The romanticized Irish road trip feels like something you should do when you visit Ireland, right? You want to wander around the Ring of Kerry. Driving the Wild Atlantic Way up to the Cliffs of Moher, seeing Ireland on your own terms sounds like a great idea.
Making this happen requires you to rent a car in Ireland though. This is unlike most experiences you might have had in Europe renting a car in the past.
Table of Contents
Car Rental in Ireland can be Tricky
Renting a car sounds easy enough. Book a rental car online at your favorite rental car company in Ireland and you’re done, right? Wrong.
Unlike most European nations, there is so much more to think about when booking a car through a rental company in Ireland, from international drivers license, car rental insurance and even the best car rental locations. .
Booking A Rental Car In Ireland
If you plan to drive, all trips to Ireland start with the Irish car rental search. First, you visit a site like TripAdvisor or RentalCars.com, and you are given a number of options through a variety of car rental companies, like Hertz, Enterprise, Europcar, Sixt, Avis and more.
Rental Car Options
- Manual or automatic
- Unlimited Miles
- Air conditioning
- GPS Navigation systems
- Baby seats
Rental Car Agreements
You find the car you think you want, grab the best price and start clicking through pages of agreements. Read those agreements very carefully. Additional fees and car insurance rules are in there.
The fine print is worth reading when you rent a car in Ireland.
Read the FAQs for the company you are getting your rental car, check for surcharges, make sure you are paying in USD (or your preferred currency) when you look at the price.
More Rental Agreement Questions
- Do they accept debit card payments or only credit cards?
- Are there any cancellation fees or a date you have to cancel by for a full refund?
- How much does it cost to add additional drivers?
- Do you need an international drivers license?
- What happens if you break down on the motorways in Ireland?
What Size Car Do You Rent In Ireland
This is a very important question to ask before you even book with rental agencies.
The size of the roads in Ireland are small, especially those tiny (gorgeous) ones you want to take across the Emerald Isle.
While we would all love a big SUV or even a van rental or luxury car, to comfortably road trip around Ireland, The Ring of Kerry is not a three-lane highway. You will be passing tour buses.
I was in a standard car (4-doors with a trunk) and I barely squeaked by some cars without having to pull in the side mirrors or pull off the side of the road.
In Ireland, bigger is not better when you are on a self-drive road trip through Ireland. Rent the smallest car you can safety fit into so you are comfortable driving on the roads.
Where will you pick up your car?
While the majority of people fly into Dublin or Shannon, you may want to book a car hire for part of your trip (someone else drives you), and then pick up a car in Cork, Dooley, Donegal, Galway or even up in Belfast.
If you are driving all over Ireland and don’t want to have to worry about getting back to the same airport you flew out of, think about pick up location and drop off location before you book. Also make sure your Ireland car rental company allows you to pick up and drop off in different locations.
Diesel or Gasoline?
While many Americans are familiar with gasoline for their cars, a lot of Europe runs on diesel because it is cheaper. Check out the price of fuel before you book a car to save a little money. Most rental cars are diesel, but some are gasoline.
And when you go to the pump, triple check what you are filling your car with- gas or diesel. I almost filled my diesel car with gasoline at a teeny tiny gas station somewhere in the middle or Ireland.
Thank goodness the gal at the register ran out to tell me I was using the wrong pump before I started. That would have been a hefty fine from the rental car agency.
Extra Car Insurance When Renting A Car In Ireland
Yes, buy the extra insurance when renting a car in Ireland. In fact, you have to have it. No rental car company in Ireland will let you take a car without additional coverage, usually requiring full coverage with a collision damage waiver (CDW).
Car Insurance through Your Credit Card
Call your credit card company. Chances are, they will not cover your rental in Ireland. Your personal auto insurance won’t either.
The Republic of Ireland is one of the few countries in the world that most credit cards and personal auto companies just won’t cover. Your travel insurance may not cover you either.
Car Insurance at the Airport
Do not wait until you get to the Dublin airport or Shannon Airport to buy insurance. This could cost you up to an additional 700 dollars (US).
