As a first-time visitor to the Emerald Isle, I was both excited and apprehensive about renting a car in Ireland. I had heard amazing things about the country's scenery and lush landscapes, but also warnings about navigating the roads and driving on the left side for the first time.
After doing thorough research and having an incredible road trip around the Ring of Kerry and Cliffs of Moher, I'm happy to report that with the right preparation, renting a car in Ireland can be easy, affordable, and open up a world of adventure!
☝️ Check out all our car rental guides:
|Explore Irelands Scenic Routes
|Comparing Car Rental Prices
|Explore Ireland's Scenic Routes
|Car rental insurance in Ireland
|Ireland Road Rules
|Car Rental Tips in Ireland
In this comprehensive guide, I'll share everything I learned as a first-timer renting a car in Ireland, including:
- Choosing the Right Car Rental Company
- Automatic vs Manual Transmission
- Required Documents
- Getting Insurance
- Picking Up and Dropping Off
- Driving on the Left
- Navigating the Roads
- Tolls and Speed Checks
- Gas Stations
- Returning Your Rental Car
- FAQs about Renting A Car In Ireland
Choosing the Right Car Rental Company
The first order of business is deciding where to rent your car in Ireland. The major international companies like Hertz, Sixt, Avis, Enterprise, Budget, Europcar all operate in Ireland, along with local providers like Dooley Car Rentals.
I compared the big names as well as local companies on factors like:
- Vehicle options
- Pick-up locations
Hertz kept coming up as the best blend of competitive pricing, solid vehicle fleet with automatics and manuals, and a smooth rental process.
The Hertz counter at Dublin Airport made picking up my rental quick and simple. The staff walked me through the contract, showed me the features of my VW Golf, and sent me on my way in less than 20 minutes.
For first-timers, I'd recommend sticking with major providers like Hertz or Enterprise Rent-A-Car. The peace of mind of renting from an established brand outweighed minor differences in price for me.
|Car Rental Company
|Established brand, airport locations, automated kiosks, wide selection of vehicles
|Can be pricier than local companies
|Airport & local branches, free pickup/dropoff service
|Limited vehicle models compared to Hertz
|Dooley Car Rentals
|Lower prices, flexible pickup options
|Lesser known brand, manual cars only
No matter which company you choose, book your rental car early – as far in advance as possible. Ireland is busiest during the summer months, so car availability gets snapped up quickly.
I booked my rental 6 months out and saved over $200 compared to friends who waited until a month before our trip!
Automatic vs Manual Transmission
One of the biggest decisions is whether to rent a manual or automatic transmission car.
Manual cars tend to be cheaper to rent in Ireland, plus give you more options as not all rentals offer automatic. However, if you don't know how to drive stick shift, an automatic is a safer bet.
I wanted an automatic since it had been years since I drove a manual. I was fine paying a bit more for the convenience and peace of mind.
One thing to note – automatics book up faster, so reserve yours as early as possible if it's a must. My friends who waited too long got stuck with manuals even though they requested automatic.
If you go for a manual transmission:
- Make sure you brush up on using clutch and stick shift before arrival
- Get an economy car with a smaller engine, easier for new manual drivers
- Avoid hill starts – use the handbrake when you park on an incline
To rent a car in Ireland, you'll need:
- Valid driver's license – International Driving Permit not required for US visitors
- Credit or debit card in your name – For deposit and payment
- Passport – For ID verification
Some companies may accept a cash deposit in lieu of a credit card, but your options will be limited.
I highly recommend bringing a credit card with sufficient credit limit to cover the deposit, which can range from €500-€1000 depending on car size. Debit cards will work but may have daily withdrawal limits.
Using my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card gave me robust rental car insurance coverage so I could decline the rental company's overpriced options. Check your credit card benefits guide for details on rental coverage.
One aspect of renting a car in Ireland that gave me pause was figuring out the insurance situation. Ireland's roads pose hazards like:
- Narrow country lanes with stone walls or hedges
- Frenetic cities like Dublin
- Cliffs along ocean drives
So protection is a must! Here are your insurance options:
- Basic/mandatory insurance – Included in rental, covers 3rd party liability
- Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) – Protects against damage to rental car
- Theft Protection (TP) – Covers theft or attempted theft of vehicle
- Additional liability insurance – For injuries to 3rd parties
Basic insurance is required by law in Ireland. But the CDW and TP offered by rental companies jack the price way up, often doubling your total rental cost.
As mentioned above, I was able to decline the CDW and TP since my credit card provides robust coverage. Just be sure to check with your card issuer on policy details before arrival.
If your credit card does not offer adequate protection, some providers like Insuremyrentalcar.com sell third party CDW/TP policies for a fraction of the rental company cost.
Picking Up and Dropping Off
When I arrived to Dublin Airport, the rental counters were just a short walk from the terminal. Major companies like Hertz, Avis, and Enterprise have counters right in the arrivals area.
I opted for airport pickup since I was already there, but you can also choose off-airport locations in the city center or nearby towns. This can save money but involves coordinating transfers.
Many rental providers offer free shuttle service between the airport and off-airport locations. Just allow extra time for the shuttle when planning your pickup.
