17 Things to Know Before Renting a Car in Milan Italy (2023)

Considering renting a car in Milan? Look no further, then. In this post, I will tell you all about renting a car in Milan, including practical tips and more.

I used to live in Milan for many years and every time I go back I usually rent a car because I don’t have my own car anymore and having the flexibility to move around at my own place is priceless.

So even if the public transportation in Milan and the surrounding is relatively good, a car is almost usually the best choice. In this post, I will also explain when you don’t need it instead.

Besides being the world’s fashion capital and Italy’s second-largest city, Milan is also known for its history, architecture, and cuisine (but it’s Italy so you get mouth-watering cuisine almost everywhere).

If you are wondering, to move around in Milan, it’s best to use public transportation or, at night, taxis.

However, renting a car in Milan is the best choice when it comes to exploring the nearby attractions.

If this is your plan, then keep reading. In this post, I will share everything you need to know before renting a car in Milan including – but not limited to – driving tips, necessary documents, and where to find the cheapest car.

Milan aerial view at night
Milan – Photo from Canva

Things to know before renting a car in Milan 

1. Make sure you have the necessary documents 

First things first, you won’t be able to rent a car in the first place unless you bring some necessary documents. Luckily, you only really need 3 documents.

👉🏽 ID (passport): All rental companies require some form of ID before they let you rent a car.

For this purpose, your passport will do to verify your identity and country of origin. 

👉🏽 Driver’s license: If you’re traveling from US, Canada, EU, Australia, or New Zealand, you shouldn’t need an IDP to drive in Italy.

Some car rental agencies will outright require an IDP before they let you rent a car; so yeah, get an IDP.

An International Driver’s Permit translates your license into 10 different languages, which will make it easier to minimize language barriers when you’re driving around in Italy. 

👉🏽 Age eligibility: You need to be at least 21 years old in order to rent a car in Italy. That being said, most rental companies will charge drivers under 25 extra for the additional insurance risk.

Some rental agencies might also have a soft upper age limit, typically around 65-75, after which you’ll be required to provide additional documentation to prove that you’re fit to drive.

Typically, a medical certificate from your doctor and documentation from your insurance provider should be sufficient.

View of the Teatro alla Scalla with trams in front
Teatro alla Scala, Milan – Photo from Canva

2. Payment mode & terms

The next most important thing after your documents are the payment terms. I recommend paying for your rental with a credit card because it’s easier, but you basically have 3 main options.

👉🏽 Credit card: All rental companies will accept credit cards in Italy. The reason is that they put a holding charge on your card to cover any potential damages.

Don’t worry, it’s just a security deposit that will be released once you return your car; make sure you have enough credit available on your card for the hold.

It’ll also help if the credit card is in the name of the driver who will be driving the rental.

👉🏽 Debit card: A few car rental companies in Milan will accept a debit card.

However, most won’t, for the aforementioned reasons. Make sure to inquire with the rental agency beforehand if they accept debit cards.

👉🏽 PayPal: Some agencies will also accept PayPal as a payment method.

However, same as debit cards, you should inquire from the agency beforehand about whether they accept PayPal and whether there are any accompanying additional charges.

Via meravigli milan
Via Meravigli- Milan – Photo from Canva

3. Understand the car rental insurance policies 

Since you can’t drive in Italy without valid insurance, you’ll also need to be aware of the insurance options.

👉🏽 Collision Damage Waiver Insurance (CDW): CDW is the most basic type of insurance offered by rental agencies that limits your financial responsibility in case of an accident. It still comes with a deductible, which can get quite high at times. 

If possible, you should try and go for an SCDW (Super Collision Damage Waiver).

The advantage of SCDW is that it covers much more of the car than the basic CDW, and, in many cases, it either completely eliminates the deductible or greatly reduces sit.

👉🏽 Credit card insurance: Your credit card company might offer rental car insurance as a perk.

However, this insurance is secondary, which means it’ll only kick in once your primary insurance has been exhausted.

Be sure to inquire with your CC company if they offer this, and, if so, what the terms of the insurance are.

👉🏽 Car rental insurance cost: Insurance costs for your rental can vary greatly depending on what type of car you’re driving, the duration of the rental, and the rental agency.

Typically, SCDW will cost you around €20 to €30 per day; but that cost can go up depending on the aforementioned factors.

👉🏽 Discover car insurance – I usually recommend booking your car rental on the aggregator Discover Cars, because on their platform you can compare rates from different companies.

They also offer full coverage for only 7.13 USD per day. Just make sure you read the fine print.

Discover cars insurance
Girl getting out of her car with key in her hands
Photo from Canva

4. Choose your rental car strategically

Some options are just better when it comes to picking which car to rent. Here are the factors you should consider when making your decision.

