Renting a car in Ireland is one of the best ways to explore the Emerald Isle. Explore at your own speed and cruise the Irish countryside. In this article we’ve rounded up our top tips for finding the best car rental, plus what to watch out for.
There are a handful of things we wish we would have known before getting a rental car in Ireland, so we’ve put together a complete guide with everything you need to know. This way you’ll be much more prepared than we were!
We’re breaking down the exact cost of a rental car in Ireland, answering some of your most frequently asked questions, plus sharing our top tips to save you money and headaches.
- Why rent a car in Ireland
- Reasons not to rent a car
- Cost of renting a car
- Rental car insurance
- Tips for renting a car in Ireland
- What to pack
- Other forms of transportation in Ireland
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In June 2023, we spent 2 weeks traveling around Ireland and living in a campervan. We were lucky enough to explore a lot of what this country has to offer!
We took our 2-week travels and are in the process of creating the perfect Ireland road trip itinerary. We’ll send you our complete 2-week itinerary, filled with tips and advice, once it’s finalized! Just click below to get on the waitlist for our 2-week Ireland road trip itinerary!
Why rent a car in Ireland?
If you’re on the fence about getting a rental car in Ireland, here are the top things to consider and the reasons we think renting a car is the best idea.
1. It’s cheap
Renting a car in Ireland can be surprisingly affordable, especially compared to the rates you’ll see in the US or Canada. We’re talking in the range of $20 to $30 USD per day.
Read below to see exactly how much you can expect to pay for a rental car in Ireland.
2. You can see more hidden gems
Ireland can be very touristy in some places around the country, and the only way to escape the crowds is to venture off the typical tourist trail. Usually, these places can be difficult to get to if you don’t have your own vehicle.
Without a rental car, it would have been very difficult to get to some of our favorite places in Ireland, like the Slieve League, Kesh Caves, and the secret waterfall in County Donegal.
We were also able to stay longer in a spot we liked because we had a rental car. For example, we loved the seaside town of Kinsale and we were able to stay for a meal and go for a walk, but if we had been on a tour bus, it would have been a lot less relaxing.
3. Driving in Ireland is easy
There are some countries where the insane traffic and crazy driving etiquette would scare us away from renting a car. (We’re thinking of many major cities in Vietnam!) But most of Ireland is pretty laid back when it comes to driving, and the rules of the road are pretty much the same as you’d find elsewhere in North America and Europe.
Ireland is a pretty small country too. In fact, you can drive from the west coast to the east coast in less than 3 hours (we’ve done that, twice!).
Depending on where in Ireland you plan to drive, you likely won’t encounter too much traffic or difficult situations (unless you’re driving around or through Dublin or Belfast).
5. It’s convenient
If you have your own vehicle, you don’t need to look up bus times or stick to someone else’s schedule. You don’t have to wake up early to catch that 6 a.m. bus or leave a destination before you are ready because it’s the last ride home.
You can stop whenever you need to, whether it’s to use the restroom or you get hungry. Turn on the AC or roll down your windows. It’s up to you!
6. It’s fun!
There’s just something about road trips that are so much fun! Stock up on snacks, crank some tunes and sing aloud, or listen to a podcast with your travel buddy. No headphones needed!
And you really can’t beat the views in the Irish countryside. We found ourselves pulling over constantly to take pictures and video, especially in the Ring of Kerry and the Ring of Dingle.
7. Parking is easy
We’ve driven in a rental car (and rental camper) all over Ireland, and finding parking was never an issue.
All our hotels and Airbnbs in Ireland were equipped with parking spots. Street parking or parking garages are readily available in most major cities. No issues here.
Reasons not to rent a car in Ireland
We’ve rented a car for our travels in Ireland, but we certainly don’t think it’s the best option for everyone. Here are some things to consider:
- If you’re only going to a single destination in Ireland (like Dublin), it might not be necessary to rent a car. This is especially true if you don’t plan to do much exploring outside of the place you’re visiting. Most of our favorite places to visit in Ireland are pretty walkable towns. In this case, simply walking or relying on taxis would be a good option for you.
- If you’re nervous about driving in another country. Even though we felt driving in Ireland was quite easy compared to many other countries, it can still be a bit stressful driving in a foreign country. They do drive on the left side of the road as well. If this worries you, it might not be worth the stress of renting a car.
- If you’re traveling solo and/or you’re on a tight budget. The cost of a rental car in Ireland is quite affordable, especially if you’re splitting the expenses between travel partners. However, if you’re on your own and are on a budget, this might be an expense that is hard to justify since taking a bus would be much cheaper.
How much does a car rental in Ireland cost?
Car rental prices in Ireland vary from company to company, and season to season, but you can expect to pay around $40-$50 USD/day for a basic car with full coverage insurance.
We like to use Discover Cars to search and compare prices from all the rental car options in the area and find it generally saves us money in the long run.
They also already include those small annoying fees (admin fees, airport surcharges, taxes, etc.) in the total displayed price, whereas other companies try to hide those fees until the checkout page.
