1. Researching and then booking car rental (which is more commonly known as "car hire" in Ireland and UK) can be the most time-consuming part of organising a fly-drive holiday to Ireland.  The whole process can be a minefield, particularly for first-time visitors who may not be familiar with reading terms and conditions of rental, and the intricacies of the various insurance covers available.

Take some time, do thorough research and compare rates with different companies and you should be able to leave home safe in the knowledge that you have all angles covered and won't return to find a horrendous bill from the rental/hire company.



Where To Get A Quote

  • Have a look at your airline's website; they usually have a partnership deal with a car hire company.
  • Check online with some of the well-known worldwide companies: AvisHertzBudgetAlamo and Europcar
  • It's also worth looking at Irish Car Rentals and Dan Dooley RentalCar Rental Ireland which are Irish firms.
  • During your research you will probably come across consolidators e.g. rentalcars.com; Holiday Autos; Argus.  Consolidators negotiate discounted rates with car hire companies, but do check carefully to see what they include in their quote, as often, the following 6 basic elements won't all be included, particularly CDW insurance which is a hefty part of the rental cost. 
  • Note: virtually all the complaints posted on the Ireland forum about car rental in Ireland are from folk who have hired via a 3rd party and haven't realised that the rate quoted doesn't include insurance and other extras.  In particular, there seems to be some confusion over prepaying damage insurance to the 3rd party consolidator, and then being told by the rental company that either it isn't sufficient cover or it isn't accepted and clients are asked to pay in full again.  If you go down the consolidator/3rd party route, please, please check details very carefully and read Terms and Conditions thoroughly. 
  • Check that the rate quoted includes the following 6 basic elements:
  • Unlimited  Mileage
  • Theft Protection Insurance
  • Location Service Charge (Location charges are now included in rates - do double check this)
  • Government Tax (non-refundable 13.5% as of June 2010)
  • Third Party Liability Insurance (this covers any damage you may cause to people or property whilst driving the car)
  • Collision Damage Waiver (CDW):

This optional insurance, which covers damage to the vehicle, reduces your financial liability for the vehicle.  However, there will still be a non-waivable excess (deductible) amount of between €1,200 and €2,500, depending on the size of the car.  This amount will be "held" on your credit card and will be released when you bring the car back to the rental company without any damage.  If there is any damage (broken mirror, scratched door), an appropriate amount will be retained by the rental company and the balance refunded.

Note: if you refuse CDW, the rental company will ask for a security deposit which could be anything between €5,000-€90,000 depending on the size of the car.  Don't opt out of CDW!

You can further reduce the CDW excess by paying "Super Collision Damage Waiver":

  • Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW)  Also known as 'Excess'

This optional insurance reduces the CDW excess to as little as "nil" or a more manageable amount of anywhere between €50-€200, depending again on size of car (check individual company's details for exact amount).  Don't worry if you scratch the car or break a wing mirror: you'll be able to return it to the hire company and walk away without a backward glance!

Expect to pay between €10-€20 per day for this insurance; the exact amount will depend on the size of your rental car.

Note: Super CDW rarely covers punctures, smashed windshields, lost keys or use of incorrect fuel.


Certain World MasterCard, Canadian Visa Card CDW Insurance Cover

If you are a United States/Canadian resident and have a World MasterCard, or certain, Canadian-Issued Visa Card, some MAY cover you for Super CDW and CDW, but not for tires, windshield, lost key or use of incorrect fuel. 

Check, double-check, and get something in writing from the credit card company to confirm you are covered, and take this document with you.   Do NOT contact the issuing bank.  Instead, call MasterCard or Visa directly, as only they can verify coverage and explain requirements of coverage.  Note: (January 2016) Visa and World MasterCard cards specifically exclude coverage in Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland (and Israel and Jamaica!)

Note: if you decline CDW cover, you may be charged an "administration fee" of around 30-40euros by the rental company.  They've got to make their money somehow!!


 3rd Party Super CDW Insurance Cover

There are also companies that offer a super CDW excess insurance package, which is usually cheaper than the rental company's cost.  However, if you take out a 3rd party insurance cover, the rental company will put a hold of the excess on your credit card at time of rental.  If there is any damage to the vehicle, the rental company will keep some or all of this amount, and you will have to claim the money back from the 3rd party insurance company.  This process may take several weeks.

If you take out super CDW insurance through the rental company, you can drop the car back at the depot and walk away without a backward glance.  You must ask yourself whether you're prepared to save money but possibly have to deal with paperwork/insurance companies if you do have an accident or minor scratch on the car. 

 For peace of mind, it is strongly recommended that you take out super CDW insurance; it is all too easy to scratch the car or lose a wing mirror when driving on unfamiliar roads!  

  • Fuel/Gas

Some rental companies provide the car with a full tank of fuel and put a hold on your credit card for the value of the fuel.  Bring the car back full, and you won't be charged.  It is advisable to refuel the car, as the car hire company's cost is always a lot higher than if you refuel the car yourself.

Other companies charge for a full tank and request that you bring the car back empty: that's not always an easy thing to do!

NOTE : when you are refuelling at the petrol station, unleaded petrol has a Green nozzle at the pump; diesel has a Black nozzle.  

The petrol cap on your vehicle will have a clear sign indicating whether it takes petrol or diesel.



