The Ugly Truth About Renting a Car in Ireland

Renting a car in Ireland is the ultimate way to experience the country.  And while driving in Ireland is a wonderful experience, the actual car rental in Ireland can bring some ugly surprises!  So when you are planning a trip to Ireland, don’t just search on the internet and  book the cheapest rental car rate out there.  Take a look at some of these important considerations for renting a car in Ireland first!  Speaking from experience, we guarantee that you’ll be thankful you took the extra time to understand the process and weigh your options.


Renting a Car in Ireland – a Smaller is Better…but Beware!

In the States people tend to think that bigger is better, especially when it comes to rental cars.  But that’s not the case in Ireland, in fact, you will likely want the smaller car?  “Why” you may ask?  Quite simply, many of the roads are narrow — I mean, really narrow!  Especially on the beautiful country and back roads, the ones you quite possibly will want to drive on.

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Driving the narrow country roads in Ireland!
However, when they say compact car in Ireland…they really mean it!

Look carefully at the description of the rental car, and specifically how many people and suitcases can fit inside.  You don’t want to accidentally book one of those tiny toy-looking cars and then not have enough room for a suitcase because there isn’t even a trunk!

Read also Driving Map of Ireland

Stick Shifts Are the Norm in Ireland

In Ireland, and actually many countries around the world, manual transmissions or “stick shifts” are actually the typical cars driven.  Personally, I love driving a stick shift.  But I also have many friends who don’t like them…or don’t even know how!

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Our Ireland rental car (driving opposite side)

The last thing you want is to be surprised in a foreign country (where they drive on the opposite side of the road…and opposite side of the car) and realize you need to master that mysterious stick shift.

Related Post:  Tips on Driving Internationally

If you want an automatic transmission, you will need to do a specific search for it.  Not all companies offer them, and if they do, then you will also be paying a higher price for the car.  Keep this in mind if you tend to search online and book the lowest price you see!

Now the Ugly News – Rental Car Insurance in Ireland

The truly worst part about renting a car in Ireland is the rental car insurance.  There are loads of insurance options in Ireland, and many of them are mandatory…including the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW).  Many savvy travelers simple waive the CDW coverage from the rental agency because they can often use their credit card.  However, this is not often possible in Ireland.

Read also Driving the Quieter Peninsula – Dingle Peninsula 

Unfortunately, Ireland is one of the few place where most credit cards exclude CDW rental car insurance coverage!

To my knowledge, I think even American Express doesn’t cover CDW in Ireland.  Recently, I read that Chase Sapphire (an amazing and one of our favorite travel credit cards) reversed their exclusion clause, and now cover CDW in Ireland.  This is great news because we LOVE using our Chase Sapphire card to earn travel rewards.  

** NOTE:  From my research, if you do want to use the Chase Sapphire to cover your CDW, you will have to get a letter from Chase to confirm this and show it to the rental agency.  You might even want to contact the rental agency before your trip to verify that they will accept this letter.  Some rental car agencies in Ireland will still refuse it, and will require you to buy the additional CDW.  (This is actually what happened to us when we rented a car in Ireland a few years ago).  If you know they won’t accept your letter of coverage prior to your trip, perhaps you can try a different agency.  For us, we found out when we arrived and didn’t want to fuss with searching for a new rental — so we paid it (GRRRR!).

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Lovely Ross Castle, near Killarney Ireland

They Will Put a Hold on Your Credit Card…a Big One!

When renting a car in Ireland, it is also standard procedure to put a fat hold on your credit card — sometimes upwards of $3000+ (depending on the agency).  This can be a real problem for travelers, especially if they are paying for a lot of the trip on their card (flights, hotels, food, etc.).

As mentioned in our money travel tips post, I always recommend having a few different credit cards and payment options when you travel; and it’s definitely an important thing to consider when renting a car in Ireland.  It is also critical that you NOT use a debit card, but an actual credit card.  The last thing you want is to have them actually remove that sum of money from your checking account.  With a credit card, you don’t notice it’s being held (unless you are at your limit and need to use it).

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Yet Another Waiver for Ireland Rental Car Insurance:  Excess Damage  / Super Damage

You know things must be a little rough on the roads in Ireland when there is yet another rental car insurance waiver…and especially when it’s called Excess Damage and Super Damage!  This is another “extra” that you may choose to buy, and it does reduce your cost & deductible a lot if you damage the car.  But it is quite expensive to buy!

Another consideration is that in some instances, this additional coverage might waive excess “hold” fees placed on your credit card.  ** If you have the Chase Sapphire, you shouldn’t need this extra coverage either.

Side noteyou may be wondering why all there are so many requirements and rental car insurance hassles in Ireland.  Well, it just goes to show you that driving in Ireland isn’t always a piece of cake.  From narrow roads, lots of rain and rocks…and many tourists driving on the opposite side of the road (and car…with a stick shift) — well, you can guess there’s a lot of damage that happens!

Dingle Peninsula road - Coast
Narrow roads and rock walls…be careful!!!

Renting a Car in Ireland  – Be Sure You Are Comparing Apples to Apples

Similar to what we wrote about renting a car in Mexico, a lot of online car rental companies will hide a lot of the required insurance prices to make the price look cheaper.  They know that most people look and sort by the lowest possible price.  But always, always read the fine print!

You should read through all the inclusions in that rate, and go through the booking process to see what the final charges will be after adding all the required rental car insurance in Ireland.  Sometimes the cost of the full insurance can double or even triple the total price of the rental!

If you are having a difficult time finding the total price of the car rental and all the required insurance, or if you are having trouble even finding out what exactly the rental price includes, then I would recommend going with a different agency.  The last thing you want is an ugly surprise when you arrive in Ireland.

Read Also  Driving in Ireland – Things You Should Know

Other Considerations When Renting a Car in Ireland

When driving in Ireland, be sure that you have a hefty budget for gasoline or petrol.  The gas prices in Ireland are steep, and remember petrol is sold by liters, not gallons (like us Americans are used to).  Even though most cars in Ireland will get much better gas mileage then a car in the USA, depending on how much you are driving, the cost can definitely add up.

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Morning stop along the Irish coast to walk to the beach

Also, some of the roads (especially around Dublin) are actually toll roads.  Some airport rental agencies will automatically charge a fee to cover your tolls (there should be sticker thing in the car for tolls).  If you have paid this through the rental car agency, then don’t stop to pay cash at the tolls — or you would be double paying!

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Good News – No Special Driving License Required in Ireland!

If there is one good thing to know about renting a car in Ireland, it’s that you actually don’t need an international driver’s license.  Yay!  (It’s the little things, right?!!)

On a Final Note — Renting a Car in Ireland is Totally Worth It!

I don’t want to seem all bleak in this post, because renting a car in Ireland really is an awesome way to see the country.  While we enjoyed sightseeing in Dublin, it was so nice to get out of the city and explore! We loved having the car and zipping about and explore on our own terms.

It was a wonderful trip, and we can’t wait to get back there and rent a car again.  But having this extra information will help you to be prepared when you are planning a trip to Ireland, so you know when to look for when booking your rental car in Ireland.

Editors Note:  This post was originally published in February 2016, but has been revamped and updated as of 2019.

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The amazing Cliffs of Moher in Ireland

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