Renting a car in Ireland for the first time can be a nightmare.
There’s a lot to take in and, in my opinion, many Irish car rental companies use jargon that can fool you into buying add-ons you don’t need.
The most important thing to do when looking at how to rent a car in Ireland is to take 5 minutes to educate yourself on the ins and outs of it – it’ll save you stress and potentially a lot of cash in the long run!
This guide, which took 2 days (yes… 2!) to research and write attempts to remove much of the stress from car rental in Ireland.
Some quick need-to-knows about renting a car in Ireland
Before we dive into the guide, I want to get you up to speed quickly on the key areas that cause many people a headache when looking at car rental in Ireland for the first time.
1. Don’t get conned
Often, when planning a trip to Ireland, people book flights, plan their Ireland itinerary and then look at hotels. Car rental is usually an after thought.
The result? Many panic book without understanding what they are/aren’t paying for. Knowledge is power. You need to know what’s needed and what isn’t before you book.
2. Insurance is deliberately confusing
The main issue people have when renting a car in Ireland is insurance. In my opinion, it’s made confusing to inflate the car rental company’s bottom line!
Do you need everything they recommend?! Is it not included in the price?! Does your credit card not cover it?! We’ll demystify car rental insurance in Ireland below.
3. There’s specific requirements
You need to be over 25 to rent a car in Ireland via most rental companies. You also need a valid driving licence (more on requirements in the guide below) and a valid ID.
4. Decide if you actually need one
If you’ve read our guide to getting around Ireland, you’ll know there’s 3 things to consider:
- Your experience: How will your chosen mode of transport effect you experience of exploring Ireland (do you prefer freedom or are you happy to take organised tours)
- What you want to see: Would you like the freedom of going off-the-beaten path or are you happy to go wherever organised tours can take you
- Your budget: Renting a car in Ireland is expensive and can be unfeasible for some
- Your capability: If you read our guide to driving in Ireland, you’ll get a sense of what it’s like to hit the road here – it’s not for everyone
5. Compare prices with Discover Cars
If you’re looking to rent a car in Ireland and you’d like to see how the various companies comapre, try Discover Cars (they have a 4.5/5 rating on Trustpilot from 80,000+ reviews).
If you rent a car through them, thank you. We’ll earn a small commission which helps us keep this site running – really, thank you!).
6. Follow our handy 6-step process
Below, you’ll find a 6-step process that takes you through renting a car in Ireland in a stress-free manner. 3 minutes spent reading the below guide will save you time, stress and (hopefully) money.
Step 1: See if you fit the requirements to rent a car in Ireland
Before you start looking at the ins and outs of Ireland car rentals, you need to understand what you need to rent a car in Ireland. While there are several requirements, the one that tends to cause the most confusion is around age.
Requirement 1: A valid drivers licence and ID
You’ll need a valid ID and drivers licence for renting a car in Ireland. The Citizen’s Information website has good info on this, but here’s the gist of it:
- EU and EEA member states: You can drive in Ireland once the licence is valid
- UK licences: These are valid if you live in the UK and are visiting Ireland
- Other licences: Once you hold a national driving licence and an international driving permit you can drive in Ireland (info here)
Requirement 2: Age restrictions
If you’re under 25, you won’t be able to hire a car in Ireland. This may change in the future, but it’s applicable at the time of typing.
There’s a bit of a myth that you can’t rent a car if you’re over 70. There are certain rules applied to those over 75. The requirements vary with each Ireland car rental company so make sure to check in advance.
Requirement 3: Credit cards and debit cards
Some companies allow you to rent a car in Ireland without a credit card, but you need to do your research. For example, Enterprise allows you to use a Debit Card, but only at non-airport locations.
Many Irish rental car companies won’t accept debit card and require you to have a credit card with you when you arrive at the counter.
Step 2: Understanding car rental insurance in Ireland
Car rental insurance is the main issue for those renting a car in Ireland. It’s also what can turn what looks like a good deal to a money burner in seconds.
However, once you know what’s what and what to look out for, there’ll be no surprises when you reach the counter.
