Renting A Car In Ireland – A Complete Guide

If you are planning a trip to Ireland, you probably already know: Renting a car in Ireland is the best way to see the country. However, many travelers ask themselves: Is it hard to drive on the left side? Are road rules different? What about renting the car, are there things I should be aware of? In this article, you’ll find lots of tips for renting a car in Ireland. Will focus on how to find the best deals, how to save money with credit card insurance, how to avoid damage, what to bring, and how to prepare for driving on the left side of the road.

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A horse near irelands cliffs of Moher, a complete guide to renting a car in Ireland.

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Compare prices

The first step to renting a car in Ireland is to compare prices. I suggest checking a website that aggregates the best deals. My favorite is Discover Car Hire because they have a great selection of companies and some of the best prices I’ve ever seen. Here are a few other good options:

  • Skyscanner – Car rentals in Dublin
  • Hotwire – Car rentals in Dublin
  • Expedia – Car rentals in Dublin
  • Zipcar – A carsharing service, often buying a one-month membership is much cheaper than a traditional car rental.

How to Prepare for Driving on the Other Side

I must admit, I was pretty nervous to drive on the left side of the road. I’ve had a drivers license since I was 16, and feel very comfortable behind the wheel. The idea of doing it in reverse was downright scary. It turned out to be no big deal. With the right preparation, I felt comfortable almost immediately. Here are the steps I took to prepare myself.

Also Read The Burren, The Wild Atlantic Way and Beyond.

Remember – the Driver is Always in the Middle

It’s not actually important to remember what side of the road you are supposed to be on. What’s important is to remember the driver (that’s you) is always in the middle of the road, while the passenger is always in the ditch. No matter where you go, the driver’s side is always close to the center of the road and the passenger is always close to the sidewalk. That’s it. When you turn, are you turning so that you (the driver) are close to the center of the road? Then you are doing it right! Remember this simple rule “Driver in the center, the passenger in the ditch.” It saved me many times while renting a car in Ireland. After a few hours, it becomes a habit. It’ll happen faster than you think.

Dungaire Castle as seen on a road trip in Ireland - renting a car in Ireland.
Dungaire Castle is located on the Wild Atlantic Coast, Ireland.

Packing Tip:

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Youtube Videos

In preparation for driving on the left side of the road, I watched several youtube videos created for the UK and Irish drivers. My favorite was the ISM Driving guide

These videos do two things. First, they help explain any driving rules specific to Ireland. And second, they allow you to visualize driving on the left side of the road.

Also Read: Things to do in Dublin.

Visualization – Prepare for Renting a Car in Ireland

The human brain is amazing. When we visualize doing something, a part of our brain believes we are doing it. So, after you watch all those youtube videos, watch them again. This time, picture yourself in the driver’s seat. Making the turns, following the other cars and driving alone on small country roads. The more you visualize your moves, the more your brain adapts. And the more you practice in your head, the easier the transition will be.

A narrow country road, renting a car in Ireland.

Must-Have Accessories For Renting a Car In Ireland

Liquid Scratch Remover

If you rent cars often, you probably already know that car rental companies fall into two categories. The first is laid back. Unless you leave big scratches on a car, they will not try to charge you. The second will examine the car with a microscope and find damage practically invisible to the naked eye. And they will charge you thousands of dollars for damage that can be fixed with a buffer. The worst part is that you have no way of knowing in advance what kind of rental company you are dealing with. The brand name rarely means anything, it’s often the management of the branch that makes those decisions.

One easy trick I learned is to bring a little liquid scratch remover. Just pour some into a carry-on-friendly bottle and bring the sponge. Then, before you return the car, do a quick inspection and buffer out any potential problems. It only takes a few minutes to remove minor damage. Keep in mind, that the roads are very narrow in Ireland. You will almost certainly get some surface scratches when you pass bushes and trees. Obviously this trick will not work for deep scratches. However, liquid scratch remover will usually get out the damage done by roadside shrubbery.