When you start looking online, prices will seem A LOT cheaper than what we have estimated, but note the posted prices often don’t include the cost of full insurance coverage.
Check out prices for yourself as they do fluctuate depending on the season and around holidays.
Do I need rental car insurance in Ireland?
Oh, the dreaded rental car insurance question. And for Ireland, it gets a little complicated, so listen up.
Cut to the chase: we recommend getting full insurance coverage in Ireland.
For renting a car in Ireland, travelers must purchase or have Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) insurance. Most rental car companies offer CDW insurance that will cover up to a few thousand dollars of damage to a rental car.
This is where, for most countries, I jump in and say decline the rental company insurance because you’re most likely already covered by your credit card.
However, for some odd reason, in the fine print of your credit card insurance policies, Ireland and Italy are typically excluded from coverage.
I’ll repeat: Ireland is EXCLUDED from most credit card rental car insurance policies.
Be sure to read the fine print of your credit card because from our research it really depends on your credit card company.
You can pre-book your insurance coverage when you book your rental car, which is usually cheaper than getting it at the desk.
FAQs about car rentals in Ireland
Below are some frequently asked questions and answers about renting a car in Ireland.
Is it safe to rent a car in Ireland?
Ireland is a very safe country not only to drive in but to book a rental car. We didn’t have any issues or run into any scams when renting a car in Ireland.
This is a relief because in other parts of the world, we got scammed and couldn’t do anything about it.
Who can rent a car in Ireland?
The minimum age to drive in Ireland is 17 years old. However, in order to drive a rental car you must be at least 21 years old. As with most countries, if the driver is younger than 25 years old, there may be an additional fee.
What’s the cheapest rental car company in Ireland?
At the Dublin Airport, you can find all the popular rental car brands like Hertz, Eurocar, Thrifty, Budget, Dollar, and a few local companies. Instead of searching for each individual car company, we like to use aggregate sites that consulate all the available rental cars into a list.
This way we can find the cheapest and best car rental for us during our travel time.
Plug in your dates and compare prices to find a rental car that works for your trip to Ireland.
Do I need an international driver’s license to rent a car in Ireland?
Most likely, no!
Unless your home country’s license is in a non-Roman language (Japanese, Russian, etc.), you will not need an international driver’s license.
However, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have one, especially if you frequently travel internationally — popular destinations including Greece and Thailand do require an international license as well.
As long as you have a valid driver’s license in your home country, you can get your international driver’s license here, for just $30 USD. They have urgent processing available to get your digital license within 15 minutes.
How much does gas cost in Ireland?
I’m sorry to break it to you… gas (petrol) in Ireland is not cheap. The average cost for gas in Ireland is around €1.73 per liter ($6.95 USD per gallon) (September 2023 prices).
As you drive around Ireland, have a well-planned itinerary so you don’t waste gas backtracking. And at these prices, it would be worth it to rent a fuel-efficient car (or even an electric car) while in Ireland.
Psst! Before you hit the road, you’ll want to check out these helpful tips for driving in Ireland.
Tips for renting a car in Ireland
These tips are pretty universal whether you’re renting a car in Ireland, Europe or the United States. We hope they are helpful to you as you plan your trip.
1. Take pictures of the outside of the car before driving
Get up close and personal. Take photos on your cell phone of any scrapes and dents, no matter how small. And don’t forget any little cracks on the windshield. This way, none of these issues can be blamed on you.
I also heard recently that taking a video of the entire car as you walk around it is a good way to document the exterior.
We’ve never had to use these photos, but it’s a good idea to have yourself covered just in case!
2. Rent your car online
Since the online booking platforms reserve several cars and pay the company whether or not someone actually rents them, they get a great rate and can pass the savings onto you.
It is almost always cheaper to book online rather than walking into a store. (I never would have believed this until we walked into a car rental shop in Costa Rica and were quoted nearly 3 times as much for the same vehicle as it was listed online!)
Plus, you won’t need to worry whether there will be availability if you book it ahead of time!
Search & Compare Rental Car Prices
3. The longer you rent, the less you pay per day
If you compare the cost of a single-day rental to the cost of renting a car for multiple days or weeks, you’ll almost always get a better deal for the longer term.
Don’t take our word for it, see for yourself!
4. Download offline navigation
It’s important to download the map before your trip so you have access to roads, restaurants, and attractions even if you don’t have cell phone service.
For this, Google Maps is amazing! Not only can you pin all the points of interest along your route, but it will also show your current GPS location even when you’re not within cell signal. To enable this feature, keep reading…
How do you Download Google Maps Offline?
It’s super simple, just follow these steps:
- Sign in and open Google Maps app (it’s connected to your Gmail account).
- Move the map so Ireland, or the portion you want to download is in the frame.
- You’ll see a white bar at the top of the screen, tap on your profile picture or the letter of your profile.
- Tap “Offline Maps”
- Tap “Select your own map”
- Move the map so the area you want downloaded is in the blue frame. Make sure you’re in WiFi, and click the “download” icon.
