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Wednesday, 08 January 2014 09:54

65% of car rental desks at European ski destinations charge extra for 'winterisation'

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Skiers hiring cars need to be up to speed on whether they need winter tyres and snow chains in the country they’re hiring in, otherwise they (and not the rental company) could face a 5,000 € fine., a leading provider of stand-alone car hire insurance, has looked at five popular ski gateways in Europe and compared the ‘winterisation’ charges levied by the rental companies of Avis, Hertz, Sixt and Europcar.

Winterisation charges, which include winter tyres and snow chains, can be compulsory charges and usually have to be paid for on arrival when picking up the hire car.  The cost varies enormously amongst the five researched destinations of Geneva, Turin, Innsbruck, Barcelona and Sophia (Bulgaria), from £75 with Avis in Barcelona, to £45 with Hertz in Geneva to only £14 in Sophia with Sixt.   

The rules and regulations on winter tyres and snow chains vary between countries.  In Austria, for instance, driving without winter tyres between 1 November and 15 April could leave the driver liable for a fine of around 5,000 € as well as losing your car to the impound lot.  Despite this, Sixt still charges an additional £45 for winter tyres and snow chains when hiring from Innsbruck.

Winter tyres are not compulsory in Switzerland, Italy, Spain and Bulgaria, however, if local signs indicate that snow chains should be carried in the vehicle, you are required to do so and if an accident were to occur a motorist without winter tyres would have a far greater chance of receiving the responsibility of any damage incurred from the collision.  

Travellers are advised to research the ‘winterisation’ charge that each rental company levies, while also taking into account the original rental cost.  For example, a traveller hiring from Geneva would be compelled to pay a compulsory ‘winterisation’ charge from Sixt costing £42; could choose to pay for winter tyres from Hertz for a fee of £48; while Avis and Europcar include the cost in their original car hire fee. 

Motorists should expect to pay around £40 - £45 for winterisation charges across the destinations (NB. the research was for a week’s booking of a medium compact car, 27 Dec 2013 to 3 Jan 2014).

“It’s frustrating that that the rental companies use ‘winter’ as yet another opportunity to make money from their car hire customer but unfortunately it’s your responsibility and not the rental company’s to make sure that you’re driving with the correct equipment for wintery conditions,” said Ernesto Suarez, founder and CEO of  “We advise that you shop around and make sure that you factor in the ‘winterisation’ cost.”     

EU laws regarding winter tyres and snow chain requirements are as follows:

  • Germany - Must have winter or all season tyres (M+S*) fitted during winter seasons.
  • Austria - Must have winter tyres (M+S*) fitted on snow covered roads from 1st Nov - 15th Apr.
  • France - Carry snow chains and use as directed by local signs.
  • Switzerland - Carry snow chains and use as directed by local signs. Winter tyres are recommended but not compulsory.
  • Andorra - Carry snow chains and use as directed by local signs.
  • Italy - Carry snow chains and use as directed by local road signs. Winter tyres are recommended but not compulsory.
For further information on EU winter driving laws and more take a look at our useful winter driving infographic.
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