1. Car Hire Excess (you need to understand this first)
Understanding Car Hire Excess is very important when renting a car in Ireland. This is a set amount which Irish car rental companies WON’T COVER if you have to make a claim.
For example, your rental will include basic insurance in the price (see point 2). However, if you damage the car, you’re liable to pay a fixed amount towards the damage.
2. Third Party Liability Insurance is a legal requirement
Third-Party Cover (aka TPC, Motor Liability or Legal Liability Insurance) is included, by law, in your car rental price. The rental companies are required to add it in.
In a nutshell, Third Party Liability Insurance is the minimum level of cover that’s legally allowed to drive a car in Ireland. Here’s what you need to know:
- It covers: Damage to someone else’s car/property and any injury you cause to the person
- It doesn’t cover: Any medical or legal costs you incur along with any damage to the car you’re driving
3. Be crystal clear about what’s included in the price
Your Ireland car rental will come with Third Party, but some companies throw in additional insurance – you’ll be told this before you sign the rental agreement.
Some companies include Vehicle Theft Cover and Collision Damage Waiver, but you need to check this in advance.
4. Collision Damage Waiver
Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) is generally where a good chunk of confusion is caused when renting a car in Ireland. CDW is additional insurance coverage that you can take out from your Ireland car rental company or via a third party.
It’s optional and the cost is generally charged on a per-day basis. If you buy this, make sure to check the excess fee (i.e. the amount you’ll have to pay if there’s an accident). The cheaper the insurance the more you’ll be left to pay.
- What it does: It reduces the amount you’re liable to pay if your rental is damaged or stolen
- If you decline: Most rental companies will make you sign a contract to say you’re fully responsible for the value of the car
- There’s more: They’ll also place a hold on a certain amount (it varies) on your card. I’ve heard of people having €2,000 placed on hold in the past
- Credit card cover: Some credit cards offer this level of cover, but you have to be 100% sure that 1, it covers you to drive in Ireland and that 2, the rental company accepts it
5. Super CDW
Yes, there’s more. Super CDW is worth considering. The insurance above covers you for major incidents, however, you’ll still be liable for minor ones.
Now, this will depend on the company, but you could end up being liable to pay the first €600 or the first €2,600 if something happens to the car. Here’s some quick info:
- Cost varies hugely: I’ve seen this as high as €22.70 per day with some companies
- The benefits: Although this varies by company, you’ll often reduce your excess to zero with this cover which means you could be liable to pay nothing in the event of an accident
- Read the fine print: I’ve seen Super CDW in the past that didn’t cover wheel damage, lost/damaged keys and contamination of fuel
6. What I do
I generally book online via a comparison website and add the full coverage. In my experience, this coverage doesn’t include Collision Damage Waiver (some might, so check!).
So I tend to add the Super Collision Damage Waiver as well. You don’t have to do this – it all depends on what level of risk you want to take on!
If you’re renting a car in Ireland regularly, it may be worth buying yearly car rental insurance (I don’t as I only rent once in a blue moon).
Step 3: Things to be aware of before you rent a car in Ireland
I realise that our Ireland car rental guide might seem long winded, but it genuinely only contains the need-to-know info.
So, with that in mind, the next section looks at some more things you need to be aware of before you book your car rental in Ireland.
1. Time spent reading your car hire Ts&Cs is worth its weight in gold
If there’s one tip you take from this guide to renting a car in Ireland it’s to read the Ts&Cs of your rental agreement before you sign and actually understand what’s being said. Many (not all) people that have negative experiences with rental companies do so due to a lack of research.
2. Book in advance for a better rate
Yep, as tends to be the case with many hotels and airlines, the cost to rent a car in Ireland tends to skyrocket when you book closer to the date of collection.
If you can, book your rental as far in advance as possible. Just keep in mind that some car hire companies in Ireland will charge a hefty cancellation fee.
3. Reviews and why cheap isn’t always best
If you research renting a car in Ireland online, you’ll find lots of horror stories. Now, I’m sure some of these negative reviews are completely justified.