For drop-off, I chose the Hertz location right in the city center which was walking distance from my hotel. It saved me from having to bus back to the airport at the end of my trip.
One-way rentals are possible between Irish cities but will carry an extra fee, usually around €50-150. Worth it for the flexibility to fly into Dublin and out of Shannon.
No matter your pickup and dropoff points, leave ample buffer time in case of traffic or delays. Nothing worse than a late return eating into your damage deposit!
Driving on the Left
Perhaps the most daunting part of renting a car in Ireland for us Americans is converting to driving on the left side of the road!
My tip is to focus on these key differences from driving in the States:
- Steering wheel on the RIGHT
- Driver's seat on the RIGHT
- Shift with your LEFT hand
- Stay LEFT for passing
- Traffic circles are clockwise
I constantly repeated “right, right, left” out loud to remind myself of the wheel and seat side!
It felt backwards at first, but within a few hours I was cruising along just fine. Just stay alert, go slowly as you adjust, and don't be afraid to pull over to re-orient yourself.
And I highly recommend getting an automatic car – having to shift with the “wrong” hand in a manual adds an extra layer of confusion.
Navigating the Roads
While Ireland has modern motorways, you'll spend a lot of time on narrow, winding country roads. Many are only wide enough for one car and edged with ancient stone walls.
Sheep and cows grazing freely are also a common sight, so stay alert! Here are my top road navigation tips:
- Watch your speed – Limits drop quickly from 100 km/hr to 60 km/hr
- Pull over for aggressive drivers – Let impatient locals overtake you
- Use Google Maps – Works great even offline with saved map data
- Enable lane assist – Helps warn if you drift into oncoming lane
- Beware blind corners – Honk your horn and go slowly
I was grateful to have an SUV with higher profile tires to absorb the many bumps and potholes along the way.
Pack your patience and go slowly – it's not a race! Stop frequently to appreciate the incredible scenery.
Parking in Ireland's cities can be tricky with small spots and unclear signage. When possible I relied on my hotel and B&Bs to provide off-street parking.
For other stops, these tips helped:
- Curb color indicates rules – Yellow line means no parking, single yellow means limited
- Get the ParkMobile app – Pay for street parking by mobile
- Look for underground parking – More available spots, but check clearance
- Watch for paid street meters – Coins only, so come prepared
Outside of cities and towns, there are few formal parking areas along sightseeing routes. It's legal to pull off the road as long as you don't block gates or property access.
Just beware of soft shoulders which can get you stuck. I always pulled off as far as possible just to be safe.
Tolls and Speed Checks
Ireland has an extensive network of toll roads, primarily on motorways between major cities. Your rental car likely has an eToll tag, but ask the provider for details.
Tolls are paid automatically as you drive under gantries on the toll roads. The fees will be applied to your credit card after the fact.
There are also many fixed and mobile speed checks around the country. Fines start at €80 for exceeding limits by less than 10 km/hr.
I made sure to watch my speedometer closely, especially when approaching small villages where limits can drop rapidly. No need to rush!
Fueling up your rental car in Ireland is a breeze. Stations run by Topaz, Circle K, and Applegreen accept major credit cards right at the pump.
Just be sure your credit card has sufficient funds since many pumps put a €100 hold when you insert the card that is released once you finish fueling.
I never had to wait long for an open pump, even in popular tourist areas. Gas prices fluctuate but average around €1.60/liter.
Many rentals come with a full tank but require you to return it full to avoid refueling fees. I made sure to top up before dropping off, allowing time in case I got lost!
Returning Your Rental Car
When it came time to bid farewell to Ireland and return my trusty rental car, I made sure to:
- Have the fuel tank full – Avoid refueling charges
- Remove any personal items – Don't leave things behind
- Check for damage – Document any new scrapes/dents
- Allow extra time – For traffic delays en route
The return process was quick and simple. The attendant gave my VW Golf a once over, signed off on having no damage, and removed the hold on my credit card.
And that's it – my first rental car experience in Ireland come to a close. Despite some nerves about driving on the left, it gave me freedom to explore at my own pace.
I hope these tips give you confidence to rent a car in Ireland too! Let me know if you have any other questions before your trip – I'm happy to provide more advice from my first-timer perspective.
FAQs about Renting A Car In Ireland
▷ Can I rent a car in Ireland without a valid driver's licence?
No, you must have a valid driver's licence and ID to rent a car in Ireland. EU and EEA member states, UK licences and other national driving licences with an international driving permit are all valid for driving in Ireland.
▷ What is third-party liability insurance, and is it included in my car rental price?
Third-party liability insurance, also known as TPC, Motor Liability or Legal Liability Insurance, is a legal requirement and is included in your car rental price.
▷ What are some extras that car rental companies in Ireland might try to sell me?
Car rental companies in Ireland may try to sell you add-ons such as GPS systems, additional insurance coverage, or car upgrades. Be sure to carefully review your rental agreement to determine if these extras are necessary or if they are already included in your rental price.
▷ What are some tips for booking a car rental in Dublin?
When booking a car rental in Dublin, be sure to compare prices and read rental policies carefully. You may also want to consider renting a car outside of the airport to save money on rental fees. Additionally, be aware of traffic patterns and parking restrictions in the city centre.