Phone Holder

Another useful item for renting a car in Ireland is this simple phone holder. It takes a little while to get used to driving on the “wrong” side of the road. And on mountain roads and narrow pathways, it’s best never to look down at your phone for directions. This universal holder places your phone at eye level, giving you a clear view of the road at all times. This phone holder is a small and inexpensive tool that I found very useful in Ireland.

The St. Patrick's Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland.

Using Credit Card Insurance – Renting A Car in Ireland

If you are like me, you regularly save money when renting a car by using credit card insurance. To use credit card insurance, first, you must use a credit card that includes a rental car insurance policy. Second, you should use that same credit card to cover the rent and the counter fees. And third, you must refuse all other insurance both online and at the counter. If you do all three things and have an incident, your credit card insurance should cover the damage.

Ireland is a bit different. Because so many people have an incident while driving the country’s narrow roads, many credit cards do not provide car rental insurance in Ireland. As of this writing, my chase card (Business Ink) does provide the insurance. In order to check if your credit card will cover the rental, you must call them or read the fine print.

Request a letter of coverage

Some people call as many as eight or ten credit cards to find one that will cover the rental in Ireland. However, just a call is not enough. In addition, you must bring a letter of coverage with you to Ireland. Almost all rental car companies will request this letter. If you do not have a letter, you will need to buy a policy at the counter. Your credit card will email you the letter, and usually, it only takes 24 hours to get it. So if you are leaving soon, call in advance. The letter should clearly state that the credit card provides car rental insurance in the country of Ireland.

A majestic fairy fort, renting a car in Ireland.

Prepare for a large hold on your credit card when renting a car in Ireland

In addition to the letter of coverage, the car rental company will still insist on placing a large hold on your credit card. My hold was 5,000 EU which maxed out my card. If you have an incident, the car rental company will charge you as much as they can. Then, when you get home, you will file with your credit card for reimbursement. Of course, if your credit card will be maxed out, bring other credit cards to use for expenses.

How long does it take to get credit card car rental insurance reimbursement?

Although I had no trouble in Ireland, I did have to use my cc rental car insurance once in another country. The company immediately charged the repair fee of 400 EU. I filed with credit card insurance, and they reimbursed me within 2 weeks. In general, if it’s a clear cut case, the reimbursement is very quick. The only time you can have a problem is if you have broken the law while driving. In that case, any car insurance becomes null and void.

A tower in the distance, an ancient bridge in the foreground.

Use a Credit Card with No International Transaction Fees

While this tip is not specific to renting a car in Ireland, it is still important to keep in mind. Some credit cards charge a special fee for all transactions made abroad. These fees are called “International transaction fees” and are as much as 4% of the transaction. Of course, they add up quickly. The last thing you want is to pay the fee on a car rental or another big-ticket item.

Before you decide which card to use while renting a car in Ireland, call the company. Ask them if they charge an international transaction fee. If they do, try to use another card. Keep in mind that a credit card is necessary to rent a car virtually anywhere in the world. If you can not get a credit card with both no international transaction fee and rental insurance in Ireland, you are better off buying the rental insurance from the company. My Chase business Ink has no international transaction fees and does provide car rental insurance in Ireland. Check if you have a chase card – it may be a good choice.

What if I don’t want to (or can’t) use credit card rental insurance in Ireland?

You can buy car rental insurance online and at the counter. Usually, the price for full coverage for an American will be anywhere from $60 to $100 per day. Americans are considered high risk, as many American drivers have incidents in Ireland. I did not – and neither did many other drivers I know. Being careful and prepared is the key to incident-free driving in Ireland.

The town of Doolin, as seen on a road trip - renting a car in Ireland.

Renting a Car in Ireland – Driving Tips

Stay close to the middle on narrow roads

In Ireland, driving on the highway is the easy part. However, it is more difficult to drive on narrow country roads. Many of these roads are surrounded by shrubbery. Veer too far left and the car will get scratched by the branches. Additionally, country roads are often lined with stone walls. Needless to say, you definitely don’t want to sideswipe those.

When driving on the country roads, the most practical thing to do is to stay around the middle of the road. Slow down on the turns or when you can’t see the road in front of you. Chances are, the driver that is coming the opposite way is also driving in the middle. Slowing down gives both of you a chance to pass each other safely.