  • Extra Driver

Expect to pay an additional fee if there is more than one person driving, this is to cover for insurance for each person.

  • One Way Fee and "out of hours" fee

Are you collecting the car at one location and dropping at another?  Double-check to see if there is a one-way fee.

Check the website to ensure the rental desk will be open if you are arriving on an overnight flight in the early hours of the morning. 

  • Renting the Car in Republic of Ireland, and driving into Northern Ireland?

Some rental companies may charge a fee if you take the car into Northern Ireland, this is to cover the cost of tow back into Republic of Ireland should a breakdown happens; check at the rental desk. 

Please note that it is unlikely that you will be allowed to take the car off the Island of Ireland (e.g. across to the UK) on a one-way rental.  This is due to different jurisdictions, tax and insurance implications for the rental company.

  • Age of Hirer

If you are under 21 years, or over 75 years you may not be able to rent a car from some rental companies in Ireland - or, there may be an additional fee.  Check FAQs and Terms and Conditions on the rental website for details.

Some larger cars are not available to those drivers under the age of 25 years.

  • More Optional Extras

Do you require: GPS, or child/baby seats, air-conditioning (usually only available in larger cars).  Check the website for cost.

 And above all: read the booking terms and conditions on the website!



This is very much personal choice, but it is recommended that you choose the smallest car that will comfortably fit your party plus luggage.  Particularly if you are travelling in rural areas you may find it difficult or challenging if you are constantly reversing or pulling into a drive-way to let other vehicles pass on narrow roads.  It can be very nerve-racking if you come across a large tour bus on the Ring of Kerry or Dingle Peninsula!


You will not be guaranteed a specific type/model of vehicle; the pictures on the websites are for guidance only.  However, if you have booked a 4-door car, you should be provided with a 4-door car and similar specs based on industry ACRISS code standards that all car rental companies apply to.

You will pay a lot more for automatic cars and/or cars with air conditioning.   And air conditioning isn't really necessary in Ireland: it rarely gets hot enough to warrant it.

Boots/Trunks in cars made for the European market may be a lot smaller than those made for the American/Canadian market.  Check you can fit all your luggage into the boot.



Most important of all, when collecting your car:

Read the car rental agreement thoroughly: what have you agreed to pay for by ticking or initialling all those little boxes on the form? 

Do the figures add up and agree with the quote you obtained online?  Bring a copy with you!

Check the car inside and out: look for any damage to the bodywork and make sure it is marked on the rental agreement.  If it isn't, get the car rental representative to do this for you.  If it has been raining and therefore is difficult to see if the bodywork is in good condition, again, ask this to be noted on the agreement. 

Carefully inspect the tires - not only the tread, but also the sidewalls for any sign of bulges or cracks.

Turn on the engine:

No "emergency lights" on/flashing?  Good!

Headlights and indicators working? Good!

If you've paid for a full tank of fuel, is the fuel gauge showing full?

Remember: if you're not happy with the condition of the vehicle, ask for another one and don't be fobbed off!

 And when returning the car, expect to wait a few minutes while it is checked by the car hire representative; don't leave the car until both you and they are happy with the car's condition and the paperwork has been signed off.  Keep all paperwork until you've returned home, received your credit card bill and have checked that there are no "extra" charges billed to your account.







Ireland looks deceptively small on the map!  Don't be over ambitious when planning your itinerary, particularly if you are visiting rural areas where the roads are single lane, narrow and winding, and where you may come across farm vehicles, even farm animals in the road.  Always give way when you meet farm animals being moved: patience!

Use this route planner to plot your itinerary - and then add a further 20% to the drive-times quoted to allow for driving on unfamiliar roads and possible delays due to roadworks, diversions etc.



 Motorway Tolls

There are two types of toll on Irish Motorways:

M50 e-flow Barrier Free tolling: this is the circular road around Dublin.  Payment must be made online by 8pm following day; however, some rental companies will collect payment on your behalf and add the amount to your final account.

Toll Plazas: you will need to keep a handful of change in the car to pay tolls on other motorways, also for the Limerick Tunnel.  If you have the correct amount you can pop it in the "basket", if not, get into the lane that indicates "toll booth attendant". 

Full details of tolls, fees and how to pay can be found at National Roads Authority (NRA):




Be sensible!  You wouldn't leave your possessions on view in your car at home, so don't do it on holiday!  Take all valuables with you when you leave the car. 

If you are travelling between one location and another with all your possessions, make sure you lock everything in the trunk/boot and leave the car parked in an open public area, preferably within view of shops/passing traffic. 


Unfortunately this can happen, particularly in rural areas where some of the roads may not be in best condition.  Damage can also be caused to tyres when the hedges have been cut and debris left at the side of the road, especially if the shrub "blackthorn" has been trimmed: try to avoid if possible. 

 If you do get a puncture, it's often cheaper and more convenient to find the nearest garage and sort it out yourself, rather than call the rental company which may charge an excessively high fee for organising a replacement.

There's a lot to take in, but by carefully following the above, you should have a happy and care-free motoring holiday in Ireland!

p.s. don't forget your driving licence!



Hopefully you'll have a carefree experience, but if you do experience problems and are dissatisfied with the service from the car hire company, you can obtain advice and assistance from the Car Rental Council of Ireland: