In which countries are automatic transmissions common?

Operating the vehicle - switching, refueling, etc.

In the USA, only automatic cars are usually given out as rental cars. If you like to switch manually, you will have to get used to the automatic shift.

Table of Contents
Starting the vehicle | Automatic | Search rental cars on comparison platforms | Operation of the circuit | Stopping / Parking | Cruise control (tempomat) | Petrol / petrol stations | What to do in the event of an accident | Return of the vehicle | Self help

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The rental vehicles in the US are consistently Automatic car, a car with a gearshift takes a long time to look for. For those who do not have much experience in this area, the following information is intended to make it easier to get started with the operation of such a vehicle.

Starting the vehicle

Keep the footbrake depressed when you turn the ignition key to start. Operate the starter for 3-5 seconds at a time until the engine starts. Do not use the accelerator pedal when starting, otherwise the engine may "drown”.


The instruction manual varies depending on the type of car. The arrangement of the gears depends on where the gearshift is located in the type of car: on the steering wheel or in the center console next to the driver's seat. When the gear stick is in the center console it has a thumb button that you have to press to move the stick.

  • Start on D. = Release drive + handbrake
  • step 1 = switch down on steep inclines (or up L. = Low)
  • step 2 = downshift on medium inclines
  • Stop, P. = Parking, the ignition key can only be removed here
  • Neutral, N = Neutral, for starting or for longer periods of inactivity
  • Backward, R. = Reverse, only shift when the car is stationary

Search rental cars on comparison platforms

In our test of various comparison platforms, the provider won. The site compares almost 150 providers from over 170 countries and also has a comprehensive range for the USA. The rental car in the USA can be found quickly by simply entering the location and the date including the time.

By the way: Rental cars and hotels are often cheaper than a motorhome vacation.

Operation of the circuit

When the vehicle is stationary, the gear lever should be in P (Park). With some types, the ignition key must be turned to "ON" before the gearshift lever can be moved out of the "P" position. The ignition key can be removed in the "P" park position. You always have to stop before you can switch to "P". When you get out of the car, make sure the handbrake is fully applied and in the "P" park position. Depress the brake pedal when shifting from “P” to any other position. Otherwise the car may move unexpectedly. If there is a thumb button on the gear stick, you need to press it to shift gears.

Stopping / parking

Always keep your foot on the brake when stopping (the car can roll without accelerating). Automatic gearbox in position "P" (see display on the dashboard). Apply the handbrake. Remove the ignition key (usually not possible in the lowest ignition lock position, a button next to the ignition lock may have to be pressed). Before departure: always release the brake first!

Cruise control (tempomat)

Most rental cars have a so-called cruise control (cruise control), which makes driving relaxed, especially on long journeys. If it is switched on, you can take your foot off the accelerator and the vehicle will maintain the set speed without any compromise. The switches for operating the cruise control are located on the steering wheel:

  • On / off = On / off
  • set = Setting the speed
  • Res = Reset, resume the last saved speed

The operation is quite simple: First of all, the cruise control is always switched on while driving ("On") and accelerates or reduces the driving speed to the desired speed. If this is reached according to the speedometer display, press the switch"set+ "and takes your foot off the accelerator. Now everything should run automatically and the car should maintain its speed, regardless of whether it goes uphill, downhill or flat straight ahead. If you then press the accelerator pedal or press the brake, the cruise control is automatically switched off. Who can also use the switch "OffPress "to switch off. Use the reset switch ("Res") the last saved speed can be switched on again at any time (unless the ignition was switched off in the meantime). Of course, you can also switch to a different speed at any time while driving via"set+ "save.

Petrol / petrol stations

In the USA, apart from diesel, a distinction is made between regular or normal (87 octane), plus or mid grade (89 octane) and premium, super, supreme, high test or ethyl (92 octane), which are unleaded (unleaded) and - only rarely - leaded. A rental car usually only needs Regular. The cheapest way to refuel is at self-service gas stations. They are the rule today. At petrol stations with service, the attendant receives no tip. Compared to local conditions, gasoline is still cheap. It should be noted that the delivery is not calculated in liters, but in gallons (1 gallon = 3.785 l).

