7 Tips for Renting a Car in Ireland (Beware #6)

Renting a Car in Ireland



 Things You Should Know Before Renting a Car in Ireland

Prepare for the Road Ahead with These 7 Tips!


I knew I wanted to self drive part of our vacation to Ireland, but it took some convincing to get my mom on board. While we love travel and take quite a few trips internationally, we hardly do road trips. Ireland is one of the few countries that drives on the left so she was doubly hesitant!

It took a little pressure on my part but eventually we decided to rent a car in Ireland and I’m really happy we decided to commit to it. I love planning my own travel itineraries and Ireland is such a scenic country that I think it really makes sense to rent a car and have some freedom to choose your own sights and stops.

Here are some tips we figured out about how to rent a car in Ireland. For the most part, the process is straightforward!



1. Pre Book Your Car for the Best Rate

During the planning process, we looked at Auto Europe to get an idea of all the car rental agencies available in Ireland and also to get a general idea of pick up options and costs. Then, we went direct to the car rental agency websites and found that this ended up in a slightly cheaper rate.


There are a couple options that you’ll want to pay attention to:

  • Age: At minimum, drivers need to be at least aged 21 in order to drive in Ireland. But, if you’re between ages 21 – 24, you will pay ka surcharge. Ireland also has age restrictions on the upper threshold and charges a bit more if you’re over 75.
  • Automatic or Manual: We knew we wanted to stick with an automatic rental and made sure to check this box. If you can drive stick, you’ll save significantly on cost!
  • Number of Drivers: We put both of us down as drivers, to split up the driving time. Typically car rental agencies charge more for additional drivers.



2. Plan Your Itinerary Before Booking

The nice thing about car rentals is you can pretty much cancel up to the day of and not be charged. Take advantage of the flexibility and try to plan your route, stops and days before booking.


Things to keep in mind about an Ireland itinerary:

Pick up and Drop offs 

When renting a car in Ireland, you have the option to pick up your car in any major city center or major city airport. We found that airport pickups were cheaper and realized in Dublin that this must be because all the car stock is located at the airport.

Compare against airfare

You can pick up in one city and return in another, which for our dates resulted in no change in price! But, when we checked flight prices, round trip airfare from Dublin was cheaper. Other major airports in Ireland include Shannon in the southwest and Cork in the southeast, but likely involve stopovers. We ended up booking round trip airfare from Dublin because it was not only slightly cheaper but offered direct routes home so committed to a full circular drive around Ireland.

Make Sure You Have Enough Time: In order to have enough time to fully circle the Republic of Ireland in a leisurely fashion, make sure you have enough time. We did it 7 days but rushed a bit because I already had two prior weeks to explore Ireland. Budget at least 10 days and ideally 2 weeks!


It helps to have a fully fleshed out itinerary and Ireland vacation plan before you do all your bookings. If you want to take a look at my itinerary, you can find it in this post here.

 Read more:  7 Stops to Include on the Perfect Ireland Itinerary



3. Choose a small car (but not too small!)

There were 2 of us on the trip and we ended up booking the smallest car possible, “the mini” category. On the day of, we found out it was a Kia. This ended up being great for us because we’re not the most comfortable drivers and found navigating Irish roads with as small a car as possible, easier. Larger Irish cities require parallel parking so that was also easier to navigate with the mini car!

The downside is that although it’s a 4 door car, it only comfortably seats 2 people. We brought just 1 large suitcase (my Calpak one that has proven quite durable for the price!) and to fit it in the mini car, we had to fold down the back 2 seats. If you each bring large luggage.. I don’t think it will fit. We did have some extra room for small bags like duffels, backpacks, shopping bags etc.

Irish roads are much narrower than roads in America. Basically, what we might consider a one way road, Irish people will happily drive in opposite directions as a two way road. You can get an idea of what local roads look like in the photo below, highways are roomier but have more traffic. Buckle up!