👉🏽 Transmission type: If you’re used to sticking shift, the good news, is manual cars are actually cheaper to rent.

On the other hand, if you’re not comfortable with a manual transmission, opt for an automatic car.

Be aware, however, that automatic cars are both more expensive to rent and are less common; so you might want to make your booking in advance.

👉🏽 Size of car: Opting for a smaller car comes with several advantages. For one, smaller cars consume significantly less fuel, so you’ll save a ton on fuel costs.

The second huge advantage is that smaller cars are much better suited to Milan’s narrow streets, which can get quite busy during rush hours and in peak tourism season. 

👉🏽 Pickup and drop-off locations: Some pickup and drop-off locations may come with extra charges.

Typically, pickup/drop-off locations at airports and train stations will come with extra charges. Research the most economical locations for yourself, and use those.

👉🏽 Read the reviews: Reviews from previous customers, both about the car and the rental agency, provide valuable insights into both.

Do some extra research online and read reviews before making your final decision.

Girl heading into her car rental with a suitcase

5. Read your contract & avoid extra charges 

Nobody wants to be hit with extra charges. In order to avoid that, make sure you read your contract thoroughly (including the fine print), and follow these two tips.

👉🏽 Do a walk around and inspect your rental car: When you pick up your rental, make sure to inspect it thoroughly and take note of any existing damage to the car.

Take photos and videos of any scratches, dents, broken features, etc. and report them to the agent (make sure it’s documented).

That way, you won’t be held responsible for any preexisting damages when you return your car.

👉🏽 Return your rental car with the same amount of fuel when you received it: Most, if not all, rental agencies have a full fuel tank policy; which means you’ll get your car with a full or nearly full tank, and you’re supposed to return your car with the same amount.

If you don’t do so, your rental agency will deduct some amount from the security deposit. So make sure to return your rental with a full fuel tank.

Milano Navigli
Milano Navigli

6. Drive on the right-hand side of the road

Driving on the right-hand side can be disorienting if you’re coming from a country that drives on the left. Safety comes first, and it’s important that you take your time and ease into it.

If you come from the US you are good!

A few things to keep in mind are:

✔️ Keep to the right lane, not just in Milan but all throughout Italy.

✔️ In cases when you have to switch to the left lane to overtake slower vehicles, exercise extra caution.

✔️ At roundabouts, give way to traffic coming from the left side. 

✔️ Be aware of coming traffic when turning left.

7. Road layouts can be curvy and confusing

Milan’s roads and streets can be quite confusing for visitors, presenting unique challenges for drivers who are new to the city.

Keep the following tips in mind to navigate the city like a pro. 

🚗 The streets are narrow and have tight corners. When you combine that with Italian drivers, who are known to drive aggressively, staying alert is mandatory. 

🚗 Some roads in Milan, especially in the city center, are one-way or have restricted access. Pay close attention to navigation apps and road signs to avoid driving the wrong way or entering a restricted zone.

🚗 Rural roads outside the city aren’t that much better. They’re winding, curvy, and can have limited visibility. While they’ll have less traffic, you should still exercise caution on them.

8. Use of your GPS navigation (Google Maps)

Google Maps or WAZE are the best app for navigation purposes, not just in Milan, but almost anywhere on the planet.

On Google Maps you can also download maps offline for later use, offline navigation, real-time traffic updates, alternative routes during rush hours, road closures, or construction, voice-guided navigation, etc. make the app a must-have. 

So if you’re going to be visiting Milan, I can’t recommend Google Maps highly enough.

Make sure you save the city’s map offline on your device; Milan has great internet connectivity but you never know.

View of the Castelo Sforzesco with a huge water fountain in front
Castelo Sforzesco, Milan – Photo from Canva

9. Parking can be a challenge

With narrow roads come parking challenges. You basically have 3 options available when it comes to parking in Milan.

🅿️ Free parking: is indicated by white-colored areas. These are rare to find in or near the city center.

🅿️ Paid parking: is indicated by a blue sign on the road. You can find parking garages, lots, or metered street parking all over the city. Paid parking will cost you around €3 per hour.

🅿️ Residents-only parking: is indicated by yellow. As the name implies, yellow zones are reserved only for people who have resident permits.

10. Many of the best places are closed for cars

Milan is a city with a very interesting history, and, as such, there are tons of great places to explore.

However, many of these places are closed to traffic. In these cases, you’ll have to park your car and walk for a bit to get to these places. z

Alternatively, you can make use of Milan’s excellent public transportation system to explore these places and use your car everywhere else.

11. Limited traffic zones in Milan (ZTL Zones)

ZTL stands for Zona a Traffico Limitato or Limited Traffic Zone. ZTLs are spread throughout Italy, and Milan is no exception. Their purpose is to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality. 

You, as a tourist, need to know the following about ZTLs.

