UPDATED 2/22/2016 –A few things have changed on the Ireland car rental scene since the post went live in 2013. I though you were due for an update!
[As I am rereading this post before I publish, I recognize it is long. What was a simple “how-to” became comprehensive guide to renting a car in Ireland. I debated splitting up the content into two posts, but one of the reasons I created Infinite Ireland was to be sure first-time travelers to Ireland would have all the information in one place. It is a lot to take in, but I hope that the information will help you better understand how to rent a car in Ireland. Bon Voyage!]
To really get intimate, to discover places and to meet people, requires renting a car in Ireland. Simply put, we have gone places in a rental car that buses and large tour groups cannot go. We’ve chatted with locals for hours past closing time. We’ve eaten amazing dinners in remote restaurants. We’ve been the only people at some of Ireland’s best attractions.
All because we didn’t have to abide by someone else’s schedule. Because we opted for a rental car.
There are more rules and nuances for renting a car in Ireland than almost anywhere else in the world. It can be challenging, but as soon as you understand the lingo and what impacts the bottom line, you can get a good deal and be equipped with the wheels for a great trip.
Demystifying Renting a Car in Ireland
Each rental car website will ask you for basically the same information. These selections decide how much your quote will be so it is a good idea to check these details carefully.
Pick up and drop off location: The easiest and most convenient place to get your rental car is at the airport. Airport pickups have a small location surcharge, but I think the convenience of not driving in the city is well-worth the minimal extra cost.
If it works with your itinerary, I highly suggest flying in and out of Shannon Airport. It is much smaller and it sees a lot less traffic. Going through customs, picking up checked luggage, and renting a car should be quick and easy. We have landed and been on the road in less than 45 minutes.
If you fly into Dublin and plan to see the city, pick up the rental car after exploring for a day or two. It is easy to get around the capital using public transport. Plus you will avoid driving in the city and paying for extra days that you won’t use the car.
Date and time of pick up and drop off: Obviously the longer you rent a car in Ireland, the costlier it will be. I try to time my pick-up and drop off within an hour of each other (e.g. pick up at 7:00 AM and drop off at 8:00 AM). In doing so, I am not usually charged any extra/partial days. Working out the timing is usually pretty easy for us as most transatlantic flights to the US arrive and depart in the morning.
Age at the time of rental: Renters between the ages of 25 and 74 will receive the lowest rates available. If you are between 21 and 24, you will likely have to pay an extra fee for each day. Unfortunately those under 21 cannot rent in Ireland. Similarly, seniors over 75 may find it difficult to rent a car because of age restrictions.
Transmission: Automatic or manual (stick shift) transmission cars differ greatly in cost. Manual transmissions are much less expensive and are more common among the local drivers. However, if you do not drive a manual transmission vehicle in your daily life, I would stick to an automatic in Ireland. While the significant price difference is tempting, the ease of driving an automatic is worth the extra cost especially on winding and narrow roads!
Extra Drivers: The number of additional driver’s increases the cost of your daily rental fee. Most companies charge an extra €10 per day. If you think you will need more than one driver to break up the trip or fear someone not feeling up to driving, it may be worth the extra cost.
In our family, my husband Joe is usually the designated driver and I am the navigator. We don’t typically pay the extra cost per day to have two people at the wheel. But when we knew Joe was feeling under the weather before our last trip, we opted for the extra driver upon arrival.
Vehicle Size: The smaller the better! If you are traveling with a significant other or a small family, there really isn’t any reason you should opt for a size upgrade. You will thank yourself for a smaller vehicle. If you are also bringing Aunt Hilda and Cousin Wilfred along, just opt for the smallest size you think you can get away with.
Currency: Most rental websites will ask which currency the quote should be displayed. I always look at quotes in euros so I know I am comparing apples to apples across all websites.
Extras: A number of extra services are available at checkout such as child seats, GPS, and even a mobile hot spot. I think most first-time visitors are comforted by having a GPS, but they aren’t perfect. A good one-two-punch is using GPS + paper maps + Google Street View before you leave.
Rental Car Insurance
Insurance is by far the biggest headache when renting a car in Ireland. There are several different types of insurance in a rental agreement. Understanding which ones to purchase and why to buy them can be really important.
CDW/Collision Damage Waiver/Basic Insurance/LLI/Limited Liability Insurance/CDI/Collision Damage Insurance: Everyone* is mandated to have Collision Damage Waiver Insurance (CDW for short) when renting a car in Ireland. CDW reduces your personal financial responsibility for damage to your vehicle. After purchasing CDW, you will have a minimum deductible of €1000-2000 for any damage when you return. CDW typically does not include tire, window, or undercarriage damage.
The cost of CDW can vary greatly from company to company. Most car rental websites ending in .ie (versus .com) include it in the quote online. If you use a non-Irish based site like Orbitz or Hertz.com, it won’t be included. Call the company to find out the daily rate.