If you’re visiting Ireland with 4 or more people, consider a compact or midsize car. This is slightly more expensive but run on diesel so you could end up saving on the fuel cost. Gas prices in Ireland during our trip in October 2017 were roughly 1.329 euro per litre.


4. Use Your U.S. License

It’s totally fine to drive in Ireland with your US license – no need for anything additional!

 Read more:  How to Master Driving in Ireland (as a tourist!)



5. Make Sure to Have Rental Car Insurance in Ireland

When looking at car rental rates online, they usually show you the lowest possible base rate, and don’t include the necessary upgrades like insurance and excess collision damage waiver (CDW) insurance.

If you have an American credit card, the good news is you may already be covered with insurance. Check the fine print and then double check with a customer service rep at your bank to make sure – lots of credit cards cover CDW coverage except for Italy and Ireland. I’m not quite sure why, but luckily our credit card did cover the extra insurance.


If you’re American and have travel friendly credit cards:

  • Visa credit cards normally do not provide insurance coverage in Ireland
  • Only Mastercard credit cards and not all Mastercards offer it, they have so many different branded cards and types. I have like 13 credit cards and luckily, one credit card was a no foreign fee card with a decent credit limit and offered car rental insurance coverage. Eureka! I hit the jackpot!
  • Call your credit card company (try the number on the back of your car) and ask what type of car rental insurance is covered and specify that you’re traveling to Ireland. The rep may ask a few questions and then will let you know what coverage is included, if any
  • Then, make sure you ask your rep to send you an email confirming coverage because at the car rental desk in Ireland they will want to see coverage spelled out in writing. Make sure to print this and bring it with you to Ireland.

Only then will the car rental representative waive their coverage! Whew!


A couple other things:

  • Make sure you waive the car rentals’ coverage, otherwise Mastercard won’t cover you
  • The way it works is car rental coverage takes precedence over Mastercard’s coverage, but the car rental coverage is a) expensive and b) carries a high deductible (for us it was €2700)
  • Car rental coverage does not cover damage to the entire car. Notably excluded are the tires and under car, along with some other miscellaneous things.
  • Meanwhile, the insurance coverage offered by my Mastercard credit card completely covered collision damage protection, car theft and the entire car. There was no deductible whatsoever. It was quite a handy benefit!

I was really impressed by my credit card and would go so far as to recommend signing up for it purely if you are planning to visit Ireland. Obviously, review your own finances and do what you’re comfortable with, but for us the card really came in handy!



6. Be Prepared for Extra Charges

Check your receipt carefully, as you’ll typically see some additional charges. These can include:

  • Admin Fee: In an example of a complete money grab, car rental agencies charge you an administration fee if you have your own collision damage waiver insurance. We were charged 30 euro.
  • Credit Card Fee: We were charged an extra 5 euro just for using a credit card. I guess I’m too used to being able to charge everything in the US – it’s illegal for businesses to charge credit card processing fees here!
  • Credit Card Holds: This isn’t an outright charge but car rental agencies will place a large hold on your credit card if you use your own insurance coverage. This is to cover any potential accidents which can happen. For our Irish car rental, we had an additional $5,000 hold plus the estimated cost of the car rental. I think the hold is likely more expensive if you pick a larger car. If you can, bring along 2 credit cards for your trip, one for the rental and the second for trip expenses.
  • Gas: You have the option to bring the car back with a full tank or without. Definitely opt for the former because they charge you double the price of fuel and as I mentioned in my Driving in Ireland post, fuel is already expensive in Ireland! Also, car rental agencies won’t give you a credit for left over gas in the tank.
  • Taxes: Ah, the dreaded tax man. Car rentals are subject to a (very high) tax rate of 13.6%. Yikes!


Even with all the extra charges, we thought renting a car in Ireland was quite affordable and well worth it. Most of the country’s beauty lies in scenic drives and you won’t be able to experience the landscape without your own car rental.