3rd party Rental Car Insurance
If you are booking through companies like Travelocity.com or RentalCars.com, you can buy additional insurance through a 3rd party vendor.
However, call the insurance company BEFORE you buy to make sure they cover the Republic of Ireland. Not all insurance being offered will cover you in Ireland.
Triple Check Your Coverage
I bought insurance through the Irish rental car company and still called them when in Dublin just to double check I was covered. It never occurred to me that a company would sell me a policy that wouldn’t work in the destination I visiting.
If you find yourself in this situation, make sure to ask the insurance company for refund.
Get a GPS to drive in Ireland
We all love our Google Maps, but in Ireland, it isn’t always the best option. First of all, you will kill your data plan.
Save it for all of your social media uploads, and invest in a portable GPS for your trip.
Why get a GPS in Ireland?
The little lady in your GPS navigation system may even bring you down some tiny roads Google never would have shown you. I swear we went down more tractor roads than even the locals knew about because our GPS decided it was the fastest route.
Check for the best rental car prices on RentalCars.com
Rules of driving in Ireland
Every country has its own quirks when it comes to the rules of the road. Renting a car in Ireland and driving down the highways and local village roads is no different.
To confuse you even more, Northern Ireland has its own set of rules too.
- Drive on the left.
- Mind the speed limit!
- The left lane is the “slow lane” on the highway (pass on the right).
- There are roundabouts on the highways.
- Tour buses get the right of way. Always. If it is bigger than you, figure out how to pull over safely and just stay put until you can pass.
- Drive during the day; it’s dark out there!
- A tight white dashed line means it is a two way traffic street.
- Sheep have the right of way… especially when they are blocking the road. Have patience.
- Traffic cameras are everywhere. If your GPS tells you one is coming up, do not ignore it.
- Toll roads do exist. Have small change on hand whenever possible.
This post may contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking one of those links I will receive a small commission.
Ireland (Dublin) Destination Guide
This page contains affiliate links, meaning if you book or buy something through one of these links, I may earn a small commission (at no extra cost to you!)
- Dublin Skylon Hotel: A family run hotel situated near many Dublin landmarks. Hotel features free Wi-Fi, paid parking, and a bar/lounge.
- The Mayson: Beautiful hotel with pool, free Wi-Fi, and bar/lounge.
- The Croke Park: An unforgettable experience. The Croke Park is nestled close to Dublin center and features conference facilities, free parking, and Wi-Fi.
- The Grafton Hotel: Fun boutique hotel near Temple bar with free Wi-Fi and parking nearby.
- Anantara The Marker Dublin: Luxury hotel with a pool, spa and free Wi-Fi within walking distance of most attractions.
Looking for more? Search for the best Dublin hotel on Expedia.com.
Dublin Vacation Rentals
- Condo Across from Temple Bar: Sleeps 4 in 2 bedrooms + 1 bath
- City Centre Apartment: Sleeps 5 in 2 bedroom + 1 bath
- Stunning Penthouse in the Heart of Dublin: Sleeps 4 in 2 bedroom + 2 baths
- The Yellow Door: Sleeps 22 in 6 bedrooms (16 beds) + 5 baths
Need a car? Grab the best rates on rental cars HERE (and yes, we use this site for every trip).
Don’t want to get a rental car?
You can easily book day trips out of Dublin to see most of the highlights across the county. And heck, you may even meet a few friends. While we love a good road trip, sometimes you are short on time and a day tour is your best option to get the most out of your trip.
15 thoughts on “Essential guide to How to Rent a Car in Ireland”
Great info! These are very helpful tips when visiting Ireland with the whole family.
Budget Car Rental covers it in their rental price. Double check with them, but we were informed at the counter in Dublin that we had wasted our money by getting car insurance through Expedia.
Yes, car insurance purchased through Expedia and Travelocity is not “viable” in Ireland. We had to fork out another 700 Euros for our two week stay.