However, a lot of the time, in my experience, people rent a car in Ireland without properly understanding what’s included.
Renting a car isn’t like finding a hotel room – the cheapest option from the company with the best review score on Google isn’t necessarily the best one to go for.
4. Airport collection fees
Yep, if you’re renting a car in Dublin Airpot there’s a charge of €22 (cost may change) that’s only added to the cost of the rental when you collect your car from an airport. This won’t be listed in the fee that you’re quoted online – it’s added when you pick up the car and it’s payable upon arrival at the airport.
5. Manual vs Automatic
The majority of rental cars in Ireland are manual (AKA ‘shift’). Now, while automatic cars are available from most companies, they’re not in wide supply.
If you can only drive an automatic, make sure that you book well in advance to avoid disappointment and crazy rental fees.
6. You may be hit with a charge for entering Northern Ireland
Many car rental companies charge you if you enter Northern Ireland and they track this via the car’s GPS. What’s worse is that you’re often charged every time you enter (see our guide to Ireland vs Northern Ireland).
Now, this might not sound too bad, but if you’re driving around Donegal near the Derry border, for example, you could go in and out of Northern Ireland several times without even knowing it.
7. Beware of the (hidden) M50 Toll
Ireland has a number of toll roads scattered across the country. All but one is your standard toll – i.e. you approach the toll and you can pay with cash or card.
Dublin’s M50 motorway is what’s known as a ‘free-flow tolling system’. So, there isn’t a toll booth – your car reg is recorded and a charged is placed against it.
You can pay this charge online or in some stores (more info here). If you don’t pay, you’ll rack up fines and you’ll be liable. Now, some Ireland car rentals cover this, but you need to check when you collect the car.
8. Compare prices with Discover Cars
If you’re looking to rent a car in Ireland and you’d like to see how the various companies stack up against each other, try Discover Cars (they have a 4.5/5 rating on Trustpilot from 80,000+ reviews).
If you rent a car through them, thank you. We’ll earn a small commission which helps us keep this site running – really, thank you!).
Step 4: What to look out for when booking your car rental in Ireland
Now, a quick disclaimer – I can’t stress enough that, when it comes to renting a car in Ireland, you need to do your own research to ensure that no stone is left unturned.
Below, I’ve popped in a checklist, of sorts, that tackles what you need to look out for at the booking stage.
1. Compare prices
You can often save a few €€€€ by comparing the various car rental providers. If you’d like to help us keep this site running, compare and rent via Discover Cars – they’ve excellent review scores on Trustpilot.
2. Your Itinerary and pick up point
Decide where and when you’re going to pick up the car and drop it off. This sounds obvious, but if, for example, you’re flying into Dublin and spending two days there, you shouldn’t need a car as you can use public transport.
If you follow an itinerary from our massive road trip library you’ll get tips on when you will/won’t need a car.
3. Clarity on what’s been paid and what’s left to pay
When you’re booking your rental online, BE VERY CLEAR on what’s included in the price you’re paying online and WHAT STILL HAS TO BE PAID when you arrive at the counter on the day.
Many people book the cheapest ‘deal’ and then discover that there are a million ‘hidden’ charges left to pay when they collect their car.
4. Understanding the extras
The cost of extras can make renting a car in Ireland very expensive. This is where you need to be savvy with your research phase – get out a pen and paper and spreadsheet and compare the different costs.
For example, adding a car seat could cost you an extra €40 while adding an additional driver could cost twice that. It’s these extras that’ll ramp up the price.
5. The fuel policy (warning)
You need to be very clear about the fuel policy. Personally, I’d avoid the ‘Collect Full, Return Empty’ policy as it means that you could end up dropping the car back with fuel that you’ve paid for, thus losing money.
There’s also the ‘Collect Full, Return Full’ policy. This means that you have to drop the car back with the same amount in the tank as what was in it when you collected it.
Some rental companies will also offer you a service where you can return the car back to them and they’ll fill it on-site at a ‘discounted rate’. DO. NOT. TAKE. THIS. It’s cheaper to just find a petrol station nearby.