👉🏽 Vehicle access to ZTLs is restricted during the mentioned hours. Each ZTL will have signs mentioning the hours during which traffic is restricted. During these hours, typically only residents, authorized vehicles, or those with special permits can drive inside ZTLs.

👉🏽 Make note of the ZTLs around Milan, and their hours if you plan to go somewhere.

👉🏽 If your hotel/accommodations are located within a ZTL, ask your hotel/host for a temporary permit or nearby parking locations outside the zone. 

Street in the Brera District with buildings on each side and plants
Brera District, Milan – Photo from Canva

12. Toll fees can be expensive

If you plan on driving on the Autostrada, the Italian motorway, be prepared for toll fees.

These fees can be a bit expensive and should factor into your budget. There are 3 main ways of paying the toll.

💰 Cash: In case you want to use cash to pay your tolls, follow the white-painted lines to the white signs that have the cash sign on them

💰 Debit/credit card: For card payments, you can follow the blue lines. Some white lines (not all), also accept cards; these will be indicated by a white sign with the icon of a card and cash.

💰 Telepass: In case you have a Telepass card, look for the Telepass sign on top of the paying boot when you enter the highway and when you leave

13. Stop by an Autogrill

Stopping by the Autogrill is a must-have experience if you’re going to be traveling on the Autostrada.

Autogrill is a popular chain of restaurants scattered throughout Italy’s motorways. It’s so popular that, at this point, all motorway restaurants are referred to as Autogrill by the Italians.

Each Autogrill location will have a restaurant, a shop, restrooms, and a fuel station.

Take advantage of these when traveling on the motorways to experience this unique Italian way.

My sister and I love to stop by an auto grill and sometimes we drive during lunch or breakfast time so that we can stop there for our meal.

Aerial view of the skyscraper in Milan
Milan – Photo from Canva

14. Follow Milan driving laws

Following traffic laws is a must when traveling to any location. Doing so makes sure that you and other people have a safe experience. In particular, you need to watch out for these.

✔️ Traffic lights: Traffic lights work the same way in Milan: red means stop, yellow means caution and green means go. Also, be aware that turning at red lights is not allowed anywhere in Italy.

✔️ Signage: Road signs are standardized throughout the EU, so if you’re traveling from within the EU you won’t have much of a problem. In any case, you should familiarize yourself with Italian signs and learn the meaning of common phrases on the signs to understand important information.

✔️ Seat belts: Wearing seat belts is mandatory for all car passengers throughout Italy. Remember, safety always comes first.

✔️ Use of mobile phones: Using your phone while driving is illegal in Milan and throughout Italy. If you need to make a call when driving, you will need to stop and park the car first. Speakers are not allowed either.

✔️ Drunk driving: The BAC limits in Italy are 0.05% if you have more than 3 years of driving experience, and 0% if you have less than 3 years.

I highly recommend that you err on the side of caution, and not drive after drinking. If you drink, even socially, please use the public transport system or a taxi.

15. Car seats: General requirements

If you’re traveling with children and they’re not going to be accompanied in the back seat by someone who’s 16 or older, you’re legally required to have car seats when driving. 

All children with a height of less than 150 cm (4.92 feet) and weighing less than 36 kgs (79.3 lbs) have to be strapped into a car seat that’s appropriate for their height and weight.

There’s no age limit for this rule in Italy, only height and weight.

Most rental companies will have the option of car seats, but it costs quite a bit. So you might want to travel with your own car seats in order to avoid those extra charges.

Alternatively, if you’re planning a trip that’ll last over a week, you can buy a car seat for the time being; for trips lasting several days, the cost of a rented car seat will go well above buying one.

Milan Piazza Duomo from the Cathedral roof
Milan Piazza Duomo from the Cathedral roof – Photo from Canva

16. Types of roads & speed limits

There are 4 main types of roads in Italy with their own speed limits.

👉🏽 Autostrada: Motorways have a speed limit of 130 km/h (80 mph), but this will be reduced to 110 km/h (68 mph) in case of inclement weather conditions like snow or wet weather.

👉🏽 Strada Extraurbana Principale and Strada Extraurbana Secondaria: Main and secondary extra-urban roads have a speed limit of 90 km/h (56 mph), or 80km/h (49 mph) in bad weather conditions.

👉🏽 Strada Urbana: On urban roads, the speed limit is 50 km/h (31 mph).

👉🏽 Strada Bianca: The literal translation is “white road”. These are basically unpaved roads. Speed limits on these vary according to signage on the road. In case you can’t spot signage, drive in a way that feels safe for both you and other drivers.

17. Know the emergency hotlines (in case of car breakdowns & accidents)

It always pays to prepare in advance for emergencies, no matter where you’re traveling. Save the following numbers for when you’re visiting Italy.

