Renting a car in Ireland for the first time is, in my experience, an absolute nightmare to get your head around.
There’s an awful lot to take in and, in my opinion, many Irish car rental companies use jargon to trick/coax you into buying things you don’t need to.
The most important thing you can do before you start looking at car hire 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 with an easy-to-follow 6 step approach
Table of Contents
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 (myself included) 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 start looking at hotels. Car rental usually ends up as an after thought and the result is that many panic book without understanding the ins and outs of it. Knowledge is power. You need to know what’s needed and what isn’t before you book.
2. Insurance is deliberately confusing
The number one issue people have when renting a car in Ireland is insurance and it would appear that 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?! There’s plenty to consider and 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 stack up against each other, try Discover Cars (they have a 4.4/5 rating on Trustpilot from 49,840 reviews at the time of typing). 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. It’ll educate you on the ins and outs of it and it’ll save you stress and cash in the long run. So, take 3 minutes to read the below.
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, it’s extremely important to understand what you need to rent a car in Ireland.
There are a number of different requirements, as you’ll see below, but the one that tends to cause the most confusion is around age.
Requirement 1: A valid drivers licence and ID
Hopefully this goes without saying, but 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
This is arguably the most confusing part when it comes to renting a car in Ireland. It’s also what tends to skyrocket a price from ‘a great deal’ to wayyyyy more expensive than you initially thought.
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. This isn’t an add on and 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. What it does and doesn’t cover:
- Covers: Damage to someone else’s car/property and any injury you cause to the person
- Doesn’t cover: Any medical or legal costs you incur along with any damage to the car you’re driving
- My 2 cents: Personally, I would never drive a car with this level of insurance as it leaves you open to huge costs if you damage the rental car
3. Be crystal clear about what’s included in the price
Your rental will come with Third Party, but many other 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. A CDW is basically an additional bit of 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 see what the excess fee (i.e. the amount you’ll have to pay if there’s an accident) is. 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!) – not ideal, I know.
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.
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
This one is a bit of a farce – yep, 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, but when you drive past it 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 it, 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 4.4/5 rating on Trustpilot from 49,840 reviews at the time of typing).
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. Pop in the car type you want (select the correct transmission, etc.) and then run the numbers.
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.
You could easily get the bus into the city, do your bit of exploring over a few days and then collect a car from a location near the city. This way, you’ll avoid the sneaky airport collection charge that costs around €22.
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 just book the cheapest ‘deal’ and then go on to discover that there are a million ‘hidden’ charges that are left to pay when they arrive to collect their car.
4. Understanding the extras
The cost of extras can make renting a car in Ireland insanely 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, so take your time and do your research.
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.
Now, 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 usually 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
So, one of two things will happen when you’re handed the keys to the car. You’ll either be handed 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 rental car, 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 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. Hopefully, you’ll have arrived at this point without any hassle. Keep in mind, however, that you need to be vigilant to the very end.
I’ve heard of PLENTY of people that have dropped a car back to a car rental agency in Dublin and in various others across Ireland and have discovered a random charge on their credit card weeks later.
1. Checking the car
A member of the rental company will walk out and check over the rental car. They’ll check the inside and the outside of the car 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 when you collected the car rental.
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 (4.4/5 rating on Trustpilot from 49,840 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 insurance do I need?’.
In the section below, we’ve popped in the most FAQs 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.
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