Useful post for the road trip in Ireland. The rental car is very beneficial for the road trip. Thanks!
What do you mean – Expedia/Travelocity insurance, Travel Guard/AIG, is not “viable” in Ireland? Expedia sells a travel partner’s zero deductible CDW and it isn’t accepted? What rental company? You printed the policy info and cards and they did not accept?
You REALLY have to double check and CALL the insurance company that Expedia is selling to make sure Ireland is covered. Although Expedia sells it, that doesn’t mean Ireland is covered. Expedia and other OTAs blanket their rental cars and don’t always flag which countries you are renting in. It’s better to be safe than sorry and pay for two plans, one of which won’t do anything for you. My parents learned that the hard way.
Many US-based cards do cover Irish rentals now, unlike several years ago. As Keryn says, check with your card company and, if they do, get them to send/email you a letter confirming coverage. You’ll probably need it as proof for the rental company.
Check all the fine-print on your rate quotes before you book. Many rental agencies in Ireland will allow you to waive coverage if your credit card covers it and you bring written proof, although they may charge you a silly fee to “verify” coverage.
On the other hand, many rates (more often found on the companies’ European portals) include some form of CDW/LDW for a reasonable price, but then there can be high deductibles and exclusions which mostly make it moot.
Personally, I use my credit card insurance and book cars without coverage. I get better coverage at a cheaper price, at the expense of a few minutes of checking the fine print and dodging a hard sell at the counter. Paperwork doesn’t bother me.
I just checked, and my Platinum Delta Skymiles AmEx does not excluded Ireland (only NZ, Australia, and Italy). I’m gonna all my card concierge and confirm this, and have them talk me thru my benefits. Also, I’m gonna make sure the extra Personal Accident Ins might not be worth the 5.50 Euro per day.
I just rented a car in Ireland through Budget for $117 for the week through Priceline. Priceline offered insurance for $11 a day . However when I got to Budget they told me that was through a third-party and I ended up paying €52 a day for insurance .. The insurance was more than the car rental.. my budget for my car rental was €200 and the total for my rental for seven days was over €500 .. in that price was also a €90 diesel fee, which I got back after bringing the car back full of diesel .
I really agree with you that booking a car in Ireland is not easy with all the insurance thing and other monetary stuff. But luckily, I landed on finding Dooley car rentals who offer car hire services across all major cities in Ireland. The booking was easy and all the insurances were properly explained to us including the CWD. This insurance is very crucial and I took it as being a family guy, I didn’t want any unexpected problem to come up in the trip.
Driving through the Atlantic Way is just crazy with all the fresh air refreshing our lungs. Driving was initially tricky as I barely had any experience for driving to the left. But once I got the hang of it, driving was a bliss. We halted in many places to take pictures, which is only possible when you hire a personal car. We took a standard car which was comfortable enough for our family. Big cars don’t work for Ireland roads as roads suddenly get narrower. But overall, it was amazing driving the car. Thanks to Dooley car rentals!
CITICARD World Elite and Discover Miles cards used to cover Ireland (up to $50,000) BUT recently (Sep 2019) both stopped insurance coverage completely. Always have insurance before you get to the rental car pickup…. insurance is their bread and butter in Ireland, not renting cars!
It is such a beautiful article. Thanks for all the information as it would help a novice know the country better. I am looking to travel to Ireland and all the information given here about the roads, car rental and the type of car to hire has helped me a lot in planning the trip. After much research, I opted for Dooley car rentals, and I hope I have a good experience with them. Many thanks for the information about extended insurance service.
We used Dooley and enjoyed the experience. It was like any other car rental agency.
My Chase Visa credit card covers car rentals in Ireland (and lots of other countries) and I have no need for additional insurance. When traveling to Ireland, we have them make up a letter saying so before we leave and present it at the rental counter when picking up the car. Easy. Just check with your credit card company.
This article and the comments are very helpful. We rented our car through Priceline and collision coverage by Allianz Global. Coverage is anywhere in the world – does anyone here have any experience relating to these companies? Thank you,