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A car parked at Keem Strand on Achill Island, Co. Mayo. Photo: Gary LeStrange Photography for Getty Images.

Renting a Car to See Ireland: 9 Things You Should Know

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Updated July 2021: Are you curious about renting a car to see Ireland? Having a car will give you the freedom to see Ireland at your own pace and you’ll really get to know the country at the same time. Here are some tips that will be useful if you decide to self-drive around the Emerald Isle.

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#1 What Car Rental Company Should I Choose?

Currently, there are more than a dozen car rental companies in Ireland.

Some of them include well-known names like Avis, Budget, and Hertz, as well as the Irish-based company, Dan Dooley, now part of the Enterprise Holdings, Inc., group.

That company also operates Enterprise Rent-A-Car, National Car Rental, and Alamo Rent-A-Car brands, all in Ireland.

Other options for renting a car to see Ireland include the European car rental companies Sixt, a car rental company that I highly recommend, in addition to Europcar.

The comparison website Discover Cars is also worth a look.

Photo: Dragonimages

The company was listed in the Top 100 of the 2020 Financial Times fastest-growing European companies.

A search on its website will show you the availability, price, and options for any type of car you wish to rent.

#2 Age Requirements for Renting a Car in Ireland

While the minimum age to rent a car in Ireland is 21, anyone between the ages of 21 and 25 will pay a surcharge of €25 per day.

Photo: NomadSoul1

That charge also applies to those over the age of 75, although that differs from company to company.

If you are under 25, you must show evidence that you have held a full license for at least 24 months before the date of your car rental pick-up.

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#3 Manual Versus Automatic Transmission

Since most cars in Ireland are operated by a manual transmission, it’s not surprising that renting an automatic car would be more expensive.

Photo courtesy of zenstock for Getty Images Pro.

If you are comfortable driving a stick shift, by all means, rent one.

While they are cheaper than automatic cars, driving one may take a little getting used to.

Photo: Stevano Vicigor

Also, be aware that putting some cars into reverse can be tricky. If you have any concerns before taking the car off the lot, be sure to ask beforehand.

If you are not comfortable driving a standard in Ireland, I suggest paying the higher rate for an automatic.

Read More: Drive Like a Pro when Renting a Car in Ireland, and Save Money, Too!

#4 Airport Pick-Up and Drop-Off

When you pick up and drop off your car at the airport, there is a small location surcharge added to the final cost of the car rental.

Photo: Twenty20photos

The airport is the most convenient place to get your rental car as you’ll want to avoid driving in a city like Dublin if possible.

Even if you’re staying in Dublin for a couple of days, you can easily backtrack to the airport to pick up your rental car.

If your rental car company offers pick-up locations in other parts of the city, it might be worth it to collect your car there. Much of this will depend on the location of your accommodation in Dublin.


Booking.com

#5 Insuring your Rental Car

Getting the proper insurance coverage when you are renting a car to see Ireland may seem like a daunting task and at first glance, it does appear complicated. However, it doesn’t have to be.

Let’s break it down.

Collision Damage Waiver Insurance

At the basic level, if you are renting a car to see Ireland you are required to purchase what is known as CDW coverage, which stands for Collision Damage Waiver insurance.

The cost is an extra €15 to €25 per day depending on the kind of car you rent, the length of your rental, and the company you deal with.

Photo courtesy of PhanuwatNandee.

This type of insurance includes a minimum deductible of between €1,500 and €3,000 for any damage done to the car while you are driving it.

It also covers the theft of the rental car. CDW does not provide coverage for damage to tires, windows or undercarriage damage, or if you put the wrong fuel in your rental car.

If you use Discover Cars, however, their insurance package is pretty generous, covering repair costs, including damage to the undercarriage, wheel, tires, roof, windows, mirrors, as well as locks and hubcaps.

Super Collision Damage Waiver

The second tier of car insurance coverage that you can purchase when renting a car in Ireland is called Super Collision Damage Waiver insurance, otherwise known as SCDW.

Photo: Avanti_Photo

This reduces the liability for damage to your rental car from zero to €250.

Note that this coverage will also not cover tires or glass. However, you won’t need either of these first two options if you satisfy the requirements in the next option.

Grab the Cheat Sheet to Saving Money in Ireland

Credit Card Coverage

Using an approved credit card to cover the mandatory CDW insurance is highly recommended when renting a car to see Ireland.

The car rental company will put a hold on your credit card, anywhere up to €5,000, which will come off when you bring the car back to the airport free of damage.

I have used the American Express Gold Card in the past, but the AMEX Platinum and Chase World Mastercard also work.

Be sure to use the right credit card when reserving and paying for your car rental and decline the rental car company’s CDW coverage when you are asked at the desk.

Some car rental company reps will still push it, though. That makes no sense.

If you have coverage through your credit card, you are set to go. And even if you were to buy into it, the fact that you did would negate the credit card coverage that you already have.

Photo: wutzkoh

Bring a letter of authorization from your credit card company with you and present it at the car rental desk in either Dublin or Shannon.

As with any other car rental agreement, list all drivers on the rental agreement so that in the case of an accident, you are covered.

Read More: Choose the Right Bank Card for Your Vacation in Ireland

#6 Inspecting Your Rental Car

Many tourists over the years have complained of being ripped off by car rental companies in Ireland that charged them exorbitant amounts of money for scratches, tire bulges, broken taillights, and other damage when in reality, the damage was there before the renter took the car.

a man taking a photo of a car renting a car to see Ireland
Photo: monkeybusiness

With that in mind, it is very important that you take a good look at the car yourself and note any scratches or dings before you take it off the lot.