Step 5: What to do when collecting your car hire in Ireland
It’s at this point that, if you didn’t thoroughly review the Ts&Cs of your booking, that you can be hit with unexpected fees that’ll ensure your trip is started off on the wrong note.
If you fully understand EXACTLY what you’re booking along with what you’ll still have to pay at the counter, there’ll be no surprises at this stage. However, there are some things you need to watch out for.
1. Inspect the car in detail
One of two things will happen when you’re handed the keys to the car. You’ll either be given a few pages detailing the rental agreement and explaining the damage present on the car, or the person dealing with your booking will accompany you to your car.
If you’ve been handed a sheet that has a diagram that shows the damage on the car, verify that it’s all correct. Then ensure that there’s no unaccounted for damage INSIDE OR OUT.
2. Take photos
For added insurance when renting a car in Ireland, take out your phone and photograph all damage that’s currently inside and outside of the car. This ensures that there’s no issue when you’re dropping the car back.
3. Check who pays the tolls
Check in advance if your car comes with a ‘Toll Tag’. Toll tags are little devices placed on your windscreen that allow you to use the ‘fast lanes’ at toll barriers.
Translation: you won’t need coins and you can drive up to the barrier and it’ll open automatically. If your car doesn’t come with one, and you’re going to be driving on the M50 in Dublin, ask who pays the toll.
4. Who ya gonna call
Hopefully you’ll have no issues with your car hire in Ireland, but I’ve heard of countless breakdowns and accidents, both minor and major, over the years.
It’s worth knowing exactly who to call in each situation. If someone has been injured, call the Gardaí (the Irish police) on 999 or 112.
5. Fuel type
Hopefully this goes without saying, but you need to be clear about whether the car takes petrol or diesel. Now, the chances are they’ll have a sticker with ‘D’ or ‘P’ above the tank to indicate petrol or diesel.
Keep in mind that many Ireland car rental insurance policies don’t cover you sticking the wrong fuel in the rental.
Step 6: What to do when dropping off your rental
The final step in our renting a car in Ireland guide is the drop-off and it’s worth being vigilant to the very end.
I’ve heard of PLENTY of people that have dropped a vehicle back to one of the Irish car rental companies only to discover a random charge on their card weeks later.
1. Checking the car
A member of the rental company will check the rental car over inside and out for any damage that wasn’t present when you picked it up.
If the employee disputes something that was already there when you collected the car, whip out your phone and show them the picture you took upon collection.
Keep in mind that the condition of the vehicle needs to be confirmed by the employee and signed. Ensure that you get a receipt before leaving.
2. Returning the car outside of working hours
If you have to drop your car back outside of normal working hours, check with the company in advance to ensure you’re fully aware of the process (there’s usually a dedicated area to leave it in).
Any time that I have to do this, I take a picture of the car in the designated drop off area just to avoid any hassle in the event of it being stolen.
3. Keep an eye on your credit card
I’ve a friend who rented a car in Dublin for two days recently. All was fine with the car and he dropped it back after his trip.
Two weeks later he noticed a random charge on one of his credit cards from the car hire company. When he queried it, he was told it was for tyre damage.
Luckily, he had a video that he took before he drove the car that showed scuff marks on the alloy. They eventually accepted that he didn’t cause the damage and refunded him.
The best car rental companies in Ireland
We get asked what are the best car rental companies in Ireland quite a bit and, to be completely honest, it’s a question that’s tricky to answer.
I’ve had either first or second hand experience with 3 to 4 of the main car rental companies in Ireland, and the experiences were all fairly similar.
So, I’ve left the comments section open below – if you’ve experience with renting a car in Ireland and you have a company that you’d like to recommend, shout away.
And if you’re looking to compare prices, please do consider booking through Discover Cars (4.5/5 rating on Trustpilot from 80,000+ reviews at the time of typing) as you’ll help us keep this website going.
FAQs about renting a car in Ireland
We’ve had a lot of questions over the years asking about everything from ‘What are some good car rental in Ireland tips?’ to ‘What’s needed for renting a car in Ireland as an American?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs about hiring a car in Ireland that we’ve received. If you have a question that we haven’t tackled, ask away in the comments section below.
