Renting a car in Ireland is one incredible way to get an intimate look at authentic Ireland. You can discover more places, explore the countryside, and meet the people so much more easily if you have a car.
Simply put, we have gone places in a rental car that buses and large tour simply groups cannot go. We were able to chat with locals for hours past closing time and we’ve been the only people at some of Ireland’s best attractions.
All because we rented a car in Ireland.
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 feel a bit more confident about getting behind the wheel.
Getting a Quote for your Car Rental 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 love flying in and out of Shannon Airport. It is much smaller and it has a lot less traffic. Going through customs, picking up checked luggage, and renting a car should be quick and easy.
In the past we landed in Shannon and have 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
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.
Travelers over 75 may find it more challenging to rent a car because of age restrictions, but most will allow it if you have proof of good health and no recent accidents. Enterprise does not have any upper age restrictions or hoops to jump through.
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 a manual is tempting since the price difference is so big, the ease of driving an automatic is worth the extra cost especially on Irelands winding and narrow roads.
The number of additional drivers increases the cost of your daily rental fee. Most companies charge an extra €12 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 (they are always happy to sell you more options when you arrive).
I generally think navigating Ireland’s roars is easier in a smaller vehicle. A compact for two people, an intermediate or full for a family of three or four.
If you’re traveling with more than 5 or 6 people and have two people who can drive, I’d opt for two cars rather than try to all fit into a “people-mover”, or large van.
Pay attention to the luggage space available for each car type on the booking page. It is usually a very accurate description of how many medium size suitcases you can fit in the trunk.
Some 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. (See below to grab my Renting a Car in Ireland template with a list of Ireland-based companies that give you quotes in euros).
Several additional services are available to reserve when you book such as child seats, GPS, etc.
I think most first-time visitors are comforted by having a GPS or some sort (phone or navigation system), but they aren’t perfect. A good one-two-punch is using GPS and a good paper road atlas will help you get you where you are going.
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
Also known as 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 €1500-3000 for any damage to your car when you return.
CDW typically does not include tire, window, or undercarriage damage.
This €1500-3000 deductible will be held on your credit card that you used to book the car until you bring the car back without any dents or scratches.
No damage, the hold is removed. If there is any damage, they will charge the card the amount it takes to fix it. Right then and there (a good reason to get the Super Collision Damage insurance–see below).
The cost of CDW can vary greatly from company to company. All car rental websites ending in .ie (versus .com) include CDW in their quote online. If you use a non-Irish-based site like Costco.com, Expedia.com, or Hertz.com, it won’t be included. It’s always best to use an Irish website.
Credit Card Insurance Coverage
You can utilize credit card insurance coverage in Ireland with Chase, World MasterCard, and a few other credit card companies. Before you assume that your card covers Ireland, call the card benefits line and find out if they cover the Republic and Northern Ireland.
If you intend to use your credit card car rental benefit in Ireland, you must get a written letter from the credit card company stating they cover Ireland dated within two weeks of your travel. Print this letter and bring it with you.
It’s important to know that the 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 (just like with CDW-only rentals). 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.
I’ve used credit card coverage for car rental insurance in Ireland before, but I don’t recommend it for most. Driving in Ireland on the left for the first time is challenging to say the least. You can read all about my credit card car rental in Ireland.
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-€300.
Not all car rental companies allow you to purchase CDW online during the booking process. If you don’t see it as an option, search the terms and conditions for Super Collision Damage Waiver (also called Top Cover or Excess).
You can find the terms and conditions on the second or third page of the booking process.
Most SCDW policies 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.
Theft insurance protects against the obvious, theft of a rental car. 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.
Taxes & Fees
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
- Late fees (returning the car later than indicated on reservation)
- Cancellation fees
Gas or petrol is slightly more expensive in Ireland than it is elsewhere in the world. The average current price is $4.78/gallon (note–it is actually sold by the liter).
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 don’t pay more than you have to.
Begin the Search Process for Renting a Car in Ireland
So now that you know what impacts the bottom line–how do you begin your search process for your rental car in Ireland?
Book your rental car direct from an Irish affiliate
Always book directly with the car rental company and go to an Irish-based website. These are usually noted by .ie on the end of the weblink instead of .com.
As mentioned above, a .ie site will contain the mandatory CDW insurance and it’s so easier to compare apples to apples this way.
Again, if something isn’t included, look in the terms and conditions of the rental agreement to find the daily cost for it.
One car rental company’s prices and be vastly different from another simply because of their fleet, their location, their staff for cleaning cars, etc.
To know you’re getting the best deal, you’ll need to compare.
I use a spreadsheet for all of my clients to make sure they don’t have to pay more than they need to. Feel free to grab my template and use it too.
Miscellaneous Tips for Renting Car in Ireland:
Booking & Insurance
- Payment must be by credit card in the name of the primary driver. Cash, check, or debit card are not accepted.
- As long as you get the full Super Collision Damage Waiver insurance, you can rent from any one of these companies without much worry since you will be fully covered for major damage.
- Take your reservation information 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.
- Car rental calendars open up about 10 months before you travel.
Before you leave for Ireland
- Upload your flight information to 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.
- Trunks are smaller, so pack light and pay attention to how much luggage space they say
Before you leave the lot in your rental car
- 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.
Did you know that Infinite Ireland Travel Co. offers full-service travel planning so you don’t have to worry about the ins and outs of renting a car in Ireland?
Check out my services and let me know if I can help you plan an unforgettable trip to Ireland.