The wilds of Ireland via rental car
The wilds of Ireland via rental car

Let help you avoid the pitfalls of car rental in Ireland.

Ireland is a gorgeous, hospitable, welcoming country with a network of winding, scenic country lanes that lead to a never-ending series of endearing villages; perfect for exploring via automobile.

Unfortunately, the country's famed hospitality fades somewhat when one arrives at the rental car desk. There, ‘car hire’ practices and rules steer customers toward the purchase of expensive collision and theft insurance.

You’ll be glad you booked your Ireland car rental through and avoided the extra, unnecessary expenses.

Rental Car Insurance in Ireland

Most North American travelers prefer to rely on a credit card for free, zero-deductible CDW (collision damage waiver) and theft insurance. Thus they seek a “basic rate” (no CDW/theft), instead of the higher priced “inclusive rate” or “zero deductible” rate. The basic vs inclusive price difference on a compact car with manual transmission is often as much as $300 for one week. On a larger car, it can be more than $400.

The big problem here is that U.S.-issued American Express cards, and many Visa and Mastercard cards, do not cover damage or theft on Ireland car rentals (some Canadian Amex cards may cover, however). Even if your card provides coverage, if you choose the basic rate most rental companies impose additional fees, require customers to show written proof of coverage, and insist on placing a security hold on a sizable chuck of your card’s credit limit. For example, an Avis customer who doesn't purchase CDW and theft insurance is charged a ‘processing’ fee of €30, plus a security “hold” of €5,000 euros is placed the credit card. The customer must also show written proof of insurance. In addition, third-party CDW/theft policies sold by trip insurance companies are not accepted by Ireland car rental companies.

By all means, save the money, book a basic rate. You must first, however, make absolutely sure your card offers CDW/theft coverage in Ireland.

Here’s how:

  • Call the toll-free number on the back of your credit and ask to speak to someone—and this is important—in the benefits department.
  • Be specific in asking if your card covers CDW/theft in Ireland (many cards provide this coverage in Europe but exclude Ireland).
  • If your card offers insurance, request a letter addressed to you that certifies Ireland coverage. It is this letter you will present at the rental counter.

Now comes the tricky part. Some banks that issue credit cards send letters that mention “world wide” coverage. Since Irish rental companies are aware that some cards offer Ireland coverage and some do not, we suggest you insist on a letter that includes the word “Ireland.” We were recently told by Chase that a letter specifying Ireland was no longer available. We asked to speak to a supervisor, however, and were told to request an “Ireland letter” via email at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Car Rental Rates in Ireland

Car rental prices fluctuate with the season. As this is written (October 2019), the winter one-week price for a four-door compact category car with manual transmission is about $80 (including tax, basic rate without CDW/theft). Next June, however, the same category car is $380. The difference in price between manual and automatic transmission can also be substantial. The above $80 manual rate rises to $139 with automatic in winter, but over $500 in summer.

Age Requirements

Minimum age for renting a car in Ireland is 25, except Spanish, Italian or Portuguese license holders must be at least 30 year of age. Drivers 75 or older must:

  • Confirm they drive on a regular basis.
  • Provide insurance company documentation that they have a current auto policy and have had no accidents in the past five years.
  • Provide a letter from a physician stating they are in good health and fit to drive.
  • Submit to a rental agent’s assessment of driving skills.

Final Notes

One-way rentals within Ireland—Dublin to Shannon, for example—are permitted for fees ranging from about $30 to $75. Most rental companies permit travel to Northern Ireland but some charge fees of from $30 to $50. Travel to the UK and beyond generally is not permitted.

Finally, driving in Ireland is on the left side of the road.

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