Renting a car in Ireland

Many people coming to Ireland rent a car to do a road trip around the island. But renting a car in Ireland can prove to be difficult if you don’t know what to look out for.

It is not surprising that more and more people opt to rent a car or share it with another person rather than invest in their own vehicle, since car insurance costs quite a lot in Ireland. Especially in bigger cities with good public transport it often makes no sense to own a car for longer periods if you only use it once or twice a week. Because of that, renting a car in Ireland is a viable option, with many car rental companies centred around cities, larger towns and Ireland’s airports. 


You need to be at least 21 years old to rent a car, but if you are under 25 you will need to pay an additional fee for young drivers which is known as the ‘Young Drivers Surcharge’. Similarly, if you are over 75 you may be asked to pay more for your rental, but you may be able to avoid it if you can prove your continued good health over the past few years. It is always good to check with the rental companies’ policies on age requirements beforehand, to make sure you’re  You also need to have a full driving licence from your home country and a credit card in the driver’s name. In most cases you need to have held this licence for at least two years, if not longer depending on the type of car you want to rent.

You can find more information about driving licences in Ireland here. If you want to compare prices of all the different car rentals in Ireland, this is a good place to start.


Most rental companies only accept credit cards as a form of payment, sometimes they also accept debit cards but almost never cash. The main driver must use a credit card in their own name for all rentals. That is because the company uses his credit card as a guarantee for the driver. Accompanying passengers’ credit card will not be accepted if they are not the main driver. After going through the procedure and signing paperwork – Rental agreement, credit card authorisation form etc. and after paying with the main driver’s credit card you will be given the car keys.

Rental car insurance

While you can opt out of the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) coverage in some countries, it is a mandatory insurance when renting a car in Ireland.  And while many credit cards offer CDW coverage if you use them to pay for your rental, most credit card companies do not cover rentals in Ireland for whatever reason. It is also often the case that the cost of your rental car insurance exceeds the cost of the rental itself.

What is the Collision Damage Waiver?

Simply put, the CDW limits the amount you need to pay if your rental car is vandalised or damaged in a crash, so essentially any material damage to the vehicle. There are often two different types of CDW to choose from when renting a car.

  • Basic CDW: This option is included in your rental agreement. Based on the type of car you rent, the insurance covers up to a certain amount of money (usually around €3,000, depending on car size). If the damage exceeds this amount covered by the insurance, you will be personally responsible for paying this excess.
  • Super CDW: This insurance coverage can have different names depending on the rental company. It is essentially an insurance upgrade to the first option and is available at a per-day rate. This option reduces your liability to €100 or less in case of damage to the rental.

Important Note: If you do not take the second option, your rental company will require a credit card deposit equal to your coverage amount (the ca. €3,000 mentioned before). They will place this amount on ‘hold’ until you give back the rental. So if you want to rent a car, be sure to have enough money on your credit card to cover this fee since you won’t be able to rent it otherwise.

Taxes and fees

The final payment for the rented car will always include a few add-ons. Not all rental companies charge all of these fees, but you should at least be aware of them.

  • Value Added Tax (VAT) at 13.5% (mandatory)
  • Road tax
  • Airport tax or location charge
  • Licensing fee
  • Cross border driving fee (if you want to drive across the border to Northern Ireland)
  • M50 toll fee (Toll road outside of Dublin now has barrier free toll – basically you pay rental car company rather than a toll booth)
  • Late fees (returning the car later than indicated on reservation)
  • Cancellation fees
  • Rental companies provide extras to complement your rental needs at additional costs, such as Sat Nav or baby/child seats for families.

Important things to remember

There are some things you need to remember when you rent a car, especially if you have never driven in Ireland before. Most things also apply when you want to buy a car, not just rent it.

Stay on the left-hand side!

