Consider this before you rent a car
Switzerland has a well-maintained road network and beautiful mountain passes. Driving can be a good mode of transportation, but consider this before making a decision:
- Compare car traveling to Switzerland’s excellent public transport network. We’ve listed pros and cons here.
- Study the costs involved in car rental and driving. Include rental rates per day and additional charges for fuel, parking, possible costs of dropping off your car at another location than the pick-up point, and voluntary CO2-compensation. Download our Excel with sample calculations here.
- If you choose to drive, make sure to learn about Swiss traffic regulations and stick to them.
- Consider if you’re skilled enough to drive safely in Switzerland. This is especially important if you plan to explore pass roads. Study the information about driving in the mountains in advance.
- Mind that some rental companies have age limitations. Drivers of 18 years and older who have their driver’s license for at least one year can usually rent a car, but surcharges may apply to drivers under 26.
Choose a car that suits your needs
If you rent a car, you’ll need a type that suits your requirements and skills. Consider these criteria:
- Fuel consumption is an important aspect of the total costs, especially if you’ll be making long trips. Cars with better fuel efficiency don’t only result in lower gas costs, but are also more eco-friendly. A fully packed car will consume more fuel.
- Choose between automatic or manual transmission. Automatic transmission may be easier, as you can pay less attention to changing gears, and more to the unknown roads and traffic. When driving in the Swiss mountains, manual transmission provides a bit more control. Most automatic cars allow you to switch to a manual mode.
- Choose between limited or unlimited mileage. Limited mileage is usually cheaper, but if you exceed the fixed number of kilometers, costs add up quickly. Limited mileage is recommended if you have a fixed itinerary and don't need spontaneous route changes. For a driving holiday in Switzerland, unlimited mileage is easier. You can adjust your route and make side trips as you like. Roads might suddenly be blocked due to weather circumstances or rock slides, so it’s good to be flexible.
- Think of the type of trip you plan to make. Short transfers require less comfort and extras than a driving holiday with long road trips. If you have to navigate and park in Swiss cities, a smaller car is more convenient.
- Consider the season in which you’ll be driving. Screen coverage and airconditioning are comfortable in summer, as it can get hot in Switzerland. Heated seats are perfect for a winter trip. Read more about car traveling in Swiss winter here.
- If children under 12 years old travel along, arrange for car seats.
- Check if your rental car comes with the obligatory Swiss motorway vignette. If not, you’ll have to purchase one.
- Check whether the obligatory safety equipment is included in your rental car.
- Decide which extra comfort and safety options you prefer, such as navigation, parking aid, lane departure warning, etc.
Check insurance and cancellation policies
You need proper insurance when renting a car in Switzerland. Check what’s included in your travel and health insurance policies. Then decide if you need additional insurance. Most rental companies have basic insurance included and offer extra options on top of that. Examples are theft insurance, collision damage waiver and 3rd party liability insurance.
Make sure to check cancellation policies too before renting your car. Most companies mentioned on this page offer free cancellation if you cancel 48 or even 24 hours in advance.
Choose your car rental country and location
If you’ll be driving in Switzerland only, rent your car there. Most companies offer pick-up and drop-off points throughout the country. They’re available at Swiss airports, which is convenient if you enter and leave by plane:
Rental locations can also be found in the centers of larger towns and close to railway stations. This allows for an easy switch to the bus and train network.
If you plan to make a multi-country trip, picking a rental location is trickier. You may have to drop off your car in another country than your pick-up point. This can be expensive. If you rent a car in a neighboring country, you'll also have to arrange an additional Swiss motorway vignette.
If you want to avoid the hassle of finding a good car rental company and a car, you may consider a holiday package with a rental car included.
Check your car before you head off
When you pick up your car, check some important things before heading off. Do the car and the extras exactly match what you signed up for? Are a motorway vignette, spare wheel and safety equipment included? Is the car fully fueled, and do all the lights and wiper blades work properly? If so, you’re ready to explore Switzerland’s roads!
Alternative: use Swiss shared cars
Apart from regular car rental companies, there's "Mobility". This is a Swiss network of shared cars with more than 1500 pick-up and drop-off locations throughout the country.
You'll have to create an account and pay a subscription fee. You can then reserve a car for your day and route.
This can be a good option if you need a car for several occasional trips only.