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Renting a Car in Ireland: Everything You Need to Know

I highly recommend renting a car in Ireland. Here’s a handy guide and my personal experiences. I travelled to Ireland for almost three weeks, driving all over Ireland and Northern Ireland. It’s the best way to experience the country as you’re able to go wherever you want at your own pace.

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Similar to renting a car in Iceland, driving around the country was an incredible journey. I wouldn’t want it any other way. Of course, renting a car in Ireland can be a confusing and even a daunting task. Here are my experiences with Ireland car rentals and some helpful tips to assist you in your adventure.

Renting a car in Ireland

Should I Rent a Car in Ireland?

The simple answer is yes! I highly recommend renting a car in Ireland for the ultimate trip. You can drive all over Ireland and Northern Ireland right from the airport. The main reason for renting a car is freedom. You’ll be able to travel on your own schedule and at your own pace.

You won’t need to book a tour through a bus tour company because you can go there on your own. Feel free to spend as much or as little time in a place. Drive down the narrow roads where the tour buses can’t fit.

Renting a Car in Ireland: Experiences and Helpful Tips

Wake up early in the morning to visit a place before everyone else arrives. For instance, the Cliffs of Moher are one of the most popular tourist attractions in Ireland. You’ll want to witness the stunning scenery there with your own eyes.

For an enhanced experience, get there early in the morning before the big tour buses arrive. We were among the only visitors there at 9:00am when the site opened to the public. Crowds of tourists arrived just as we were leaving. Getting there bright and early wouldn’t be possible if it weren’t for our rental car.

With your own rental car, you’ll have the flexibility of changing your plans at the last moment. For example, my travel buddy, Ashley and I decided at the last minute to squeeze in a trip to the Aran Islands. We woke up at the crack of dawn, driving over three hours to reach the ferry on time for a day trip to Inishmore. If we didn’t have our own rental car, we never would have visited the island at all.

Where Should I Rent My Car?

Renting a Car in Ireland: Experiences and Helpful Tips

Renting a car from the airport is the most convenient choice. We picked up the car at the Dublin airport and dropped it off there at the end of the road trip. Flying in and out of the Dublin airport, this made the most sense.

You can also pick up your rental car at the Shannon Airport, Cork Airport, Kerry Airport, and major cities like Dublin City or Galway City.

I recommend searching and comparing for car rentals with Discover Cars. I use their website to book rental cars every time I travel for the best prices. You can search multiple companies and find the best rates online.

We picked up our car from the Dublin Airport super early in the morning, and the staff member was very helpful. He gave us with some excellent advice, such as renting a car that takes diesel over gasoline. This was to help us save on fuel costs over three weeks of driving in Ireland.

Even though it was slightly more expensive to rent a diesel car, we saved money on fuel in the long run. We were able to make this change right at the desk. Dropping off the car at the airport at the end of our trip was also a breeze.

Renting a Car in Ireland: Insurance Explained

Renting a Car in Ireland: Experiences and Helpful Tips

Unlike many other countries, you must purchase Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) insurance in Ireland. Most credit cards do not include CDW insurance in Ireland, and it will be something you have to buy when renting a car there.

Excess Damage/Super Damage (Super Collision Damage Waiver) insurance is another extra cost, but it will cover any minor damage to the car. This includes scratches, dents, and small bumps that you will most likely encounter on your way.

Even if you are the most careful driver in the world, a lot of damage to the car can happen on Ireland’s roads. Not only are the roads incredibly narrow in some places, but there are rocks, debris, and branches that you’re bound to hit now and again.

We purchased the full rental insurance, which included excess damage insurance. Even though we were really careful, we still managed to damage the vehicle. Upon returning the car, the worker inspecting the car pointed out a giant green mark on the front bumper.

We don’t recall bumping or scraping anything, yet this still happened. However, with the full insurance, we didn’t have to pay a dime for any damages. In the end, I was really happy that we paid the additional fee for the additional coverage that CDW insurance offered.

Your Credit Card Company May Cover CDW Insurance

Read the fine print on your credit card. Your credit card company may cover CDW insurance, though most credit card companies do not cover this in Ireland. If that’s the case, you’ll need to deny the basic coverage for Collision Damage Waiver insurance or the premium Super Collision Damage Waiver coverage.

If you deny coverage, you’re relying completely on your credit card company for all insurance coverage in case something happens out on the road. If something happens, your credit card will get charged for the damages by the car rental company. Then, you’ll need to try to reverse the charges with your credit card company after the fact.

Car rental agencies may also ask you to prove that your credit card covers you for car rental insurance. You can call your credit card company ahead of time and ask them to email you a letter verifying this information.

This is a good way to avoid the additional cost of CDW or SCDW coverage, but you’ll have to decide if it’s worth the hassle of dealing with your credit card company after the fact to get your money back.

Ireland Car Rental: Other Rental Details

Renting a Car in Ireland: Experiences and Helpful Tips

Here are some other details and information that you will need to consider when renting a car in Ireland. One of the most basic details that you likely already realize is that you’ll be driving on the left side of the road.

Do I Need an International Driver’s License?

Coming from Canada and the USA, we didn’t need any kind of international driver’s licenses. Our licenses from Canada and the USA were all we needed to rent a car in Ireland. Depending on where you’re from, you may need to get an international driver’s license.

Automatic or Manual Transmission?

We chose to rent an automatic transmission car. You can choose either manual or automatic without any difficulties. There might be more options with manual car rentals, but we didn’t have a problem reserving an automatic.

Unfortunately, I don’t know how to drive a manual car. Maybe I’ll learn someday! You will have to pay extra if you add additional drivers to the rental plan. It’s about an extra 10 a day.

In Europe, it is cheaper to rent a car with manual transmission. The manual transmission cars are also more plentiful. Consider securing your rental car farther in advance if you need to rent an automatic transmission one like we did.

Which Size of Car to Choose

Which type of car should you rent? Choose a small car if you can as the roads in Ireland are very narrow. Gas prices are also high, and this will help keep your costs down. However, choose a car that will fit everything and everyone in your party, including your luggage. Some compact cars are…well, compact.

Make sure they’ll fit you and your belongings. Our car wasn’t the smallest car in their vehicle line-up, but it fit two suitcases and carry-on bags in the trunk. When you choose your rental car, it will generally state how many people can fit in the car and how much luggage can fit in the trunk.

Other Things to Think About

There are options to rent a GPS navigation system. Usually this costs extra, and I would generally recommend avoiding this option. It is much easier to get a SIM card or a portable Wi-Fi device and make full use of Google Maps for the most accurate directions.

You may encounter some toll roads when driving in Ireland. There are 11 toll roads in Ireland. You can try to avoid these toll roads, or you can discuss them ahead of time with the car hire company. They may have an electronic tag in the car and may cover the costs of driving on toll roads.

The minimum age to rent a car in Ireland is 25 years old. However, some Ireland car hire companies may rent to people that are 21 years of age. There may be an extra fee to pay for younger drivers. Older drivers over age 75 may have to prove that they are in good health and have not been involved in any accidents over the last five years. Check ahead of time for these age restrictions and the policies of the car hire companies.

It might go without saying, but follow the rules of the road. Make sure you follow the speed limit and look up the local road signs in advance to familiarize yourself with them. If you don’t know how to drive through roundabouts / traffic circles, familiarize yourself with that, too!

The Cost of Renting a Car in Ireland

Renting a Car in Ireland: Experiences and Helpful Tips

Renting a car isn’t cheap, but it greatly impacts the kind of holiday you’re going to have. Definitely make room in your budget for a car rental. You won’t regret this decision. Ireland is such a beautiful country, and some of the places you’ll want to see are only accessible by car.

To determine the price of renting a car, compare the prices online here. CDW insurance might not be included in the quote, so please look into the full cost as you will be charged for this insurance at the rental office.

In our case, choosing a diesel car was a great investment. Although it was slightly more expensive to rent one, it ended up saving us money because fuel was much cheaper than gasoline. Plus, we were able to drive farther and longer without filling up the tank.

We drove great distances every single day of our trip, and we only had to fill the tank up three times. For our 19 day trip, our approximate costs for fuel totalled around 170. Not too shabby for a country where fuel is quite expensive!

What to Expect on an Irish Road Trip

Beautiful Irish roadside scene

What can you expect from a road trip around Ireland and Northern Ireland? Well, you will encounter narrow roads and numerous roundabouts. And when I say numerous roundabouts, I mean roundabouts one after the next.

Some of these aren’t even necessary, are they? Do the Irish truly just love roundabouts? These roundabouts have names, some have decorations or statues in the middle of them, and one day we even saw horses grazing on grass in the middle of one.

Speaking of animals, you might encounter some woolly friends in the middle of the road at times…

Sheep road block in Ireland

…or you might come back to your car with a furry friend claiming it as their own.

