Renting a car in Ireland requires a few tips for success when arriving in Ireland with an American driving license.
Here's a guest post with a little advice from Irish American Dad on renting a car in Ireland.
Driver's License Requirements
A valid American state license is all that is required for driving in Ireland. No international driving license is needed.
If you’re under 25 your insurance rate will be much higher so inquire ahead.
Also, if you’re over 75 do check ahead of time as there may be a maximum age limit. Everyone who wants to drive the car needs to show their license and be named on the rental agreement.
Dublin Airport's New Terminal 2. Photo credit
To rent a car in Ireland your best bet is to get it at Dublin, Shannon or Belfast airport. Off airport car rentals are possible, but not as common in Ireland as the USA. Booking through the internet is usually cheaper because they waive certain airport fees.
If you show up at the rental car agency counter without reservation then don't be afraid to shop around from counter to counter for the best deal. However, make sure to compare apples to apples.
Some quotes include Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) insurance and some don’t. Check with your credit card company. They may have free coverage. Do not automatically assume your credit card provides coverage in Ireland.
Many cards cover international car rental, but some such as American Express exclude Ireland and Australia. If this is an option for you, then don’t forget to pay with the correct credit card. Usually the rental agency will offer you a zero deductible buy down for an extra daily fee.
This may be a good thing for peace of mind. However, getting too much extra insurance can be a waste of money for you and a cash cow for the rental agency.
Drop Off Locations
It is always cheaper to rent and return the car at the same place. Returning to a different location will incur a drop-off fee.
Picking up in Dublin and returning in Belfast is possible, but pretty expensive, as you are crossing between two different countries.
Most rental car companies have some sort of break-down and recovery plan. Inquire about the details before you leave the counter. Also pick up your free maps.
Cars are generally smaller in Ireland. Even the terminology is different. What they call a mid-size in Ireland, would be called a compact car in the USA. If you want any trunk space for luggage or back seat leg room always go a size larger.
Always look at the pictures and description of the cars on the webpage and decide if it’s going to be adequate. Also, a large percentage of cars in Ireland do not come with built in air conditioning.
You probably won’t need it anyway even in the summer. Cruise control is another thing you may not have or actually need.
Smart Car - Photo Credit
GPS or Sat Nav
Having a GPS (Sat Nav) with an Irish database is a valuable thing. Car rental agencies can charge up to €15 a day extra for one.
Consider buying one with a European database before you leave the USA, especially if you’re going to need it for a long trip. I have a simple inexpensive Garmin 270 with both European and North American databases.
There has been a lot of new road construction in Ireland in the past few years so have your database as up to date as possible.
Stick Shift or Automatic
Most cars in Ireland are equipped with manual transmissions or stick shift as they call it stateside. Car rental agencies will have limited cars with automatic transmissions available.
In my experience they usually charge much more to rent these. If you do not state that you want an automatic, by default you will be given a manual. Reserving an automatic car might be worth the extra money as it is one less thing to think about.
After picking up a rental car at Dublin airport I often find myself walking up and getting in the left side door only to find there's no steering wheel there.
Trying to hide my embarrassment, I look around and give my best "I meant to do that" look to whoever is watching me.
Stepping into the Irish rental car for the first time is a very alien experience. The gear stick is now near your left hand, and your rearview mirror is now on the left side. The only thing that's the same are the floor pedals, with the clutch being on the normal left foot, brake in the middle and accelerator on the right.
It takes a bit of practice and muscle memory to get proficient at changing gears, but you’ll get the hang of it faster than you think. Your relative position on the road is different when sitting on the right side of the car.
You'll need to position yourself to the right of your lane to keep your car centered within the lane. Before you drive your car, sit in the right seat and visualize yourself driving on the left side. Remember the driver always sits near the center of the road.
Getting out of the airport can be a challenge so have a plan, a good navigator and a lot of patience. For more tips on driving in Ireland, please see my other related posts below. Happy driving!
Irish American Dad
P.S. Some good news since this post was first published. Irish Car Rentals has changed their online booking system so that the price quoted includes insurance. Here is the statement from their press release:
"Cars rented from irishcarrentals.com are now fully inclusive. Anyone who visits irishcarrentals.com will now see fully inclusive rates consisting of basic insurance, local surcharges and VAT. By introducing all inclusive rates, Irish Car Rentals aim to provide stress free car rental with no hidden charges upon arrival. The price you see online is the total price you pay."
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