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Everything You Need To Know Before Renting A Car In Ireland

Renting A Car In Ireland
Tips For Renting A Car In Ireland
Ireland Driving Guide

Renting a car in Ireland and driving around the country yourself is a wonderful way to experience the Emerald Isle. But here’s some advice about the best way to do it.

When my family and I were planning our genealogy trip to Ireland in order to learn more about our ancestors, we were initially hesitant about renting a car to explore the country by ourselves.

Ireland has a bit of a reputation for narrow and scary winding roads!

Plus of course, they drive on the other side of the road, so there’s that. But the more we researched, the more we realized car rental in Ireland would allow us to make our itinerary as imaginative as possible.

I love the freedom of road trips and planning my own travel itineraries. Ireland is such a diverse country that it made sense to rent a car so we could stop anywhere to discover small villages, castles, and go hiking at our own pace.

Here are some important tips we learned from our experience renting a car in Ireland, to help you save money and stay safe while driving around the country!

Ireland Travel Restrictions 2021

Nothing is official yet, but Ireland hopes to allow travelers to visit again in July, including American tourists. You would need proof of your COVID-19 vaccination(s) before being allowed entry.

You can find the latest updates on traveling to Ireland here.

How To Rent A Car In Ireland

1. Should You Self-Drive In Ireland?

Car Driving through Irish Landscape
Driving in Ireland for Tourists

Hey, if you love those big group bus tours, by all means, go book one. It’s a decent way to see Ireland if you don’t have a lot of time.

No planning, no driving, just sit back and let someone else do all the work!

But if you’re like me, you prefer the adventure of independent travel.

No set schedule or timetable — driving around Ireland with the freedom to stop anyplace cool you find along the way.

If that’s the kind of traveler you are, renting a car in Ireland is the way to go!

Just keep in mind that some of the back roads in Ireland can be very narrow, and often feel like a single lane (but they’re not). With some practice, you’ll gain confidence on them!

Another nice thing we enjoyed about having a car was the ability to store things in the trunk, stopping off in Irish towns with small travel backpacks rather than hauling luggage everywhere.

2. Where To Rent Your Car In Ireland

Family Driving Rental Car
Learning to Drive on the Opposite Side!

Some common car rental companies in Ireland include Europecar, Enterprise, Sixt, Hertz, a local one called Dooley, and many more.

But the best site to book your car is Discover Cars. They search both local and international car rental companies to help you find the best possible price. This is the easiest way to rent a car in Ireland.

We rented our car from Dublin Airport after spending a few days in the city. Our South West route brought us to Cork on the M8 before moving on to Killarney National Park and then Glengarriff, where my grandmother was born.

After tracking down our family history in this small coastal fishing village, we drove North on the Wild Atlantic Way up to Dingle and the famous Cliffs of Moher, then to Galway, and finally back to Dublin.

Dublin Airport: Plan to pick up your car about 60 minutes after your flight arrives. When departing, try to be at the airport at least 3 1/2 hours before your flight leaves. Because returning your rental car and catching a shuttle back to the airport can take up to 30 minutes.

Shannon Airport: Plan to pick up your car about 30 minutes after your flight arrives. When departing, try to be at the airport at least 2 1/2 hours before your flight leaves. Again, because of the shuttle.

Gap Of Dunloe Walk
The Gap Of Dunloe
Ireland Road Trip Highlights
The Amazing Cliffs of Moher

3. Car Rental Insurance In Ireland

Some of the rumors about driving in Ireland are true, and the roads are VERY narrow in areas. Especially the back roads outside Ireland’s smaller towns. Don’t worry, I’ll share some tips for dealing with them below.

This is why I highly recommend getting full insurance coverage.

Typically, rental cars in Ireland come with a basic Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), but this isn’t exactly insurance, and only covers the car for up to €1000-3000 EUROS worth of damage.

This is the amount they hold on your credit card until you return the car in one piece. CDW typically does not include tire, cracked windshield, or undercarriage damage either.

While you can often save money booking your car with a good travel credit card that includes car rental insurance, you REALLY must read the fine print, because many people wrongly assume their card covers them in Ireland.

If you get in a wreck driving in Ireland, declined full coverage, and you suddenly learn your credit card doesn’t actually cover the damage — you’re screwed. I can’t tell you how many travel horror stories I’ve heard like this…

It’s why I usually pre-book full coverage online. It’s cheaper than at the counter — and then you won’t have to worry about accidents at all!

