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Car Rental in Ireland: Local Tips and Advice

Renting a car in Ireland is the best way to know this beautiful country at its best. With a car, you will be able to explore Ireland at your own pace, change your itinerary, get lost in the middle of nowhere. The problem with car rental in Ireland is that it’s not as simple as it is in other places. That’s why we have decided to write this in-depth article: we’re based in Ireland and we have experienced hassle ourselves.

We don’t own a car, we often rent and that’s why we can explain everything you need to know about car rental in Ireland, tips and advice included.

So keep reading till the end: we have a few surprising tips for you to get the most out of your car rental in Ireland.

The basic of car rental in Ireland

We get thousands of requests from people looking to visit Ireland and in pain because of the car rental, so this is a very short list of rules and things you need to know if you’re in the process of booking a car to drive in the Emerald Island:

  • You cannot rent a car if you are under 21;
  • It is difficult to rent a car if you are over 75 years old;
  • Cars can only be hired with a credit card (but keep reading because below we’ll show you how to rent a car in Ireland without a credit card!);
  • Cars can only be rented with a driving license valid for at least 12 months;
  • If you are a resident of the US, Canada or the European Union and you have a valid driver’s license, you can drive without an International Driver’s License;
  • Drivers from other countries will need to obtain an International Driver’s License.

What car to choose?

Let’s be honest: you don’t need an SUV or special cars in Ireland. The island is still quite rural, but a classic car is more than enough. We recommend you choose a car you feel comfortable driving, also considering that Irish roads can be tricky, to be gentle, and very very narrow. If you don’t pack light, you also need a spacious car for your luggage: bear in mind that the bigger the car, the hardest it can be (because of the conditions of the roads).

Where to Rent a Car in Ireland

Choosing the location where to pick up your rented car in Ireland really depends on where you land and what you want to do. If your first stop is Dublin and you will be stopping in the city for a few days we suggest you rent the car in the city so as to avoid going back to the airport. If you land in Dublin and you want to go immediately to the countryside, then you have to rent your car at the airport.

Same thing if you land in other cities, Belfast or Cork. If you plan to rent a car in one location and bring it back into another, remember that you will have to pay a surcharge. Make sure you check opening hours and plan your schedule accordingly, also taking note of the closing time and weekend hours.

The less expensive and more common types of cars are the ones with manual transmissions; if you do not drive a manual transmission vehicle in your daily life, you can ask for automatic in Ireland.

Choose a Car Rental Company

What are the best companies for car hire in Ireland? This is another question we get a lot because if you look for this information online you certainly will find plenty of options. You can go for the big names, such as Hertz, Avis, Europcar, Budget, etc or for the local names, mostly Dan Dooley in Dublin and Irish Car Rentals.

How do you choose the best one? We have a few tips for you:

  • Choose based on your schedule and your pick up and drop off location;
  • Choose based on price;
  • Choose based on availability.

If you want to compare prices, we recommend HolidayCars, a comparison site, so you can determine which companies are offering the best deals for your dates.

Always remember that one rental day is calculated from the moment in which the booking begins: this means that if you pick up the car at 11 am you will have to return it on the departure date no later than 11 am; if you return it at 11.30 am, you will be charged an additional day.

Car Rental Insurance in Ireland

Ireland’s car rental terms are a nightmare! Every rented car is insured for the minimum risk and this minimum risk very often is not enough. You can add extra protection only if you have a credit card under your name. To negotiate your rental insurance, these are the terms you need to know:

Collision Damage Waiver (CDW)

The CDW indicates the basic insurance or the maximum amount for which the car is covered in case of an accident or problem. Many companies ask for a deposit, often substantial (it can go up to 2000 euro!), and it’s taken directly from the credit card to ensure that in case of an accident the customer who has only chosen the CDW coverage has money to cover the damage.

Super CDW

This is the full insurance, and it covers all damages to the vehicle and to the people. The fee is calculated on a daily basis. Usually, no credit card deposit is retained because in the event of an accident or a problem the car rental company will pay for everything.

Car Hire Excess

The excess is a pre-authorization on the credit card that is taken during the rental and is refunded when the vehicle is returned without damage. It is usually asked by all car rental contracts in Ireland and refunds can take 3 to 5 working days.