I suggest you take a photo or video footage of the car from all angles with your smartphone just to be on the safe side and let the car rental company know what you saw, even if they do the inspection themselves as well.

#7 Cross Border Fees

If you intend to drive across the border from the Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland, you will need to let the car rental company know so they can extend the insurance/protection that you’ll need when temporarily taking a car “abroad” given that Northern Ireland is technically part of the United Kingdom.

Driving along the Co. Down coast in Northern Ireland. Photo courtesy Tourism Northern Ireland.

Without this extension, you may not have any damage, theft, or third-party coverage even when using your credit card. It is best to check with the car rental company first to be sure.

You will also incur what is known as a “cross-border fee,” which is also common in mainland Europe where tourists drive from one country to the next.

This fee ranges from €25 to €30 per rental depending on the company you choose.

road signs renting a car to see Ireland
Road signage in miles near Belfast. Photo: Doug Kerr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/dougtone/ https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

When crossing the border into Northern Ireland, be mindful of the speed limit which is measured in imperial British units rather than the metric system, common all across the Republic.

The speed limit in towns and cities in Northern Ireland is 30 mph (45 km/h), on open roads, it is 60 mph (95 km/h), and on motorways, it is 70 mph (110 km/h).

In the Republic, the limits are 50 mph (80 km/h) for local and regional roads, 62 mph (100 km/h) for primary and secondary roads, otherwise known as National Routes, and 75 mph (120 km/h) for motorways.

#8 Fueling Your Rental Car

In Ireland, diesel-run cars are very common. Don’t make the mistake of putting petrol (unleaded gas) into a diesel-run vehicle. Be sure to ask the car rental company what kind of fuel your rental car runs on.

filling up the tank renting a car to see Ireland
Photo: RK1979

The price to fuel up in Ireland is quite expensive. It is also measured in liters, not gallons.

As of July 2021, the cost of a liter of unleaded gas/petrol in Ireland is €1.496/$1.776. The cost of diesel per liter is €1.395/$1.656.

When refueling, you can either pre-pay by using your credit or debit card directly at the pump or fill up your tank and then pay the cashier.



#9 Driving on Irish Roads

Ireland’s roadways are made up of motorways, national roads, regional roads, and local roads.

cars on the road in Ireland renting a car to see Ireland
Driving on a road near Dingle, Co. Kerry. Photo: Jakub Wang for Failte Ireland.

When driving on an Irish motorway, the left lane is the slow lane and the right lane is the fast lane.

Here are some other things to keep in mind when driving on Irish roads:

Tolls

There are 11 toll roads in Ireland, including the M50, which is often referred to as the “ring road” around the Dublin metropolitan area.

If you are driving a rental car through the toll, the €3.10 charge for tourists will most likely come off your credit card automatically.

If that is not the case, you will need to go to eflow and pay the fee before 8 p.m. the following day.

tolls on a highway renting a car to see Ireland
Cars crossing the M50 toll plaza outside Dublin. Photo: Eugene_remizov for Getty Images.

All of Ireland’s National Primary Routes form junctions with the M50. If you are driving from Dublin Airport, you will see signs for the various routes fanning out across the country.

They include the N2 to Derry/Monaghan; the N3 to Navan/Cavan; the N4/M4 to Galway, Sligo, and Mayo; the N7/M7/M8 to Cork, Limerick, and Waterford, and the N11/M11 to Wexford.

Additional junctions off the M50 serve some of Dublin’s suburbs, including Ballymun, Blanchardstown, Cherrywood, Dundrum, Sandyford, and Tallaght.

The other tolls on Irish roads cost between €1 and €3, so be sure to have some cash on you.

Remember to Keep Left When Turning

It can be very tempting to stay on the right when making a right-hand turn in Ireland. You must always remember to “stay left.”

It can also be nerve-wracking negotiating Ireland’s many roundabouts. Take a look at the video below is understand how you should enter and exit a roundabout.

Since many of Ireland’s smaller roads can be tricky to navigate and you’ll often run into animals on the road, it’s important that you don’t drive too fast on these roads.

Emergencies

If your rental car breaks down, it is best to contact the rental car company’s emergency roadside assistance number located on the rental agreement.

a man fixing a car renting a car to see Ireland
Photo: Satura_

If there is a serious injury, the emergency phone number to call is 999 or 112, similar to 911 in the United States.

Let me know if you found these tips helpful in the comments section below.

Read More: Drive Like a Pro in your Irish Rental Car

colette

Colette is a County Sligo native who created Ireland on a Budget to provide her readers with money-saving tips on how to get to Ireland and then save even more when they're there. She's a professional copywriter who lives in the New York area with her husband and two children.

This Post Has 5 Comments

  1. Kenneth

    Thanks for the invaluable tips. Do you have to use a credit card for renting a car? Can you use a debit card? Lots of people no longer use credit cards.

    1. colette

      Hi Kenneth, you could definitely use your debit card, but if you want to avoid paying for the CDW, I’d use one of the credit cards I mention in the post. If you don’t have any of those, I’d apply and just use the card for this purpose only. It’s invaluable and brings down the cost a lot.

  2. Julie Smith

    Great information provided
    We are hoping to visit Ireland September 2021 (subject to) world crisis.
    I would love more info on accommodation and tour guides. I am struggling to find what I want on a budget.
    Cheers Julie
    Qld Australia

    1. colette

      Hi Julie, I’ll be adding a new section on that shortly. And yes, let’s all hope that travel to Ireland in 2021 is possible for all.

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