For reference, our “base” price car rental was about 70 euro for 8 days. Our credit card covered the extra insurance and we paid gas as we went. We visited in the off season, in October, so I think that helped with the rate. I have heard it can be quite expensive in peak season (as with all things) and if you have to pay for the extra insurance. Hope that pricing info helps!



7. Ditch the GPS

Instead of purchasing a GPS, I highly recommend getting travel cell service instead. There are many ways to get cellular service while traveling but my personal preference is to use Know Roaming, so that I have access to cell service and can use my iphone.

A GPS unit is only as good as its last update and most GPS devices in Ireland operate by GPS coordinates, not by address. For my Ireland trip, I knew I wanted to use Google Maps on my phone instead. It’s how I plan my trips, its what I use on a daily basis and is always up to date.


I’m a huge fan of Google Maps for so many reasons:

  • You can plug in multiple destinations and it will plan the best route. So you can put in say attraction #1, stop #2 and your hotel and it will remember it all
  • You can find information on nearby essentials, like gas stations, restaurants and grocery stores. Just hit the magnifying glass and what you want. Then, the app will plan out your best route for you.
  • It lets you have control over your route – you can avoid toll roads, avoid ferries and/or avoid highways.
  • It speaks to you to help you drive, even if you’re alone (although I recommend having a buddy to help with navigation). After you enter your destination, hit “start” and Google Maps will start directing you.
  • It gives you a heads up where you’ll encounter traffic. Routes are normally highlighted in blue. If there is a section of the road ahead with traffic or congestion, you’ll see the section highlighted in yellow for medium traffic and red for full stop congestion.
  • Finally, Google Maps isn’t a data hog. Just turn on cellular to plot the route, then turn your phone to airplane mode. It will still talk you through the route and remember your route so long as you don’t close the app (you can toggle to different apps, just don’t completely close out of Google Maps)

That gave our Irish road trip lots of flexibility and enabled us to modify our itinerary if we found we wanted to linger at a destination or leave another attraction early. Given how unpredictable the weather can be in Ireland, this was really helpful. It also meant we never scrambled to find gas!



Decided Not to Rent a Car?

If that sounded like way too much work or risk for you, then I would suggest basing yourself in Dublin and taking day tours to the popular places in Ireland.

Below are some of the most popular tours that will take you to the Cliffs of Moher, Giants Causway (to see the Game of Thrones Dark Hedges), Galway, Kilkenny, Killarney and more.

Compare the tour prices with Irish car rental prices to get an idea of how much more or less you’ll pay. They’re surprisingly affordable! Also, the benefit of taking a tour is that you’ll get a knowledgeable local guide to show you the sights.



Visiting Ireland – Travel Checklist

Aer Lingus, the national Irish airline, offers non-stop flights from select US cities. While we didn’t enjoy our experience with them (flight attendants skipped us for meals multiple times and were rude) Aer Lingus is rapidly expanding their routes and offers low fares (some non stop) from many US cities. We found cheap flights to Ireland in October – you can check for flight deals and routes here.

When returning to the U.S., take advantage of the U.S. pre-clearance facilities at Dublin and Shannon airports, where you complete U.S. immigration, customs and agriculture controls before departure so that when you land in the U.S., you can just collect your bags.

I highly recommend staying at an Irish country house or family run hotel during your trip. Irish hospitality is truly something else. Check out Ireland’s Blue Book for luxury, boutique accommodation with a focus on family-run properties and excellent food.

Lastly, be sure to visit Ireland with travel insurance. Whether you get injured and need to be hospitalized, or your phone gets stolen, or an injury forces you to cancel all or part of your vacation, travel insurance will help when you need it most. Hurricane Ophelia hit the country smack in the middle of our road trip! I use and recommend Allianz travel insurance.


 You Might Also Enjoy: 


Ireland Vacation Planning Articles

Itinerary, Tips & Advice for How to Plan the Perfect Ireland Vacation

For Foodies: All the Best Food We Ate in Ireland

How to Master Driving in Ireland (as a tourist!)