Make sure you always read the fine print and ask for clarifications, if needed.

Renting a Car in Ireland with a Credit Card

All the car rental companies accept credit cards as a form of payment: MasterCard, Visa, American Express and Diners Club. Debit cards or prepaid cards are not usually accepted, and the same is for cash. The driver of the car must have a credit card in his own name and the passengers’ credit card can never be used to pay the rental.

In short, if you rent a car in Ireland under your name, you must provide your credit card to finalize rental and payment.

If you rent a car on behalf of another person, the other person will have to provide your credit card when you pick up the car.

Renting a Car in Ireland without a Credit Card

It is impossible to find a car rental that allows you to rent a car in Ireland without a credit card. Even if you pay in advance, and therefore in principle, you can also use a Debit Card or a Prepaid, upon your arrival at the agency the credit card will still be required as a guarantee against damage and various problems.

That said, if you have a debit card you can try to rent your car using this as a payment and guarantee: the process can be longer, usually does not allow the rental of cars with large displacement and the agency could ask you for additional documents to support of your request.

The second solution is, if possible, to use the credit card of one of the passengers traveling with you, holding the rental to him or her and then adding the second driver: in this way you can both drive and be covered by the insurance. The payment will be made in the name of the driver who is the owner of the credit card. However, the safest and most recommended method is credit card rental, so I suggest you get a credit card issued under your name to avoid problems whatsoever.

Extras when Renting a Car in Ireland

There are other things you may end up paying during your car rental period in Ireland. These are some of the most common:

  • There is a legal requirement for children up to 150cms /36kgs or 12 years of age (whichever they reach first) to use a child seat appropriate to their weight or height;
  • If you are planning to drive to Northern Ireland, you may need to advise the staff at the rental desk because there can be a surcharge;
  • GPS is also considered an extra, and it’s paid separately;
  • A second driver is an extra as well.

Car Rental in Ireland: tips and advice from locals

It’s very hard to navigate the world of Irish car rentals, so here are some of our best tips from a local perspective:

  • If you use a comparison to find the best price for your car rental, remember to check not the basic price but the final price including all the extras (from insurance to additional elements, such as the GPS);
  • It is usually said “book early for peak seasons” but in Ireland, it is better to book in advance, regardless of the season. The country is always crowded and last-minute prices are prohibitive;
  • Always check the status of the car before leaving the rental office, and take pictures to document it;
  • Choose diesel if you intend to travel the whole country or move a lot;
  • Always choose to return the car with full fuel;
  • When you return the vehicle, take pictures and ask for the receipt after the status of the car has been checked;
  • Do not forget to ask about tolls: some rental companies will have the charges added to your bill, others don’t and you have to pay on-site.

Driving in Ireland

These are some of the rules you need to know when driving in Ireland with your rented vehicle

Drive on the left: it means that everything you do as a driver in Ireland will be the mirror image of what you do when driving on the right;

Speed limits: the speed limits are:

  • 50 kph (30 mph) in urban areas;
  • 80kph (50 mph) on single open roads;
  • 100kph (60 mph) on national roads (marked by a green sign)
  • 120 kph (74.5 mph) on motorways;

Road signs: direction signs are in blue for major routes (motorways), green for national roads, and white for local roads. You will notice that all names of the places are listed in Irish and English, and the distances are given in both kilometers and miles;

Seat belts: Seat belts must be worn by the driver and all passengers at all times;

Mobile phones: The use of mobile phones while driving in Ireland is forbidden;

Drinking and driving: The legal limit to drive is 0.5 milligrams of alcohol per milliliter of blood.

That’s all: you’re now ready to rent a car in Ireland!

That’s a lot of information, but we know it’s helpful to have everything at your fingertips: if you’re planning your trip to Ireland and looking for local and update information, get in touch! We can answer your questions and also help in organizing one of the best trips ever: reach out via Instagram, Facebook, or simply send us an email!

About the author
Veruska Anconitano
Veruska is a food and wine travel journalist awarded as Best Food Travel Journalist. Sommelier, in addition to cooking and traveling, she is often called upon to tell his experience during events and seminars.
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