Passing on Narrow Roads

And speaking of passing. The biggest challenge you’ll face while renting a car in Ireland is knowing when the left side of your car is safe. If you miscalculate the distance between the car and the side of the road, you may scratch your car – or worse.

Therefore, when you pass a driver that is going in the opposite direction on a narrow road, the best thing you can do is pull over. Remember, most drivers in Ireland will be more experienced in protecting the car’s left side while sitting on the right. There is no shame in pulling over and allowing the other diver to do the complicated maneuvers. Irish drivers are very understanding and I saw nothing approaching road rage in Ireland. So unless you are one hundred percent confident you are safe, pull over and allow the other driver to drive past you.

And by the way, the same thing goes for drivers behind you. Feel free to pull over somewhere safe and let them pass. It is almost certain that the local drivers will be going at a faster speed than a tourist.

Blackhead lighthouse on the wild Atlantic way, renting a car in Ireland.

Plan Your Driving Time Right

Many people land in Dublin in the early hours of the morning, rent a car and begin to drive right away. This is not a great idea. After flying for a night you are probably too tired to even drive at home. Add to that switching to the opposite side of the road, and you are asking for trouble. While I understand your vacation time is limited, the safest course of action is to give yourself a day to acclimate to the time difference. Not to mention, just some time catch up on your sleep. If at all possible, spend a day in Dublin (there are plenty of things to do in Dublin) before you head out on the road.

In addition, if at all possible do not attempt to drive for more than 3 hours at a time or after dark. Many people begin to make driving mistakes under those conditions. Instead, consider taking lots of breaks – enjoy Ireland and all its beauty without the pressure to see everything at once. After all, the country is so welcoming, you will probably want to come back to Ireland again and again.

Renting a car in Ireland, Dublin Airport

One last tip – this one is specifically about renting a car in Dublin Airport. When you return the car, you have two options. The first is to return it to the same place you rented – the car rental center right outside the airport.

The second option is the garage next to terminal 2. The five-story garage is much darker and its harder to see any minor imperfections. In fact, I was watching the workers who were taking returns in the garage. None of them looked too closely at the minor scratches. In any case, it would have been hard to do so without a powerful flashlight. I think the garage is a safer place to return and avoid miscellaneous charges. Of course, this doesn’t apply to major damage.

Christ Church Cathedral in Dublin, Ireland.

Renting a Car in Ireland, A Downloadable Checklist

Is this a lot to keep in mind? I think so too 🙂 To help, I created this special printable checklist that includes everything you must do when renting a car in Ireland. This checklist is for my subscribers only, but of course, subscribing is totally free. And you can cancel at any time.

One more thing. If you have enjoyed this article and found it useful pleases do me a favor and leave a comment or a question. Search engines often look to these comments to help them rank articles. Thank you for reading and I’ll see you on the road!

Viktoria aka Traveltipster

A pinterest friendly image for renting a car in Ireland - a road way along the while Atlantic way.
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  • Avatar
    rent a car Mahon airport 
    January 27, 2020 at 7:08 am

    very well explained thanx for sharing

    • TravelTipster
      February 4, 2020 at 2:53 pm

      Glad to hear that, enjoy Ireland!

  • Avatar
    Tiffany La Forge-Grau
    September 13, 2019 at 1:44 am

    I have always thought it would be fun to drive down the Irish countryside. This is an awesome guide on what to expect.

  • Avatar
    Emily Fata
    September 12, 2019 at 4:52 pm

    Oh my goodness, this place looks beautiful! Although I’ve never been to Ireland before myself, I would love to make my way over in the near future. Thanks for sharing all of this! 🙂

  • Avatar
    Annemarie LeBlanc
    September 12, 2019 at 1:19 pm

    Oh goodness. There is so many things to consider when you want to rent a car in Ireland. I might just take public transport. However, if I can ask someone who will drive me around and is familiar with the roads, I would chose that option. 🙂 Thanks for this really helpful post. As always, it is best to be prepared and well informed when traveling to a foreign country.

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