*World MasterCard and Chase Insurance CDW Coverage: You can utilize credit card insurance coverage in Ireland with World MasterCard and Chase. If you have either card, call the card benefits line and find out if they cover the Republic and Northern Ireland.
I used this coverage with my Chase Sapphire Preferred card for the first time in 2015. I was really pleased with the service and it did save me some money, but it may not be for everyone. Check out all the details in this post.
It’s important to know that car rental company will place a hold on your credit card for the duration of the rental if you decline their insurance. The hold will be removed or refunded once the car is returned with no damage or the amount of damage will be charged to your card. You will need to work with Chase or MasterCard to complete the claims process.
A small administration fee is also usually charged when declining the CDW, about €25-€30.
Excess Insurance/Super Damage Waiver: This is the ultimate car insurance that will cover all sorts of scratches and bruises to your rental vehicle. By purchasing this extra insurance your liability for the vehicle will be down to €0.00-€300. Car rental agencies usually like to hide how much this is per day. Look in the terms and conditions for this information (usually on the second page of the booking process). Again always check what is included. Most still don’t cover tires or glass.
We almost always purchase this and have been glad we did on a few occasions. Scratches from roadside branches are inevitable. Plus, you get to easily drop off your car at the end of your rental without having to wait for the inspection or worry about what they’ll find.
If you choose not to purchase the Excess/Super Damage Insurance, a hold will be placed on your credit card usually around €2000.00-3000.00. This way they know they can charge whatever they need for damage at the end of the rental.
Theft Insurance: Theft insurance protects against the obvious, the theft of a rental car. This hasn’t ever been something we have worried too much about. It is often included in CDW/Excess/Super Damage Waiver Insurance.
Personal Liability Insurance: Personal effects insurance is injury and accidental death coverage for the driver and passengers. My husband and I both have health insurance for injury and life insurance policies for the unhappy death part.
The final payment will also include a few other add-ons. Not all rental companies charge all of these fees, but you should at least be aware of them.
- Value Added Tax (VAT) at 13.5% –mandatory
- Road tax
- Airport tax or location charge
- Licensing fee
- Cross border driving fee
- M50 toll fee (Toll road outside of Dublin now has barrier free toll—basically you pay rental car company rather than a toll booth)
- Late fees (returning the car later than indicated on reservation)
- Cancellation fees
Gas or petrol is expensive in Ireland. Really expensive. The average current price is €1.19/liter (2/22/16). Silver lining: a fill up in an automatic Nissan Micra can last most of our two-week trip.
When filling up the tank, check which type of fuel the car requires. Accidentally insert diesel and you will not only be in trouble mechanically, but you may need to pay the car rental company for the mistake.
You should also know your rental car’s fuel return policy—some want it full on return, others want it empty. Just check so you pay more than you have to.
Begin the Search Process
So now that you know what impacts the bottom line–how do you begin your search process? Listed below are the rental agencies that I am aware of at the Shannon and Dublin airports. Almost all the links end in .ie, which is Ireland’s website domain registration. As mentioned above, .ie will usually contain CDW insurance and is therefore a little easier to compare apples to apples.
Select one and insert your travel information. Trips a year or more away may need to wait until six months or closer for some agencies to give you a quote. Pay close attention to what is included in each estimate.
Again, if something isn’t included, look in the terms and conditions of the rental agreement. Most companies list their prices for SCDW and extras like GPS there, if not don’t hesitate to give them a call to get accurate information.
When car rental shopping, I create a spreadsheet to organize everything. It includes: all of the companies above; the quote; what is included; what is not included and their approximate costs; and any other details important to that company. This helps me better compare each agency and remember all the details.
We don’t have strong affiliations with any one company, but have used several without any major problems. I always advocate shopping around and checking out reviews online. If something you read makes you uncomfortable, don’t rent with them.
We use Dan Dooley quite a bit. I am always surprised of the inclusiveness of their quote compared to other agencies. Using the code “DoChara” gets you 5% discount.
Miscellaneous Car Rental Tips:
Payment must be by credit card in the name of the primary driver. Cash, check, or debit card are not accepted.
Give your flight information with your reservation. If the plane is delayed longer than two hours, the car rental company may consider you a no-show if they don’t have this information, but if they do, you shouldn’t have any problems.
Don’t worry about air conditioning. It rarely gets hot enough to call for spending extra money on it.
Trunks are smaller, so pack light.
Take copies of your reservation and the total cost you expect to pay to the rental counter. If it doesn’t match up make sure they give you an explanation.
Don’t care about which company you use? There are websites such as Irish Car Rentals that aggregate the car rental search (similar to Priceline). If you don’t care about which rental agency you use these often offer good deals.
Before you leave the airport, check the car for scratches, dings, bulges in the tire, etc., and make sure they are noted on the rental sheet. Take pictures with a date stamp too—just in case you need it after you return.
Shew! That’s a lot of information!! Do you have any advice I’m missing or a great Ireland car rental story? Share them with us and join our community of Ireland travel enthusiasts.
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