On the 1st May 2016 the EU introduced a new ruling which has had an effect on EU citizens who want to take their hire car over the Swiss border into an EU country. It is now illegal to take a rental car with a non-EU licence plate into an EU country unless it is being driven to your place of residence, using it for work purposes or you are just travelling through on your way out of the EU. The law applies to any non-EU countries but Switzerland's location in the heart of Western Europe means this new law has caused particular confusion for many travellers arriving in the country. Some have reached their car hire desk to find that they may not take their hire car out of Switzerland. People hiring on the Swiss side of Geneva airport have been advised to go over to the French side to hire as French plated cars will mean they can continue their journey as planned. There does not seem to be consistent advice offered by the hire car companies. Many car hire websites do not even broach the subject. We asked for information regarding cross border travel with a hire car picked up from Zurich and received the following responses -
Sixt - Inform reservations that you wish to cross the border and they will have a car ready for you with a suitable registration plate
Avis - Let reservations know if you are intending to leave Switzerland in order to be allocated with a non-Swiss car
Europcar - Company policies state that hire vehicles picked up in Switzerland are able to be driven with no restrictions into most western European countries.
Hertz - Their policy has apparently not altered and hire cars may still be driven out of Switzerland.
Hertz say further that you must inform them more than 24 hours in advance if you are hoping to spend more than 8 days out of Switzerland with the car. This is in reference to an earlier 8 day grace period for cross border travel with Swiss hire cars. However the Swiss finance minister, Ueli Maurer, confirmed that, as a consequence of the new EU ruling, this had been removed on June 13th.
The new ruling has come about as a protection against customs and car fraud but has had an unanticipated effect on the car hire industry. As yet there has been no advice from the EU on how holidaymakers can avoid the problem.
If you are planning on hiring a car in Switzerland and intending to cross the border, it is very important you inform the hire car company when you book your car and follow their guidance as circumstances and laws may change. Some companies are able to provide you with an EU-plated car to enable you to cross the border without falling foul of the new EU rule.