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BTG GUIDE: Renting a car at the Nürburgring

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Before I started doing BridgeToGantry.com full-time, I spent seven years in the fledgling Nürburgring car hire industry. I've written this page to help you choose your best option for renting a car to drive the Nürburgring. It is split into the following sections:

 


 

Choosing the right car for you

This is a subject close to my heart, and one that I have a VERY strong opinion about. Do NOT rent too much car. Really. If you don't know the track, the traffic and the conditions perfectly then there's no reason to waste money on a GT3 or similar. I listen to people justify extravagant rentals to themselves all the time. It's mostly egotistical bullshit and nothing to do with how much fun they will or won't have. Even if you drive a 1000hp Mansory GT2 at home, there's no need for one on the Nordschleife. Here's why:

Problems with driving an expensive, overpowered rental car in touristenfahrten:

  • Your own expectations are increased. You feel you must go faster on every straight to justify the money you spent...
  • ...and it's way too easy to arrive at a corner too fast.
  • It hurts your ego more to be overtaken by little E30s and Golf mk2s.
  • Even if you can 'stretch' to the bigger rental, can you stretch to the bigger excess? €50k, €75k and even €100k+!
  • In all my years renting cars here, I can tell you the GT3s and M3s do less miles per accident than any other rental.

Advantages of driving a cheaper Swift or Clio:

  • Less money per lap = MORE LAPS PER DAY!
  • You spend less time worrying about the car and more time learning the Nordschleife.
  • A Ferrari or GT3 overtakes you? So what?
  • You overtake a Ferrari or GT3? YOU ARE LEGEND!
  • Risk of crashing is reduced per lap, PLUS excesses are lower if you do. As 'little' as €2500 all-in, for example.

"WAIT," I hear you shout...

"I'm a very experienced racing car driver and I don't want to drive any old crap car!"
Then that's fine, but could you win a race here on your first visit in a single class full of Minis? Or Clios? No, not likely. Therefore just driving a race-prepped smaller car for 25 laps will teach you more than 4 laps in a GT3.

"I'm only here once and I want to make the MOST of this special day!"
The Nürburgring is a once in a life time experience. It doesn't need any spicing up! If you really must enjoy an exotic rental, why not do a road tour with RSR then take a sensible car on the racetrack?

 


 

Driving a regular 'airport rental'

rentalDriving a regular rental car is not a good idea. Most companies like Hertz, Avis, Europcar, et al forbid the use of their cars on race circuits and specifically the Nordschleife in touristenfahrten. In the worst-case scenario (you crash it and kill/injure somebody else) a good lawyer and a hefty fee will probably get the third-parties covered by the Rental Insurance. But you'll still owe the rental company a new car.

While terrible little econo-boxes are unlikely to be fitted with GPS trackers, most rental car companies will spot blued brake discs and heat-damaged tyres sometime after you return the car. After that they can look online at hundreds of photo sites to check if you've driven that car on the 'Ring. I've seen lifetime bans handed out and €2000 charges levied while people are still flying home. And the premium rentals? Like M3s and 911s? Your phone will be ringing as you enter the car park for the North loop. Yep, they're one step ahead of you!

The only times I've seen it make any sense whatsoever are those very rare mid-winter openings where all the ring rental companies are shut and there are no photographers to catch you in the act. And then you'd better just wobble around at 30mph, enjoying your taxi brake pads and all-season tyres at speeds unlikely to cause accidents or leave evidence behind. 


The Worst Case Scenario

No matter what you choose to do, you should always keep in mind what the Worst Case Scenario is. Only fools brush over this part of a rental agreement! When I worked in the trade, I always endeavoured to make this as open and as scary as possible. Better to be worried than to be surprised. So here's the small print you should always check and understand before driving on the 'ring:

  1. What's the maximum you would pay for damage to your rental car?
  2. What's the maximum you would pay for Nürburgring damages and clean-ups? (The biggest bill I've ever seen in 10 years here is €12,000, but a normal crash is still around €2000)
  3. What's the maximum you would pay for damaging somebody else's car? (Some companies make you pay a penalty to cover this!)

This is SERIOUS stuff! The cheapest solution I know of right now is a Swift with Rent4Ring and the extra €199  insurance. Total of 1+2+3 = €2500. By comparison a McLaren from RSR would be €160,000 for all three points. Ask any rental company and they'll tell you: the Worst Case Scenario happens every single year. Don't let it be you!

*NB. Rules can change drastically between public (road-legal) sessions and private events. Some training courses and events include a barrier insurance, but most don't. And if it's a private event, most rental insurances will not cover ANY barrier damage! Renter beware!


 

The Big Three

Company Notes Pros Cons
rent4ring

Founded 2009. Based in Nürburg village.

(Full disclosure:  Rent4Ring advertises with BTG, and I worked here from 2011 to 2014.)

• Cars heavily modified for racetrack use

• Full rollcages, semi-slicks and racing seats with harnesses

• Lower excesses with insurance available against guardrail damage

• RHD Swift available

 

• Limited choice of cars for first-time customers (Swifts and BMW 125i only)

• If you're a big guy, or don't like bucket seats, harneses and rollcages, you're screwed.

rentracecar Founded 2006. The Official rental car supplier at the Nürburgring and the first true Nürburgring rental company too.

• Official rental car company for the Nürburgring

• Large choice of cars 

• Based in the Nordschleife car park

• Half rollcages, upgraded tyres and brakes

• Standard seats and seat belts can be annoying for more demanding track drivers
• No RHD options at all
RSR Nurburg

Began rental operations in 2008, but actually an offshoot from the old Alfa 75 Experience (dating back to the 1990s!).

(Full disclosure: I worked here from 2008 to 2010)

 • Widest choice of cars at the Nürburgring (has use of the fleet from RGS, see below)

• Widest selection of supercars at the Nürburgring (McLaren! Several Porsches! But the Ferrari was stolen, dammit!)

• Road rentals and tours possible

• Many RHD cars available (Clios, M3s, Meganes and maybe more?)

• The largest crash excesses of the top three companies.

• Most cars nearly standard (though you don't need to modify cars such as an R26.R, Exige, or GT3!)

• Some of the older model cars are getting a bit long in the tooth.

 Other options:

Company Notes Pros Cons
RGS Russian company that shares its fleet with RSR Nürburg (see above). They're probably stepping up a notch for 2015... more info soon!
   
Jaco's Paddock Jaco's an old-hand at the Nürburgring and runs a small VLN team. It's sometimes possible to rent one of his road-legal race cars (BMW 325i) for a trackday, or even public session (with supervision!)

• Real racing cars!
• Specialises in one-on-one racing customers

 

• Not a big, customer-facing, major operation. It's a man and a workshop and a few cars.

NeedForRing Relatively new company, heavily focussed on the Italian customers

• Some interesting prices
• Bike rentals(!)

• Older car models
• Limited choice
Ring Speed Motorsport Another company I know too little about, also with an Italian bias. • Totally unknown

• Totally unknown

BigGarage.de Another very new company! promising everything from BMWs to Lamborghinis and Porsches. Appears to be Russian-bias! I will found out more soon!  

 

 


 

Your reviews and comments!

If you've got your own experiences from renting a car at the 'Ring, please comment here:

   

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