4. How Much Does It Cost To Rent A Car In Ireland?

Irish Cathedral in Cobh
The Stunning Cobh Cathedral

Renting a car in Ireland is going to cost you around $25-$40 USD a day, depending on the type of car you get. Our 4 door sedan was about $30 per day.

I recommend renting a car with an actual trunk (no hatchbacks) to hide your luggage from prying eyes. It helps to prevent break-ins if thieves can’t see your stuff.

Gas Prices

Gas (petrol) prices in Ireland might seem cheap to Americans, but remember that the rest of the world quotes gas in Liters, not Gallons (1 Gallon = 3.78 Liters). Currently, gas costs about $5.90 per gallon (€1.40 per liter) in Ireland. Diesel cars will often save you some money on gas.

Automatic vs Manual

Automatic cars are more expensive to rent than manual cars (but manuals are more common in Ireland, and Europe in general), and you must specify what type you want when booking. If you’ve never driven a manual car before, don’t start in Ireland! It’s safer to get an automatic.

One-Way Rentals

There’s an additional fee for one-way car rentals in Ireland, which can vary by company. For example, if you want to drop off the car in a different city than where you started from.

Admin Fee

If you opt to use your own credit card insurance, companies in Ireland will charge you an “admin fee” of about €30 EURO.

Credit Card Fee

I was charged an extra €5 EURO just for using a credit card. Which is strange to me, but typical in Ireland.

Irish Taxes

Car rentals in Ireland have a very high tax rate of 13.6%. Ouch! Nothing you can really do about it.

5. Age Requirements For Renting A Car

The minimum age for driving in Ireland is 18 years old, however most car rental companies enforce their own age limit of 21 years old to rent a car. They also charge an additional fee if you’re under 24 years old.

6. Irish Driving Laws Tourists Should Know

Driving in Killarney
Driving Through the Town of Killarney

The most confusing part of driving in Ireland for most tourists is driving on the left side of the road — with the driver’s seat on the right side of the car.

If you’ve never been to a country that drives on the left, it’s wise to practice a bit in a small town before you head onto the highways of Ireland.

For example, just North of Dublin Airport is the town of Swords. Maybe spend an hour or two getting the hang of driving there before you enter Dublin or onto the main highways.

While challenging at first, especially if driving a manual, you’ll get the hang of it quickly and will be ready to explore Ireland by car in no time!

The speed limit on local roads is generally around 80 km/h while on national highways it’s up to 100 km/h.

7. International Driver’s License

No, you do not need an international driver’s license to drive in Ireland or rent a car there. Just bring your passport, credit card, and your driver’s license from your home country.

8. Helpful Tips For Driving In Ireland

Beautiful Irish Castle
Ross Castle at Sunrise

Watch out for sheep! In many smaller towns, local shepherds move their sheep on the roads. You can easily round a sharp bend and find yourself stuck behind a huge flock walking down the road.

Narrow back roads in Ireland don’t have standard break-down lanes as we have in America. There’s often no room for error or pulling over.

Sometimes your side-view mirror will be inches away from stone walls or hedges while passing other cars! It can make driving in Ireland nerve-wracking.

Remember to carry some cash for road tolls on Ireland’s major highways. Irish tolls can cost between $1-$3 for a passenger car.

In the countryside, some roads are truly single lane, but with traffic in both directions. In these situations, there are pull-outs so one of you can pull over for the other to pass.

USEFUL TIP: Buy a cheap “learner” sticker (L) sold at gas stations so Irish locals don’t get pissed off at your incompetence on their roads!

9. Extra Advice For Renting A Car In Ireland

Driving Rental Car in Glengarriff Ireland
The Colorful Town of Glengarriff, Ireland
  • You don’t need a rental car for Dublin itself. Parking can be a pain and Dublin is very walk-able with excellent public transportation too.
  • If you’re starting from Dublin, maybe book the rental car for the days after Dublin, when you begin the proper road trip.
  • Don’t book a car without reading the company reviews. You’ll find plenty of bad reviews for every company (people love to complain online), but try to pick one with the LEAST bad reviews.
  • You may not always get the make/model/type of car you booked. If they give you a smaller car, or a manual when you asked for an automatic, be pushy and ask for an upgrade.
  • Inspect your car thoroughly and record video on your smartphone pointing out damage before you leave. This is a backup if they attempt to charge you for damage that was already there. This is a common car rental scam in Ireland….
  • Pay attention to if your Ireland rental car takes regular petrol or diesel fuel, so you fill up with the correct type at gas stations.
  • Use Google Maps on your smartphone for directions. Bring your own hands-free adapter and buy an Irish SIM card for your phone at the airport. You don’t need to rent a dedicated GPS device from the car agency.

