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Earlier this week, TPG Contributor Jason Steele walked us through Tips for Booking Lufthansa First Class Award Tickets, Tips for Flying With Kids in First Class, and Tips for Exploring Frankfurt Airport on a Layover. Today he shares his experience taking advantage of a Lufthansa first class perk – an all-inclusive 3-hour Porsche rental to get out and explore Frankfurt.
In researching what to do during an overnight layover at the Frankfurt airport, I came across an irresistible, yet affordable option of renting a Porsche for a few hours – I mean, how can you refuse a Porsche in Germany? Lufthansa and Avis are offering a three-hour rental for 99.10 Euros, which is about $135 US. That might seem like a lot, but when you factor in all the details, I thought it was worth it. Here’s why.
How the Deal Works…On Paper
First class passengers of Lufthansa, SWISS or Austrian Airlines as well as HON Circle elites from the Miles and More program can rent a Porsche 911 or Panamera at the Frankfurt airport for three hours, providing they present a same-day boarding pass. The 99.10 Euro rate includes all taxes and fees, fuel, and insurance for a 3-hour rental of no more than 150 kilometers, which is about 93 miles. Additional kilometers beyond 150 will be charged .99 Euro, which works out to 83 cents per mile.
Alternatively, you can rent a car for 24 hours for 249.60 Euro (~$339 US), which includes 200km and insurance, but not fuel.
Requirements include being 25 years of age or older, having two credit cards, and having held a driver’s license for more than three years. The offer even refers to the requirement of one card being “Gold”, but my understanding is that this doesn’t apply to American credit cards whose benefits aren’t distinguished by color the way many foreign cards’ are.
Avis and Porsche have put together a series of recommended routes that begin and end at the Frankfurt Airport, are less than 150km, and are designed to showcase both the car and the scenery of the region. These routes should be programmed into the navigation system of the car your rent so you can just press go and be on your way.
There are three ways to book this deal. You can use this link, you can call Avis in Germany at +49 6171 68 1377, or you can speak with your personal assistant at any Lufthansa First Class lounge, or the First Class Terminal in Frankfurt when you arrive.
What you can expect in Frankfurt
I booked my car online a week in advance using the link to Avis for my layover in Frankfurt with my six-year-old daughter. I was a little concerned that we would arrive on a business class short-haul Lufthansa flight that day, and be departing in Lufthansa First Class the next day, so technically I didn’t have a Lufthansa first class boarding pass for the same day.
However, I should not have worried. The Avis representative in Terminal 1 never asked for my boarding pass or enquired about my class of travel. As far as she was concerned, I had a confirmed reservation in her system and she was happy to honor it. Others in this Flyertalk thread report a similar lack of interest in this requirement, so it is probably worth trying to get this deal even if you are not in Lufthansa First Class or HON Circle member.
I presented both my American Express Platinum card and my Chase Ink Bold, which were deemed sufficient. I also had to sign multiple documents promising that I would not be taking the car onto any racetracks, as there are some in Germany that drivers can pay to access with street-legal cars – you’ve got to love Germany!
Regarding the other requirements listed, no one asked me if I had held my driver’s license for more than three years, despite it being newly reissued just a few weeks earlier, but just be sure to bring your passport. As promised, all taxes and fees added up to precisely 99.10 Euro.
The biggest issue was that it took Avis nearly a half an hour to produce the car, which my agent explained had to be brought in from an off-site facility. Once it arrived, I was escorted to the car a short distance away in the massive parking structure under the terminal. After a brief walk around, I was handed the keys to 2013 911 Carrera 4s Cabriolet with the PDK automatic transmission. Here is the link to the U.S. version of this car, which has 420 horsepower and retails for $121,610, before options.
Before I would let the Avis representatives leave, I asked them to change the navigation system from German to English, and to show me how to access the pre-programmed routes. They were happy to change the language, but had no idea what I was talking about when I asked about the pre-programmed suggested routes. When I found the list of stored routes in the system, there was nothing there like what I saw in the brochure. I was on my own.
Going Nowhere Really Fast
Finding yourself in Frankfurt with a Porsche for three hours and nowhere to go is not the worst thing that can happen to you. The whole point of renting a Porsche in Germany is to get on the Autobahn, and that is what we did. After buzzing around some local highways for a bit, I got a feel for the car and enjoyed driving it at some speeds that would have had the cops all over me in the United States.
Yet with nowhere to go, and eating up my available kilometers very quickly, I needed to find some slower, more scenic routes. I pulled over, checked the map, and headed for the Rhine river (which is actually the only geographical feature in Germany that I am familiar with). It turned out to be a good choice as we drove south along the river from Mainz through several small towns. Returning, we took the scenic route through some rural villages amongst the vineyards. Thankfully, the navigation system was useful for directing me back to the airport.
Driving a Porsche
I have some experience driving some high-performance cars, but the Porsche was in class of its own. Not only does its 420hp kick you pretty hard in the pants, but it lets out an angry howl when pressed that turns into a series pops and cracks when you let off the gas. And surprisingly, the European version I drove has a hybrid-like stop-start function that turns the engine off when you come to complete stop, which produces some deafening silence.
On the downside, I never really figured out the car’s navigation system, which I suspect requires a few hours to get the hang of. And the fact that I was given a convertible didn’t really do much for us on a chilly, rainy, winter day in Germany. Nevertheless, my daughter and I still had a little fun playing with the top.
I estimate that just the gasoline consumed over 150 kilometers would cost about $37, based on the current price of premium unleaded in Germany, so it is really like the base rental price was around $99 instead of 99 Euro. Therefore, renting a mid-sized sedan for a day, paying extra for gas and the optional insurance, would probably cost nearly as much.
By comparison, if you are thinking of renting a Porsche 911 stateside, Hertz charges $450 per day, which only includes 75 miles, so the Frankfurt option appears to be much less expensive.
At the same time, I didn’t need to rent a Porsche or any car at all that day, so the experience, like all leisure travel, was justified solely on our personal enjoyment.
The good news is that some insurance is included, but unfortunately it has a deductible of 1,500 Euro (~$2,035). The thought of losing two grand was a little too scary for me, especially when I considered that even the most minor damage to such an exotic car would easily max out the deductible. I also know that my personal automobile insurance does not provide coverage outside of the United States. In addition, nearly all credit cards that offer rental car insurance exclude exotic cars such as the Porsche 911, making that protection worthless.
The one notable exception is the Premium Car Rental Protection from American Express. This policy covers luxury vehicles like the Porsche and has a flat rate of $24.95 per rental period, not per day ($17.95 for California Residents). I signed up for this policy in advance, and it was charged to my American Express Platinum card automatically, along with the rental fee.
Even though my rental was entirely incident free, I was glad I had the coverage. Upon my return of the car, two Avis employees spent ten minutes thoroughly inspecting every inch of the car for damage, and I was glad that I didn’t have to worry about them discovering some stray rock chip that could cost me dearly. For more information, check out my previous post on Choosing the Best Credit Card for Car Rental Insurance.
What I Would Do Differently Next Time
Certainly, I would spend some time in advance studying maps and guide books, trying to plan a route that would best utilize my time in the car. Never again will I rely on the rental car company to pre-program routes into the navigation system! I would also love to have rented the car in the summer, late spring, or early fall, when I could enjoy the scenery and weather a bit more, especially if I got a convertible again.
Over many years of travel, I have spent thousands of dollars on rental cars that I will never remember, but this might have been the best $135 I ever spent on a rental car.