7 Useful Tips for Renting a Car in Ireland

10 Enchanting Castles in Ireland – You Can Actually Stay In!

Packing Checklist: What to Wear in Ireland


Irish Sights, Activities & Tours We Especially Enjoyed:

Co Galway: Visiting Kylemore Abbey, Ireland’s Most Beautiful Castle?

Co Kerry: 7 Can’t Miss Sights in Killarney

Mingle in Dingle: The Best Things to Do in this Quaint Fishing Village

Co Waterford: 8 Reasons You’ll Love Waterford, Ireland’s Oldest City!

Visiting the House of Waterford Crystal

Is Mount Congreve Ireland’s Best Garden?

Co Wexford: Don’t Skip Wexford – Here’s Why!

Co Kilkenny: Exploring Kilkenny Castle, in photos


Restaurant & Hotels We Loved:

County Clare: Gregans Castle Hotel

County Galway: Rosleague Manor Hotel, Where to Stay in Galway

County Wexford: The Strand Inn

County Waterford: The Cliff House Hotel, The Reg Pub


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LizzieNovember 12, 2017 - 4:32 pm

Great post! I definitely agree, especially about getting a smallish car for Ireland. Those roads are so narrow!!!!

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DennieApril 18, 2018 - 10:39 am

Thanks for the tips about renting a car in Ireland. I just called my Mastercard and they stated that they offer full coverage and will be sending me documentation to bring along with me.

Unfortunately, I’ve read that there are some car companies in Ireland that may reject it still so you might have to go somewhere else which isn’t always an option if you’ve shopped around for a deal and especially if you have to get going.

SherApril 18, 2018 - 6:57 pm

Hi Dennie – Great! So glad you were able to use your Mastercard too. We used Hertz (it was the cheapest at the time we went) and while the counter guy was sketchy – he tried hard to upsell us – they did accept the letter and provide full coverage. Not sure about other car companies in Ireland but I’ve generally heard good things about Conns and Dooley’s, which seem like family run local businesses. Can try calling or emailing them to confirm?

DennieApril 23, 2018 - 11:03 am

Thanks for the heads up about Dooley. They seem to be the only car company which not only has a decent reputation but a glowing one in Ireland. I’m doing my research and it seems every other company there has a dozen or more horror stories/reviews attached to them.

Fabio M.May 9, 2018 - 8:16 am

Actually interesting finding these tips all together. Another thing I’d say is to be aware of aggregator websites that show you cars from other rentals at a cheaper price, offering their own insurance, because it looks frequent that when you reach the front desk they’ll tell you that insurance is not valid and you’ll need to pay for another one.

SherMay 9, 2018 - 2:05 pm

Hi Fabio – glad you found it helpful and thanks for the tip! Totally agree insurance is the tricky issue. We were lucky enough to do research before and find that our credit card fully covered the insurance. The salesman did try to trick us about adding on other things but accepted it!

JamesMay 25, 2018 - 11:55 am

Wow those pictures look INCREDIBLE! And of course, thanks for the great tips.

Pam RJuly 6, 2018 - 1:39 pm

Can I ask what credit card you used.

SherJuly 6, 2018 - 4:56 pm

Hi Pam – sure, we used the Citi AAdvantage mastercard. I’m not sure if the card is still around, but it’s super handy! no foreign transaction fees, earns American Airlines miles and it covered our rental insurance.

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KarlAugust 26, 2018 - 8:15 pm

You mentioned you’d recommend your credit card, but I didn’t see where it said which company you had your card with?

We are planning a family trip to Ireland next year, so should be interesting. (Definitely going to be spendy for a vehicle that holds all 6 of us.)

thanks for your article.

DennieAugust 27, 2018 - 9:42 am

Karl, I just came back from Ireland in June and I used SherSheGoes’s suggestions and my Capital One Mastercard which has a lot of travel coverage including rental car insurance.