However, prices from $ 1.30 a gallon in 1999 have now risen. In the spring of 2008, the price of gasoline per gallon was nearly $ 4. Across the USA, the average gallon price was $ 3.65, with the peak in California at $ 3.90. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) does not expect the price of petrol to drop in the summer of 2008. The highest gasoline prices of all time are forcing even less energy-conscious Americans to react according to economic reason: they drive less. The last time such a development occurred in the USA was in 1979.

A Overview of gasoline prices for Unleaded Gas throughout the USA, the American Automobile Club AAA offers daily updates on the website Gas Price Watch provides an overview of the development of gasoline prices for cars in the USA and Canada on the Internet. The current highest and lowest price as well as the average price in the country are always given, and a regional search is also possible. In general, the petrol prices in remote rural areas are sometimes much higher than in metropolitan areas and a tourist surcharge is apparently charged in areas that are heavily frequented by tourists.

A technical note on first refueling: Usually the tap for the correct type of gasoline is removed from the holder (remove nozzle) and insert it into the filler neck. The valve mechanism on the tap can be very different from petrol station to petrol station. If gasoline does not come in despite pressing the correct point on the locking mechanism, you may have to do the following: Either lift the lower lever of the tap holder on the pump ("lift”) To reset the counter to“ zero ”or press a special button on the pump that starts the refueling process. Then you should be able to refuel as you normally would at home.

At more modern petrol stations, a decision can be made between credit card debit and cash payment with regard to the payment of the fuel bill by entering the appropriate information at the petrol pump. The credit card is inserted into the slot provided on the fuel pump and then one follows the written or displayed further fueling instructions (usually only remove the tap after the credit card has been "activated"). Upon request, an invoice can be printed out (button "receipt"Press). If you want to pay in cash, press the corresponding button on the pump ("pay cashier inside " or similar) and then follow the tank instructions. Payment is made after filling up in the "shop". It is rarely necessary to pay before refueling ("pay cashier first"). If this is required, you deposit a sum of money with the cashier and you can then refuel up to this amount. If you use less than you have deposited, you will be reimbursed the difference.

Warning: Some US states do not allow you to refuel yourself.

What to do in the event of an accident

The law of damages in the USA is regulated differently in serious areas than in this country.

  • there is no strict liability, rather the guilt of the other party in the accident must be proven;
  • First and foremost, your own insurance company pays damages. The other party in the accident can only be sued if this does not have to be done (he - and not his liability insurance - must be sued if necessary);
  • In principle, all claims items must be proven by receipts;
  • extrajudicial and procedural costs are not reimbursed (no reimbursement of expert fees unless a judge has ordered the expert opinion).

Therefore, the preservation of evidence at the scene of the accident is of particular importance.

What to do at the scene of the accident

    In addition to securing the scene of the accident and providing assistance to the injured (due to American law on damages, only if action is unavoidable!), It is important to document the course of the accident:
  • Record neutral accident witnesses with their names and addresses (statements from relatives and vehicle occupants are considered to be of little relevance);
  • call the police for personal injury and property damage (from $ 200, in any case from $ 500). The phone number for police and ambulance services is 911 throughout the United States;
  • Document the scene of the accident, damage and injuries through photos / videos;
  • Note the names and addresses of the other parties involved in the accident (driver and owner) as well as their liability insurance and insurance number. Corresponding proof of insurance must be carried in the vehicle in the USA (in your rental car you will usually find these documents on the back of the sun visor on the driver's side or in the glove compartment).