If you are moving to Ireland from Australia, India, Japan, the UK or any of the other countries in the world that drive on the left-hand side of the road, then driving in Ireland should be no big deal for you. However, if you are coming from anywhere else, you need to be prepared to drive on the left side of the road. While there are no shortcuts to help you adapt to driving on the wrong side of the road (for you at least), Google Maps or a good GPS will be a big help. Especially if you need to navigate the convoluted streets of Dublin or small country roads scattered over the rest of Ireland. Also remember that the steering wheel in all Irish cars is located in the right-side of the vehicle, and therefore you will be operating everything with a different hand than you normally do.

Automatic or Manual?

One of the most important things to remember when renting a car in Ireland is that the vast majority of vehicles are manual transmission as opposed to automatic. This is especially important for people coming from North America or other countries where automatic cars are the norm. There are automatic cars available, but they will be more expensive because of their rarity and they are usually only an option on mid-size saloons or luxury cars. If you don’t specify, you most certainly will be getting a manual car. If you do choose a manual transmission, make sure you feel confident with it.

Petrol or diesel?

Another important consideration to keep in mind is knowing whether your rented car takes diesel or petrol. It is really important to know what type of fuel goes into the tank of your car, not only if you rent one but also when you decide to buy one. If you fill up your tank with the wrong type of fuel it won’t be good for the car’s tank and could become a very costly mistake. It is useful to know that petrol (also called unleaded fuel) is dispensed from the green fuel pumps while diesel comes from the black ones. Most cars in Ireland run on petrol, but do not assume that this is always the case. Make sure to know beforehand what type of fuel your car requires.

UK driving licence

As of 8 June 2015, the UK paper counterpart of the driving licence is no longer valid in Ireland. Irish car rental companies require all UK licence holders to present a ‘check code’ before the rental can be released; this ‘check code’ is only valid for 21 days after printing it. It can be obtained by printing it out from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency’s ‘Share Driving Licence’ section before you collect your vehicle.

Pick up/drop off points

Choosing your locations with your travel plans in mind is ideal, for example, if you are flying to Ireland the most convenient place to collect your car is the airport. Some car rental companies will charge a small fee depending on the pick up/drop off point, check your specific company website for more information.

Checking the car

Before you leave the rental depot with your car, check it for scratches, dents etc. and ensure that they are noted on the rental document the company provides. If you find anything, best take a photograph as well, it might come in handy in proving that they were there before you had the car.

Car sharing

If you are looking for an innovative alternative to renting a car in Ireland or need to use a car more regularly but don’t have the money to buy one, car sharing could be perfect to you. Based on a pay-as-you-go principle sharing a car is more flexible than renting it and it has a range of benefits for people who are new to Ireland or back home after a period abroad.

Just like car renting, car sharing is more available in the cities than in the countryside. It is also a much cheaper option than purchasing or a car since you only pay for the hours you use, especially if you take taxes, insurance and maintenance costs into account that you would need to pay when owning a car. To use a car sharing service all you need is a full valid driving licence, a credit or debit card in the driver’s name and you need to be 21 years or older. 

Car sharing is especially useful for people who:

  • need a car for occasional business trips but normally use public transport to get to work
  • do not own a car but occasionally need one, either for leisure or convenience
  • tend to use their car only rarely (who can then share it to earn some money out of it)
  • sometimes need to use a different type of vehicle, e.g. a moving van

Forms of car sharing

More and more car sharing initiatives are emerging worldwide, since it is more convenient and environmentally friendly for people to share their cars they don’t use with people who don’t have any. They can be roughly divided into cost-sharing neighbourhood initiatives and organisations that provide either their own fleet or organise other people’s cars. The most well-known car sharing providers in Ireland are GoCar, Yuko (only available in Dublin) and Fleet, which has become quite popular in recent years.

Default image
Jacqueline Russe

Jacqueline is a German journalist and editor for Babylon Radio who likes comics, manga and video games. She is a state-certified translator for both English and German, currently working on her Bachelor's in Technical Translation.

One comment

Leave a Comment