10. Accident & Breakdown Information

In an emergency, you can dial the European Emergency Phone Number 112 in Ireland. This is similar to dialing 911 in the United States.

However if your car simply breaks down, and no one is injured, its probably better to call your Ireland car rental company’s own emergency roadside assistance number located on the rental agreement.

Enjoy Your Ireland Road Trip!

Exploring the small villages, ancient castles, green mountains, and coastal cliffs of Ireland in a rental car was definitely the right choice for us.

Self-drive road trips get off the beaten track to see things most people miss! ★

Rental Cars

Rent A Car In Ireland

Search both local and international car rental companies to help you find a good deal.

Travel Planning Resources For Ireland
Packing Guide
Check out my travel gear guide to help you start packing for your trip.
Book Your Flight
Ready to fly? Here’s how I find the cheapest airline flights.
Rent A Car
Discover Cars is a great site for comparing car prices to find a deal.
Cheap Accommodation
Learn how I save money booking hotels & vacation apartments.
Protect Your Trip
Don’t forget travel insurance! Protect yourself from possible injury & theft abroad. Read why you should always carry travel insurance.

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I hope you enjoyed my guide on renting cars in Ireland! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:

Do you have any other suggestions or stories about renting cars in Ireland? Drop me a message in the comments below!


Thursday 6th of May 2021

Hi, I really appreciate your article! I’m looking into car rentals in Ireland and have some questions about the temporary hold on your credit card. Many say 2000-5000 euros will be held on your cc. What I’m confused by is the language surrounding the additional coverage. If I pay for the additional/total coverage for the vehicle, do they not put a hold on your credit card?? Or is it a reduced hold? I’m just not sure I’m comfortable having such a large hold on my account when I’m trying to enjoy my money....elsewhere 🤪. Thank you in advance!


Thursday 23rd of July 2020

Hi I am planning to visit Ireland next year in January. Recently one of my friend travel with self drive car rental in Ireland. He said he was confused between Dooley and Axis, but he found better insurance with Dooley. What would you suggest Dooley, Axis or Hertz?

Teresa Haye

Monday 20th of January 2020

I was planning to rent a car with Auto Europe and then saw a bunch of reviews that have me worried. Do you recommend a particular company? I plan to pick up in Cork and drop off in Dublin.


Terry Haye

Matthew Karsten

Monday 8th of June 2020

Hi Terry! I've rented from a few different car rental companies in Ireland, including Europecar and Enterprise. But I generally price-check all the companies on the Discover Cars Website first to find the best deal. I don't have a particular brand I love, I just see who has the best deal that week, and make sure they have some decent reviews.

Shira Thomus

Friday 17th of January 2020

I was in a dilemma whether to go for big group bus tours or travel by car in Ireland, and this blog of yours was such a relief in deciding what I want. I am an adventurous person and love to travel independently and in the comfy company of my family.

I had doubts because I had heard that the country and backside roads in Ireland could get narrow. And by narrow, I mean narrow! Now I am convinced to give it a try and have some real fun on the road.

Yes, thanks for sharing about Discover Cars, I already downloaded and saw they give you rates of both local and international companies. So, when you have prices of different companies in front of you, it makes it very easy to book the car rental without much hassle.

I have researched about Dooley car rentals and saw their rates are much competitive so I would go with them. Thanks, you helped me finalize so quickly.

The information about CDW was much clear and to the point. I read about it at other places as well but could not get a clear answer.

If you have a minute to spare and as I don't know the country from where you travelled – can you tell what the real difference between automatic and manual cars is? I mean, I have never driven a manual car, but if it's a little inexpensive and not trouble, should I book it? Is it worth taking a chance when you are in a foreign nation or traveling with the family?

Matthew Karsten

Monday 8th of June 2020

Hi Shira! Glad you enjoyed my Ireland car rental guide. The back roads in Ireland can be very narrow, and take some getting used to. I rent a lot of cars when I travel, but even I was a bit nervous driving on them.

Just take it slow, and try to drive when traffic is low (early morning) until you get the hang of it.

As for the difference between Automatic & Manual, it's a very big difference. If you've never driven Manual before, DO NOT TRY TO LEARN IN IRELAND. I'd stick to renting an Automatic, even with the higher price. It's better to learn to drive Manual on your own, at home. Not in a foreign country...

Stephen Robert

Tuesday 30th of April 2019

If you are a resident of the US, Canada or the European Union and you have a valid driver's license, then you will be able to drive in Ireland.

Matthew Karsten

Monday 8th of June 2020

Correct. No international driver's license needed in Ireland!

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