So you’re thinking about renting a car in Ireland?
Congrats on your upcoming trip! It’s going to be a fun time!
My wife and I spent 10 days traveling through Ireland and we rented a car to drive around the countryside. And by “we” I mean my wife. She was a saint and did all the driving.
There are two reasons for this. First, she gets really stressed out when she feels that control and safety are out of her hands in a car. A few years back she was driving and we got rearended pretty hard. Her car (Leonard) was totalled.
Ever since then Jenna is quick to become stressed when she’s not driving, especially when the brakes need to be hit hard or a car cuts us off. So to create less stress, we opted for Jenna to drive.
The second reason is insurance for renting a car. I’ll explain that more later what a lifesaver and a pain in the butt Ireland car insurance is.
This is the first time we rented a car for a major trip, and I want to share with you what I learned so you can make the best decision about renting a car in Ireland. To be honest, it might not be for you and a tour bus could be a better choice.
Our Trip to Ireland
I believe that good things are worth celebrating.
Think about it.
All sports celebrate good teams with trophies, championships, and parades. And so much confetti!
Good students are celebrated with awards, scholarships, and high quality job offers.
Accomplishing big feats deserve celebrations too. Our biggest family accomplishment is paying off our student loans and other consumer debt.
In May 2017, we finished paying off $100,000 of debt in 5 years and feel so proud of how hard we worked to make that happen. We are both teachers and had to work our butts off for every dollar.
(Quick shout out to anyone else who is debt free or working like crazy to achieve that dream. You can do it! It takes time, effort, and discipline, but I’m here to tell you that it’s possible.)
I also think good relationships are worth celebrating.
That’s why anniversaries are a big deal, and it’s the reason we went to Ireland in the first place. It was a dream destination on both of our bucket lists, so we made a plan to go Ireland to celebrate our 5 year anniversary.
We planned it since we got married and saved up a little every month until we had enough to cover every single cost and pay cash. It was a little surreal packing our bags and heading to the airport. Our big dream was actually happening!
When we booked our trip, we had to decide if we were going to rely on public transportation or rent a car.
We read a little about driving in Ireland and wanted the freedom to go where we wanted when we wanted, so we opted to rent a car through Enterprise.
Plus public transportation sounds like an absolute nightmare! Schedules, routes, carrying a ton of cash, finding pickup and drop off points. No thank you.
I could write an entire book about our trip – where we went, what we loved and hated about Ireland, how much money we spent, recommendations for your trip to Ireland (because yes you should go to Ireland. It’s fantastic) – but instead I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about renting a car in Ireland.
I’m talking costs, how to drive on the left side of the road, things we loved about renting, and what we didn’t like.
Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
General Tips to Renting a Car in Ireland
My first piece of advice if you choose to rent a car:
Get something small!
Trust me. When you’re driving down the super narrow roads with stone walls on both sides, you’ll be happy you don’t take up much space on the road.
I felt like I was a passenger in a dangerous high speed chase movie anytime we weren’t on a major freeway. You know the ones, like any of the Jason Bourne movies. He steals a car and drives through a crowded European city smashing into cars all over the place.
It felt a little like that. Luckily we didn’t have any fender benders.
The major highways were wonderful, but the backroads were a nightmare. There were no center lines and the road barely seemed wide enough for ONE car to drive, let alone two.
Look at this giant tour bus. Instead of staying in the left lane, it decided it was easier to just cruise right down the middle and move over if a car was coming.
There still isn’t a lot of space on either side.
This beautiful countryside is amazing to gawk at. Small little castles popped up all over the place.
But it’s hard to stare at the castle when you’re driving on a road the size of cart path! And it’s hard to see, but there is a stone wall on both sides. They’re just covered in grass and vines.
Ireland is Beautiful, but Keep Your Eyes Glued to the Narrow Roads
Oh, not to mention there was no shoulder. Instead of a shoulder there was a lovely stone wall about 3 inches off the side of the road on both sides. So if you’re going a bit too fast, lose control, or don’t pay attention for a second your options are to hit oncoming traffic or a stone wall.
If you think that sounds kind of terrifying, it is. My wife white knuckled us through those back roads with only one close call.
We were driving from Galway to Doolin to visit the Aran Islands (which are beautiful by the way) and as we approached a corner I noticed a cow trying to lick its udders.
If that sounds like a weird thing, you’re right it was. I was captivated for a few seconds staring at this goofy cow. And I made the mistake of pointing it out to Jenna.
She looked and in those 2 seconds a car with a small camper passed us on a corner and we almost slammed right into them. One of the bikes they were carrying smacked into our side window, but luckily didn’t do any damage.
It was terrifying.
That was the last time I pointed out anything cool while driving. I focused my attention on helping Jenna navigate instead. It felt like a safer option than gawking out the window.
Once again, get something small. You’ll be glad you did.
Driving Tips in Ireland
If you’re a bit terrified of driving on the left side of the road, I want to let you know that you’ll be fine.