Cat on the car in Ireland

The best part of renting a car in Ireland? You’ll travel everywhere you dreamed about…and some spectacular places you never even imagined. Zoom around the Wild Atlantic Way. Drive along the coast of Northern Ireland. You’ll see so many beautiful places. It’s called the Emerald Isle for good reason!

Ballintoy Harbour
Ceide Fields
University of Galway
The Burren

What to Pack on a Road Trip in Ireland

There are lots of things to consider when packing for a road trip in Ireland. I suggest that you check out my article all about road trip packing lists and make sure to take note of the “rainy weather” section when it comes to Ireland.

Ring of Kerry

You’ll want to bring a number of car essentials for your road trip. These are things you’ll want to keep on hand in the car at all times for your own personal comfort and in case you have any troubles on your trip. These are the best road trip supplies for safety and comfort that you don’t want to leave home without.

While many car rental companies have their own separate insurance on the car, you don’t want to leave home without travel insurance for emergencies. You can choose from an affordable range of plans that will cover you for various activities on your road trip adventures.

Map Directions and Your Phone

Renting a Car in Ireland: Experiences and Helpful Tips

I think that most of us tend to use Google Maps to get from point A to point B. I recommend that you download offline versions of your maps ahead of time. If you lose signal while you’re driving, especially in more remote areas, Google Maps will keep working.

You’ll also want to keep your phone charged in order to use it. If your rental car doesn’t have a USB plug, there are some adapters that you can get that plug into the car’s cigarette lighter. I always bring one of these in my bag just in case! This adapter has two USB plugs so both you and your road trip buddy can keep your phones charged.

It’s also a good idea to buy something to clip your phone to the dashboard so you can see it unobstructed at all times. Many of these attach to the air vents so you can use them in any car. Pop this in your bag and use it while renting a car in Ireland.

Justin and I always make sure that we have a portable Wi-Fi device for any of our travels, whether it’s a road trip or another overseas adventure. TravelWifi has the best pocket Wi-Fi device that provides lightning fast Internet when you’re abroad, no matter where you go. Rent their portable Wi-Fi device today! You can also choose to get a local SIM card if that’s an easier option for you.

More Travel Blog Posts About Ireland

After you choose your car rental in Ireland, you’ll want to plan where to go on your road trip. If you’re looking for more Ireland trip inspiration, check out these travel guides about Ireland:

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fred

Sunday 24th of July 2022

Which rental car company rents diesel cars at the Dublin, Ireland airport

Lauren

Sunday 24th of July 2022

I'm not sure offhand, but I recommend using the link we provided in the article to search car rental agencies at the Dublin airport, it might be possible to search for ones that are diesel and ones that are gas.

Wills

Thursday 23rd of July 2020

Hi I am planning to visit Ireland next year in January. Recently one of my friend travel with self drive car rental in Ireland. He book it from Dooley car rental (https://www.dan-dooley.ie/), I want to if you have any experience this company? My friend was happy with services he got the from company. He said he was confused between Dooley and Axis, but he found better insurance with Dooley. What would you suggest Dooley, Axis or Hertz?

Lauren

Saturday 25th of July 2020

Hi Wills, I personally don't have any experience with that company. I have only used Hertz and Sixt before and had good experiences with both. But, if you go to this link: https://justinpluslauren.com/go/car-rental-ireland/ you'll actually be able to compare car rental prices and rates to find the best deal, I highly recommend that you try it! Thanks so much and have a fun trip!

deanj

Monday 29th of April 2019

Thank you so much for sharing your experience !! I remember, I traveled to Ireland for almost three weeks with my wife and children and I rented a car through Dooley and it was a reasonable trip for us. We enjoyed so much.

Kyle

Monday 17th of September 2018

Do most of the cars in Ireland have sat nav or would it be advisable to rent or bring one with us. As for car insurance, I would usually take out a separate excess cover as sometimes can work out cheaper. Thanks for the post.

Lauren

Tuesday 18th of December 2018

Kyle, I'd recommend getting a SIM card in Ireland and using Google Maps on your journey! That's what we did and it worked perfectly. Our car didn't come with any sort of navigation device, although you might be able to rent one at the car rental place when you pick up your car.

Robert Bundy

Thursday 12th of April 2018

If we rent in Dublin, can we drive the car to Northern Ireland.

Lauren

Thursday 12th of April 2018

Robert, Yes! It is no problem to drive the car to Northern Ireland. There are no borders between the two countries either (for now, anyway!). We rented the car in Dublin and drove through Northern Ireland and back to Ireland again.

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