The map data from this region will now be on your phone, and can be accessed even when you have no cell signal! You’ll even be able to see your current GPS location as long as you have it authorized. (Settings > Google Maps > Location > select “Always”)
Maps.Me is another great map option, and we use it a lot to find hiking trails and things that aren’t always marked on Google Maps. You might want to download both maps before your trip!
5. Get a SIM card
A local SIM card is invaluable when you’re traveling abroad. Not only does it help you avoid costly roaming or data charges, it also provides a safety net and keeps you generally more connected, providing local cell and data coverage while on the road.
Just make sure you’re traveling to Ireland with an unlocked smartphone in order to use the local service.
Our favorite way to get data in a foreign country is by using Airalo. If you can get by with data only (no calling), this is a great value at just $22 USD for 10GB, valid for 30 days.
Airalo is an app you download that offers eSIMs in nearly 200 countries. It’s super easy to use and makes arriving in a new place much more seamless.
Just download the app to your phone, choose the country and data package that best suits your travel needs, and install the eSIM. Voila! It offers instant connectivity and is easy to top up with more data when you need it.
Note: If you are traveling to Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, be sure to purchase the Regional Plan for Europe. This includes 39 countries in Europe including the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland (which is technically the U.K.).
6. Combat car sickness
If you’re someone who suffers from the occasional motion sickness, driving through twisty Irish roads can make your head spin.
I understand, believe me!
If you’re like me, having your own vehicle will allow you the freedom to stop when you need to. Plus, sitting in the front seat (or driving) helps prevent car sickness a ton.
Pro Tip: Motion sickness wrist bands and ginger chews have helped me a lot!
What to pack for driving around Ireland
We have a whole checklist of things to pack for your trip to Ireland, but here are some general items you don’t want to forget on your road trip.
- Driver’s license
- Dashboard mount: Safety first! You’re not allowed to use your phone while driving in many places (plus, it’s just unsafe!), so attach your Google Maps to your dash.
- Sunglasses: Umm, yeah, this is a must. No explanation needed.
- Travel Lumbar Pillow: If you have a bad back (like Ben!), this would be clutch! He had some back issues during our trip, and was wishing we had packed his lumbar pillow. It’s way too bulky to fly with though, so I found this pillow for next time!
- Water bottle: Must have on a road trip. Our favorite is Hydro Flasks because they keep your water so cold!
- Travel Mug: Bring your own coffee cup into cafes and save on waste (and sometimes a few cents!)
- Car Outlet Inverter: While you’re driving, charge your larger devices like laptops and cameras with a portable inverter that plugs into your car.
- Portable jumper cables: This tiny little device has a power pack that effectively jumps your vehicle (without another car).
- Travel insurance: We NEVER travel without it, but especially for a road trip, it’s a good thing to plan for.
Be sure to download our complete packing list for Ireland! It’s packed with good suggestions and insider tips to help plan your Scotland trip. And it’s completely FREE, so why not!?
Other forms of transportation in Ireland
If you’re still on the fence about getting a rental car in Ireland and want to know what your other options are. Here’s how you can get around Ireland with public transportation.
By bus or tour
If you do not feel comfortable driving in Ireland, do not worry. There are tons of things to do and see in Ireland without self-driving. Take a look at these tours from Get Your Guide and see some of what Ireland has to offer.
If you want to check out intercity bus routes, we found Transport for Ireland helpful for planning out rides.
Traveling by taxi or rideshare
One thing that surprised us in Ireland was that when we ordered an Uber, a taxi showed up. After this happened a few times, we realized that in Ireland, Ubers are not private drivers like we’re used to in the US.
It essentially just connects you to a taxi.
Turns out Ireland does not allow private drivers to operate using rideshare apps and only allows licensed taxi and limo drivers to do so.
However, here’s the issue…. We found ourselves waiting. And waiting. This happened a lot when we ordered Ubers. And we weren’t quite sure why…
Then we learned from a local that there are far fewer drivers on the Uber app than are on these other apps:
Both are only available in select cities in Ireland. So if you’re in a place where the apps don’t work, simply hail a taxi since it is the same price as the apps anyway.
Travel by train in Ireland
There are a few intercity commuter trains that mostly start out of Dublin. Prices for trains are very reasonable and you can buy your tickets online at Irish Rail.
Are you planning a trip to Ireland?
We’re creating lots of resources for travel in Ireland and destinations throughout the country. Check out our Ireland Travel Homepage for everything you need to know, or read some of our favorite articles below.
- Ultimate 2-week Ireland Road Trip Itinerary
- Driving in Ireland: 19 Helpful Tips
- Places to Visit in Ireland You Can’t Miss!
- Best Time to Visit Ireland: When to Go & When to Avoid
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We want to hear from you!
Do you have more questions about renting a car in Ireland that we didn’t cover in this article? Are you planning a road trip and want more info? Leave us a comment below and we’ll do our best to get back to you!