At least that’s what my wife said. I didn’t do any of the driving. 🙂
But we made driving a team effort. When we drove down major freeways, the driving was easy and I just let Jenna know when to exit.
On any other roads, I was glued to the GPS helping Jenna navigate. And everytime we made a turn I reminded her which lane to turn into.
“Right turn into the left lane.”
“Left lane, left lane.”
Her brain adjusted pretty quickly to driving on the left side, but still needed reminders, especially when turning right.
And get ready for ALL the roundabouts. They’re everywhere and they’re wonderful.
Every Cost of Renting a Car in Ireland
The most expensive part of renting a car is the daily costs and the insurance. I was super annoyed at how much insurance cost, but I’m really happy we didn’t have to use it too.
Let’s go through the major costs one by one.
Daily Car Rental Costs
We rented a car through expedia when we booked our flight. It was easy to bundle the costs and take care of everything in one fell swoop.
The cost will vary depending on what kind of car you get and how many days you’re renting for.
We opted for an automatic, Class B Economy.
It was similar to a Ford Fiesta. We didn’t want to think about trying to shift while staying on the left side of the road, and cruising down crazy narrow roads. An automatic seemed a lot easier, plus neither of us know how to drive a stick shift, so there’s that. It’s okay, you can judge us. 🙂
The total amount we paid was $468.48.
That included the daily cost of driving, plus all the taxes and fees (which were about $100, dumb).
Adding an Extra Driver Costs More Money
Like I mentioned earlier, Jenna drove the entire trip. Part of the reason was to create less stress throughout the trip. I know if I drove and needed to slam on the brakes, Jenna’s blood pressure and stress would’ve gone through the roof.
The other reason, and probably the main reason, Jenna did all the driving is because it cost $10 a day to add an extra driver.
Yep, it would’ve been a lot more convenient if I could’ve driven the car too. But it would’ve cost $100 more to add me to the rental agreement and we weren’t willing to pay the extra.
So Jenna had to suffer a bit on the long drives. But that meant we could spend the money on things we ACTUALLY wanted. Like delicious mochas and fish and chips. 🙂
If you want the peace of mind to switch drivers, take turns, or just get the goofy experience of driving on the left side of the road, go for it.
For us, it wasn’t worth the money.
Pay for the Extra Rental Insurance – Just in Case You Get Distracted by a Cow Licking Its Udder (or something like that)
Rental insurance in Ireland is a unique situation. It’s one of the only countries in the world where you’re REQUIRED to buy extra rental insurance.
Most major credit cards these days have rental insurance built into their features, so you have basic coverage if you get in an accident.
Not so much in Ireland.
I thought I had booked extra rental insurance when I rented the car, but apparently not. After the shuttle brought us to the Enterprise car lot, they asked us which insurance package we wanted.
Yep, those were the only two options.
You can choose to save money (it would’ve been $200 for us) and go for the basic coverage and hope you don’t get into an accident. But lookout for the crazy deductible. If you smash into a stone wall, you’ll be paying a lot for it.
We actually saw a car perched up on top of a stone wall on a super narrow street. It looked like a terrible way to spend a vacation.
Or you can buy the full coverage and not have to worry about a damn thing. The Enterprise rep called it the “Demolition Derby” coverage. We went with that.
In the end, we didn’t do any damage to the car so we wouldn’t have had to pay the deductible. But we wanted the peace of mind, and that was totally worth the extra money.
Especially after the cow licking its udder situation. It was seriously one of the strangest things I’ve ever seen.
Paying for Gas is Pretty Cheap
Overall, gas was pretty cheap. We only spent $58.81 for the entire trip.
When you rent a car at the airport, they give you the option to return the car with a full tank or to prepay for the full tank so you can return it with as much or as little gas as you want.
We chose to prepay for the gas which was an extra $20. But that way we didn’t have to try to find a gas station close to the airport. We just brought it back as close to empty as possible, which we did a damn good job of.
The car we rented was a hybrid and really fuel efficient, so that was nice too.
Should You Get GPS or Download Maps Ahead of Time?
At the Enterprise counter in the airport they blasted us with a few questions that could’ve made the car rental more expensive. I already mentioned adding an extra driver for $10/day.
You’ll also get the option to get a GPS.
At first we said, “heck yeah, sign us up.”
Then we asked how expensive it would be (we are budgeters afterall). We always try to save money if we can.
A GPS was $15/day.
After about 5 seconds we decided we didn’t need a GPS. We downloaded maps we could look at without using cell data, or if we really needed to we could spend $10/day to use our cell data.
Both options were cheaper than buying a GPS, so we didn’t get one and saved $150.
We felt great about the decision until we were in the shuttle on the way to the Enterprise car lot. Riding in the shuttle my only thought was, “you’re an idiot, why didn’t you get a GPS? There’s no way you’re going to be able to figure out how to get anywhere.”
As I was slowly drifting into panic, we arrived at the Enterprise lot.
We got out of the van and the sales rep said, “good news. You got a free upgrade. It has GPS.”
I can’t describe how relieved that made me feel. Like 1,000 pounds of stress fell off my shoulders.