In principle, do not sign anythingunless they understand the content without any problem and agree to it. Avoid making any statements that could mean that you were to blame for the course of the accident. What the Repair of damage Please contact your car rental company immediately to clarify further claims settlement with them. Act according to its instructions. If you do not reach the landlord, you may have to be towed to the nearest (contract) workshop (only if towing costs will be reimbursed as part of the damage). It can be helpful to contact the ADAC emergency call in Orlando be: 1-888-222-1373. In order to Claims for damages the following claims are to be entered intosubstitutable“:

    Personal injury
  • Medical, medical and nursing costs, insofar as these are not reimbursed by your own (health) insurance;
  • Compensation for pain and suffering and compensation for other immaterial damage (scars, lost zest for life, etc. - the regulations on this are considerably more generous in the USA than in Germany, but cannot be enforced in practice without legal or expert advice)
  • Loss of earnings (proof by confirmation of the employer or submission of tax documents);
  • Survivor's pension.
    Property damage
  • Repair costs in the amount of the cost estimate;
  • Current or replacement value less residual value in the case of total losses;
  • Depreciation in some states only (including Florida, Georgia, Washington);
  • Towing costs to the next workshop (proof of invoice);
  • Postage and telephone costs with proof;
  • reasonable rental car costs for the duration of a repair, limited to the current or replacement value less residual value in the case of total write-offs;
  • Additional costs for accommodation, meals and the return journey, as far as they are due to the accident. A self-saving is offset;
  • Compensation for loss of use only for commercial use;
  • Expert costs only in the context of a process if the judge has ordered the expert opinion.

Claims for compensation become statute-barred after five years for property damage and after one to two years for personal injury. American insurance companies usually strive for blanket regulations. If an agreement does not succeed, the only option left is legal action, which can be very time-consuming and costly (several years). Almost nothing works here without an American lawyer. Further information on this topic can be found under the keyword security.

Return of the vehicle

First of all, you should clarify whether the vehicle can be returned directly at the airport or further afield. Anyone who has not already clarified this when renting the car can ask the landlord or the airport by phone. Of course, the most convenient way to return it is at the airport. Otherwise you have to plan more time, because now you have to use shuttle buses again to reach the airport terminal after the rental car has been returned. When returning the vehicle in city centers and smaller places, you should inquire about the opening times of the rental car branch in advance so as not to stand in front of closed doors. On arrival the signs ”Rental Car Return" consequences.

Park the car and leave the key in the ignition. Remove suitcases and other belongings from the car. Usually an employee of the rental company can be found on site with a laptop, who then takes care of everything else and hands over the final invoice with the question of consent. Then you go to the terminal or use the shuttle bus (see below). If there is no such employee, you have to take action yourself: note the time, fuel level, gasoline purchase and mileage on the ticket folder (or contract). The signs "Rental return" consequences. In the office, hand over the rental agreement and receive a copy. With the Shuttle-Bus drive to the airport terminal, tell the driver the airline. The shuttle bus stops in front of the correct terminal.

Self help

Car does not start - No reaction when the key is turned: Turn the key to the ”On” position, go through all the gears and firmly back to the ”Park” position.

Car does not start - crankshaft rotates but the engine does not start: Some vehicles have a “petrol lock” safety switch in the trunk. This switch is marked with an (orange) sticker in the trunk. The lock is activated if the vehicle moves violently. Once turned off, the vehicle will operate normally.

The engine is "flooded": Since the car has an injection engine, the accelerator must never be depressed when starting, otherwise the engine could drown. If this happens, restart after a period of standstill.

The ignition key cannot be turned: The car is equipped with an anti-theft lock on the steering. If the ignition key does not turn, just move the steering wheel from left to right with your left hand and turn the ignition key with your right hand at the same time. If your ignition key is jagged on both sides, turn it and insert it into the ignition the other way around.

The trunk lid cannot be closed: With central locking, the trunk lid unlocks automatically when the driver's door is opened. When the driver's door is locked, the trunk is also locked. Then press the push button trigger on the trunk lid.

The gearshift lever cannot be moved to the drive position: On most models, the footbrake must be applied to switch to the ”D” position.