some memberships or credit cards offer discounts on car rentals. It’s worth checking if you’re eligible.

Understand Insurance

While it’s essential to be adequately covered, avoid being upsold on insurance you don’t need. Check your travel insurance or credit card benefits to avoid double coverage.

Free Cancellation

Opt for deals that offer free cancellation up to a certain point, giving you flexibility without penalties.

Being judicious about where and how you spend can make your car rental experience in the Netherlands both delightful and economical. With these tips in tow, you’re set to hit the road with a few extra Euros in your pocket.


Pieter van der Meer, our Lifestyle Coordinator at, embodies the vibrant and diverse Dutch lifestyle. Born and raised in Utrecht, Pieter has a deep-rooted love for his homeland, which reflects in his in-depth knowledge of the Netherlands’ culture, traditions, and lifestyle.

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