How expensive is it to rent a car in Ireland?
The cost of renting a car in Ireland varies massively, but you can expect to sped at least $50 per day including insurance and the various fees and charges.
What documents do you need to hire a car in Ireland?
You need a valid drivers licence and a credit card (some companies accept debit cards). If you’ve booked online in advance, you’ll need your booking confirmation number.
Can I rent a car in Ireland with a US driver license?
If you have a valid US license then you should have no problem renting a car in Ireland. Make sure to check the expiry date and bring with you the various rental documentations.
Tuesday 7th of February 2023
Thank you for all the great info and research that you have done and are providing here! Greatly appreciated!
This September will be my third trip to Ireland but my first driving into N.I. from the Dublin airport traveling north on the M1. You mention above how cars are tracked via chips and charged a fee for each time they cross the boarder into N.I. Do you know what that charge amount is currently?
Thank you, mark
Wednesday 8th of February 2023
Hi Mark - I don't, sorry! I know when I last rented a car (around 3 years ago now) it was like 20 quid I think, but that might have changed. Sorry I can't be of more help.
Thursday 8th of September 2022
Hello Keith. First off let me saythat My wife and I have an upcoming trip to Ireland scheduled for October. I am a bit nervous about driving in Ireland but I have read and reread all your information and downloaded information from the RSA to study. We booked our trip through Great Value vacations back in 2018 and where supposed to leave in October of 2019 however due to Covid restrictions we had to put it off. We paid up front for the trip including the rental car and hotels. Do you think its possible that we will get charged more upon arrivel due to cost increases and car shortages or do you think they will honor the agreements. We have not recieved any notices of an increase from Great Value. Thanks for any advuce you have and also for all your information. Eric
Wednesday 14th of September 2022
Sounds like this is a long-awaited trip! The honest answer is I don't know - it'd be worth reading the Ts and Cs of the booking to see if there's any mention of price changes.
It'd be well worth also reaching out to the company you booked through and get them to confirm in writing.
Have a great, safe trip!
Friday 15th of July 2022
Thanks for all the great info. A couple friends have warned me of taking a car with Ireland license plates into Northern Ireland or a car with Northern Ireland plates into Ireland. Is this just paranoia or areal concern?
Saturday 16th of July 2022
Thats just paranoia. Yes, there's definitely housing estates in parts of NI that I wouldn't drive into in my own car, but driving around NI with a 'southern' reg will be absolutely fine.
Monday 4th of July 2022
Hi Keith, thank you so much for this article and all of the others. Have spent a considerable time on your site planning out my trip to Ireland late Aug 2022. Like others have said the prices are quite high. Do you think it'll be cheaper to rent a car in smaller towns compared to Dublin? We're thinking it might be cheaper to get from city to city using a bus, and rent a car for excursions. Any advice?
Monday 4th of July 2022
Hey Shruti! Thanks for the kind words! The honest answer is I have no idea - all we keep hearing is that 'There's a shortage of cars', and that's why prices are so high. There's no real insight into whether that's going to change any time soon. If it was me, I'd definitely be doing what you say - use buses and trains and then, when needed, use a rental or book onto an organised tour. It's a mess of a situation - I hope it hasn't cause you too much hassle during your planning! Have a great trip!
Friday 6th of May 2022
Yeah not sure what’s going on right now with rental rates overall, because I’m seeing, even on the discover site, $2,000 for 10 days automatic compact in October. When I visited in 2019 it was €499 all inclusive, plus €10/day for second driver. Feel like something is up with the prices.
Wednesday 1st of June 2022
@Keith O'Hara, I am travelling to Ireland end of June and the rental prices are shocking. Some articles mentioned that the rest of the tourism industry is complaining because this is going to discourage travellers. Do you think there is a chance that the government will intervene?
Friday 6th of May 2022
I was talking to someone recently who said that it's down to rental companies selling off their cars over the last 3 years. Not sure how accurate this is, but it seems like renting a car in Dublin, in particular, is very pricey at the moment.