Okay, we can do this. We won’t spend car rides stressing over which way to go or me trying to relay directions to Jenna when I don’t really know which way to go. Phew!
The GPS seriously saved our vacation.
On our driving days, we just punched in the coordinates and took off. I told Jenna the directions so she could keep her eyes on the road. I think I only misguided us 4 times (Jenna might try to tell you it was 5 but she’s wrong, I promise).
When we dropped the car off after our trip, we took a better look at the cars in the lot. They were all really new.
I’m willing to bet that every car has a GPS built in, and that everyone gets a “free upgrade” if they don’t buy the GPS at the airport.
It’s only a guess and I can’t confirm it, but if you don’t buy the GPS at the airport, there’s still a good chance you’ll have a GPS in your rental car. We saved $150 and got a GPS anyway.
Of course, it could be a gamble, so the $150 might be a good piece of mind purchase.
When we go back, we will not be buying the GPS at the airport. We’re going to hope for a “free upgrade”.
How Much Does Parking Cost?
Parking is a cost I didn’t really think about ahead of time.
I know it might seem like an obvious cost to renting a car and traveling in a foreign country, but I’m a big picture kind of thinker.
My mind was on insurance, spending money on delicious food, and spending hours and hours with my wife (baby free). Jenna is the details person in our marriage and thinks about all the little things that fit into my big picture thinking.
We stayed at AirBnBs for 7 out of our 9 nights in Ireland, and only 1 out of those 7 nights had free parking.
The other two nights we stayed at an outlandishly fancy resort that had on site parking. It was an anniversary trip after all and we wanted to feel a little pampered. 🙂
When we first got to our AirBnB in Dublin, we had no idea where we could park. Our AirBnb host was not a great communicator so we had to figure it out on our own.
We got there before check in so we had to find a spot on the street to park, which was $10 for three hours.
I immediately started to dread how much parking would be, especially if we couldn’t find a spot to park overnight without getting a ticket or a car boot (which Ireland doesn’t hesitate to strap onto your tire).
Find a Parking Ramp Close to Your Flat or Hotel
After a bit of research we found a ramp we could park our car in for the two days we were in Dublin. It was only a couple blocks from our flat and we could park and forget about our car for the rest of our time in Dublin.
We were in a good location that was walking distance from anywhere we wanted to go. It was beautiful.
All major Ireland cities have these ramps, so if you need one, they are convenient and pretty reasonable.
Next our trip took us to Galway where our amazing AirBnb host had parking passes for us. It was $8/day, which was 1. Way cheaper, and 2. Right next to our flat. This was by far our favorite place to stay, and once again we didn’t drive at all once we got there. Everything was close enough to walk.
Our next three nights had free parking (yay!), and then we were back to Dublin for one last night in the parking ramp.
All in all, parking wasn’t too expensive and we found pretty easy and convenient places to park our sweet ride on days we didn’t travel.
The chart gives a breakdown of just how much we spent on parking.
|Parking Ramps (overnights)||$62.83|
|Parking Passes (from AirBnb host)||$24|
|Total Cost of Parking||$101.78|
Total Cost of Renting a Car in Ireland
Okay, down to brass taxes here. There are a lot of costs that go into renting a car, so let’s break it down category by category and get a nice total.
|Daily Rental (plus taxes and fees, ugh)||$468.48|
Pros and Cons of Renting a Car in Ireland
Now that our trip is over and done with, I’m really glad we rented a car. It helped us have the vacation we wanted and the freedom to go where we wanted to go on our own time scale.
But I can definitely see the upside to riding a tour bus around the country too. We saw them everywhere and I still don’t know how they fit on those tiny streets without destroying everything. It boggles my mind.
Pros of Renting a Car in Ireland:
- Freedom to travel on your own time table
- You can see more and do more because you’re in charge of the schedule
- You’re not stuck on a specific schedule (like a tour bus)
- Cool experience to drive on the left side. It gave my wife a brain workout
- You can be spontaneous. If you want to take a day trip and visit a Titanic museum like we did, you totally can
- More time to stay in each city. Tour buses are constantly on the move so you have less time to explore
- More relaxing – You can drive to a place and stay for a few days and really soak it in
Cons of Renting a Car in Ireland
- Fairly expensive when you add up all the costs
- You miss out on the history that a tour bus gives
- Stressful – white knuckle driving on narrow roads, especially if you don’t have a GPS
- Long days of travel – on a tour bus you have the luxury to sleep
For us, the pros definitely outweigh the cons. I’m really happy with our trip and although it was expensive, traveling around a foreign country comes at a cost no matter how you do it.
Tour buses are expensive.
Public transportation is probably the cheapest, but then you have to spend so much time looking at schedules and finding bus and train stations. It just sounds gross and more stressful.
In the end, it all comes down to the type of vacation you want to have, how much money you can afford to spend, and how much freedom you want to be spontaneous and do what you want.
And how badly you want to drive on the left side of the road 🙂
Leave a Comment
What Other Questions do You Have About Renting a Car in Ireland?