Have you ever seen mysterious red license plates on a French car and wondered what they mean? Was the driver a diplomat? A military officer? A French James Bond saving the world from an evil genius?
No, the car was from the French Buyback Lease program. If you need to rent a car in Europe for more than a few weeks, this may be the way to go. You get a brand new car with 100% insurance for less than the price of a normal rental.
Sound good? Here’s how it works
The program is available to non-EU citizens and all the French car companies participate. You don’t rent the car, you buy it and the company buys it back when you are done. This is all arranged up front and the paperwork is much like a rental.
You need to sign up well before your trip because the car is manufactured for you—you pick from a list of models that are in the program. Automatic transmissions are available, which is great for those who don’t like a stick shift, and the premium you pay over a manual transmission is lower than for a rental.
You can pick your car up at one of many locations in France and drop it off at a different one if you’d like, for no charge. Cars are also available at locations outside of France but there’s a fee for that.
The company wants to make sure your car is well cared for, so it comes with 100% insurance coverage. AND zero deductible. AND a 24-hour hotline for problems. Nice!
This is so much easier than figuring out what kind of insurance to get when you rent. Does my personal auto insurance cover this? How about my credit card? Will there be a hassle to get a claim paid?
By contrast, the insurance coverage for a Buyback Lease car is easy. Mine was once broken into and a window was broken. Getting it fixed was simple. The worst part? The thieves made off with my melons de Cavaillon – the devils!
How can this be cheaper than renting a car? Because there’s no VAT. In France, that’s 20%! And you also save money because there’s no charge for extra drivers and the GPS is usually included.
Let’s take an example. The Buyback Lease information is from Kemwel, the rental information is from Europecar.
I looked at the Peugeot 308, a car that that has plenty of room for a family with luggage. I specified air conditioning, a GPS, a second driver and an automatic transmission.
First, let’s look at having the car for six weeks
Second driver: $90
Total: $2,297 + insurance*
Second driver: 0
So far the difference is mainly the insurance. But it grows the longer you have the car. For three months the rental costs $4,181 + insurance while the Lease Buyback is only $3,036. Quite a saving!
Think about it – a brand new car, total insurance coverage, lower price. And you get those stylish red plates! The French Buyback Lease program is definitely something you should check out.
Information is available from Citroen, Peugeot and Renault.
* depending on your personal coverage, this can cost well over $1,000
**These numbers are based on 2017 research and subject to change
Keith Van Sickle splits his time between Silicon Valley and Provence. He is the author of One Sip at a Time: Learning to Live in Provence; Read more at Life in Provence.