📞 116: Italian roadside assistance

📞 112: European emergency number

📞 113: Local police

📞 Also have the contact number of your rental agency in case of any issues related to your rental.

Aerial view of the Sfroza Castle
Sfroza Castle, Milan – Photo from Canva

Do you need to rent a car in Milan Italy?

If you’re just going to stay in Milan and you’re not going to explore the surrounding areas, you don’t really need to rent a car.

When I used to live in Italy I didn’t own a car and moving around the city by tram, busses, and underground transportation was very easy.

Nowadays Google Maps will tell you the best route and transportation as well.

The city has an excellent public transportation system which will let you see almost all of the sights; for the rest, you can use taxis or ridesharing services. 

However, if you don’t want to limit yourself to just Milan when you’re visiting, having a car will let you explore everything at your own pace and on your own terms.

📌 Can foreigners drive in Milan?

Yes. Provided that you fulfill all the requirements I’ve covered in the first point, you can drive in Milan without any issues.

📌 Can Americans rent a car in Milan, Italy?

Yes, Americans will have no issues with renting a car in Milan, Italy. If you’re traveling from the US, though, I highly recommend that you make your booking online.

That way, you’ll often score much better deals compared to getting a rental in person when you’re in the city.

Urban street in historic centre in Milan with people waiting for the bus
Historic Centre, Milan – Photo from Canva

📌 How much does it cost to rent a car in Milan Italy?

The cost of renting a car in Italy can vary greatly depending on the type of car you rent, the agency you rent from, the time of the year, and other factors.

Typically, a small car will cost you about €30-€60 per day. Keep in mind that this figure doesn’t include fuel, insurance, tolls, and other expenses.

📌 Is driving in Milan Italy easy?

It depends on your personal experiences with driving. If you’re already used to driving on the right side of the road and navigating narrow streets, you’ll find adjusting to Milan quite easy.

Don’t worry if that’s not you; you can still ease into it. It’s not very difficult to get used to driving in Milan.

Best rental cars in Milan Italy

Milan has no shortage of places to rent a car. My personal recommendation is Discover Cars. I cannot recommend that service highly enough.

When you go online and search for a rental, you get results from a variety of rental agencies and you can pick the best option out of those.

There are no hidden fees, what you see is what you get.

Best Car Rental Deals w/ Free Cancellation, Compare & Save! | Discover Cars

Find the best car rental deals and explore around freely, at your own pace. My favorite way to enjoy a destination!

Aerial view of the Northern Lombardy Region in Milan
Arco della Pace – Milan – Photo from Canva

Frequently Asked Questions About Renting a Car in Milan

Is it worth renting a car in Milan?

Whether it’s worth renting a car in Milan depends on what you’re looking to get out of your vacation.

As I’ve said earlier, you won’t need a car if all you want to do is explore the city of Milan; the public transportation system is nothing short of excellent, and any gaps in it are filled by taxis and ridesharing services.

If you want to go beyond just exploring the popular hotspots, I recommend renting a car and also visiting the surrounding countryside. 

What do you need to rent a car in Milan?

Basically, you’ll need your passport, driver’s license (you might need an IDP depending on where you’re coming from), and your credit card. You also need to be over 21 in order to rent a car.

View of the Naviglio Canal at night
Naviglio Canal, Milan – Photo from Canva

Is it expensive to rent a car in Milan?

It depends on which type of car you’re renting. There are both economical and expensive options available.

Compared to the cost of just using public transport, renting a car can be expensive. 

Is it easy to get around Milan without a car?

Yes, the city has multiple modes of public transportation available, including buses, trams, and metro.

It’s a cinch to get around Milan using those.

View of the cityscape and the Milan Cathedral
Milan Cathedral – Photo from Canva

Is Uber available in Milan?

Uber and other taxi apps are easily available in Milan but they are not as convenient as in many other countries. They have more or less the same rates as taxis.

Is a taxi expensive in Milan?

It depends on the time of the day, traffic conditions, and how long of a trip you’re taking in a taxi.

In general, relying primarily on taxis to get around will be significantly more expensive than renting your own car.

Corso Cristoforo Colombo Street in Milan, with yellow buildings and a yellow tram driving on the left side of the image
Corso Cristoforo Colombo Street, Milan- Photo from Canva

Final Thoughts: Things to know before renting a car in Milan Italy

And there you go! In this article, I covered all the tips you need to know in order to rent a car in Milan like a pro.

Now you know about all the documents you need, different payment methods you can use, how to navigate the narrow roads, and much more.

Now, ultimately, the decision to rent a car in Milan rests with you; you can decide based on your preferences and the experiences you wish to have.

Either way, Milan is an excellent city where you’ll have the time of your life regardless of whether or not you rent a car. Safe travels!