Note: The car rental companies will charge you €30 for using your card’s coverage and if there is any damage they will charge you and leave it up to you to settle things with your credit card company. Also, expect another €40 in administrative fees and they’ll charge you for the full tank which you can settle up with them at the end. Our car’s full tank cost €74.

I’ve never paid more to rent a car than in Ireland but with that being said it was absolutely worth it and Ireland is beautiful and was made to be explored by car. Also, people are not joking when they say that the roads are narrow. We rented a Toyota Corolla which in the US is a small car but it felt very wide on small Irish roads which were barely wider than the width of the car. Try and get the smallest car that you can possibly manage.

SherAugust 28, 2018 - 5:10 pm

Hi Karl – Dennie was helpful to chime in! I used my Citi AAdvantage Mastercard, and have heard from others that recently Chase Sapphire provides Ireland car rental coverage (at the time of my trip, they did not). Best to call the number on the back of each of your credit cards and speak to customer service to confirm! Start with any Mastercards you may have – in my experience, Visa cards are a no-go for Ireland + Italy car rental protection.

What time of year are you all visiting? If you can, try to visit off season. We went in October and because it was past the peak season, our rental price was not bad. You just have to be OK with the temporary insurance hold, and bring an extra credit card that has no foreign fees for daily purchases. Might actually be better to rent 2 small cars for 6 people, since the roads are soooo narrow!

Jeffery SearcyAugust 28, 2018 - 8:55 pm

Just tried the discount code for KnowRoaming and its expired. Thank you for all the good advice though :)

SherAugust 29, 2018 - 10:12 am

Hi Jeffery – Thanks for letting me know! Let me double check it..

MelodiSeptember 4, 2018 - 8:56 pm

Hi Sher,

Fantastic and extremely helpful post, thank you! I just had a questi on on the US pre-clearance at the airport when returning to the US. How, do you actually do it? Is there somewhere in the airport we need to complete this?

SherSeptember 4, 2018 - 9:09 pm

Hi Melodi, the Dublin airport has a separate section to guide you through pre clearance. You don’t have to do anything special – when you check in for your flight as usual, they will know by your ticket that you’re headed to the US so you just follow the airport signs for “US Pre Clearance”. It’s straightforward once you’re there! Basically, they just have you go through security twice and section off the room.

MelodiSeptember 5, 2018 - 7:49 am

Thank you so much for your quick response & all the info in your blogs, I’ve read then all.

JerrySeptember 25, 2018 - 12:39 pm

Excellent and very helpful info. Thanks so much! My wife and I are going over to Ireland for our 30th anniversary in 2 weeks. This info will be very helpful.
Thanks again
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SlainteNovember 12, 2018 - 2:48 pm

Something that may be of benefit to people who will want to use the car hire cdw.

If booking from the US, rates quoted are exclusive of cdw (adding at counter is about €25/d) which still has a reduced deductible.
If you ring direct to a location, they can quote inclusive of cdw which will be cheaper than adding it in at the desk.

Larger vehicle’s have higher daily rates on insurance, so more to save if you need insurance ringing direct

Diesel comparing to unleaded fuel normally doubles your range per tank, dieselon average is 10c/ltr cheaper at the pump, so if driving alot it may be worth it.

And if your booking bigger cars/suv’s some cards do not cover them.

SherNovember 12, 2018 - 2:54 pm

Hi Dermot – appreciate your tips!

Yes, CDW is an extra cost on most quotes so it’s important to confirm how much the car will cost with CDW as well as the deductible cost. For us, we were able to benefit from our US credit card and waive insurance altogether, although I know not everyone can take advantage of this.

For diesel vs unleaded, we booked a small car with unleaded fuel. They did try to upsell us on diesel when we got to the car rental counter, but for our trip (1 week driving a full loop Dublin to Dublin), the fuel cost savings weren’t worth the cost of the upgrade. I’m sure it could be for those who need a bigger car!

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