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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Want Some Wheels? Rent What You Can't Buy

For MTHit the road in style in a rented automobile, like this 1973 retro replica of a 1953 Hudson Convertible from Authority Deluxe.
Whether you need a car to flee the stress of the city, or if your bride-to-be simply won't be seen in anything other than a pink limo on your wedding day, you can be sure to find a set of wheels to your liking on Moscow's car-rental market.

However, driving in Moscow can present quite a challenge to the uninitiated, and it pays to be aware of some of the quirks of car rental in Russia -- starting with insurance.

Rental companies are well aware of the visceral nature of local traffic conditions, and depending on the class of the vehicle, drivers should expect to pay the first $150 to $300 of any damage claim in the event that they are responsible for an accident.

"It disciplines the client," said Sergei Kireyev of the A.M. Rent company. "Total coverage encourages irresponsibility."

Drivers' licenses pose less of a problem, at least on the surface.

International drivers' licenses are accepted when processing a booking, and Kireyev said his company has had no problems with clients using their local licenses, assuming they have been in Russia no more than six months. Any longer, however, and a local Russian license must be obtained.

Hidden complications include the whims of Moscow's traffic police, which can be hard to predict. Nadezhda Simonova of the National company recommends that foreigners have their local licenses translated and verified by a notary. This softens the blow when the State Inspectors of Road Traffic Safety, or GIBDD, are presented with, for example, a British license. "The absence of a photograph leaves them stunned," she said.

Some companies also prefer not to do business with individuals. A spokesman for the Greenline firm said the company prefers to work with legal entities -- there have been cases when the cars rented to private individuals simply don't come back.

"Some people rent with intention of using the car for criminal purposes," he said. Theft is on the rise, and fake documents and hot credit cards are hard to spot, he added.

Once these obstacles have been surmounted, however, choosing a car is relatively simple, and the big-name rental companies are well-established locally.

Hertz, for example, can provide 12 classes of vehicles, from the Fiat Punto at a fixed $68 a day to a BMW 5-series at $244 a day, according to Pyotr Andronov, client manager with Hertz's Moscow office.

While prices offered by the rental companies rarely fall below $30 a day, cheaper options do exist.

One local entrepreneur, who preferred not be named, charges between $150 and $300 a month for the use of his Russian vehicles. His clients are mostly expats who don't have a car provided through their work or, if they do, are unable to use it in the evenings or on weekends. There is the added benefit that he takes care of registration, repairs and any accidents -- assuming the person renting is not to blame, that is.

As for the more exotic vehicles -- de rigueur at New Russian weddings -- a swath of companies offer prestigious chauffeur-driven cars.

At the Authority Deluxe company, discerning brides can choose between eight different types of stretched limousines, costing from $55 per hour. And if this strikes them as a little passe, they can always check out the retro section, where a range of glittering Cadillacs and other vintage machines awaits.

Weddings are clearly the main source of revenue for firms of this ilk. Authority Deluxe even offers a range of nuptial services, from organizing banquet halls and musical entertainment to providing strippers for stag nights.

Other than guaranteeing marital bliss, exotic car rental can be used to great tactical effect, said Dmitry Lomakov, director of the Lomakovka vintage-car museum, which hires out cars as a "means of survival" (see www.rosweb.ru/lomakovka).

Often, a visiting auditor will forget all about the following day's meetings when met off the plane by, for example, a stunning 1935 Horch-853 ($200 an hour), Lomakov said.

"His jaw hits the floor. They drive him off in raptures to the hotel where they've organized some kind of crazy banquet -- pretty soon, he's forgotten why he came in the first place," he said.

Not that Lomakov only has business clients.

"There was even an occasion when a guy hired one of the cars to make up with his wife," he said. "He serenaded her from the street -- then off they went for a drive."

Car Rental

Avis Rent-a-Car 284-1937 www.avis.com
A.M.Rent 954-8910 www.amrent.ru
Budget 737-0407 www.budget.ru
Hertz 937-3274 www.hertz.com
Mosrentservice 963-8780 www.mosrent.ru
National 298-6146 www.mbtg.net/national
Penguin Automobile 105-0536 www.penguin-automobile.ru
Rolf 788-6888 www.rolf.ru
Scarlet 916-0112 www.scarlet.ru

Limo Rental

Agency Limousine 954-3636
Absolute Crown 250-5015 www.absolutecrown.ru
VIP Limousine 722-2645 www.limousine.chat.ru
Authority Deluxe 911-2900 www.avto-vip.ru