Car and motor rental in Ireland

Renting a vehicle in Ireland puts the island in your hands. From cars to motorcycles to camper vans, vehicle rental on the island of Ireland is easy and varied

Car rental on the island of Ireland

Car hire companies in Ireland are generally based in airports, ferry ports or, in some instances, train and bus terminals. In many cases, the car hire company will have a base in the city centre. For terms and conditions on age and license requirements, it’s advisable to check with the rental company in advance of booking. This information is generally included in the company's Terms and Conditions on their respective websites. Where at all possible, try and book in advance to avail of better offers or deals and to ensure availability during high season.

In Ireland, the majority of rental cars will be standard shift (not automatic). There are automatic cars available, however. If you require one, it’s advised to book well in advance of travel to avoid disappointment.

If you are you be travelling with a child or children in need of a child seat, inform the rental company in advance.

Reduced mobility visitors who wish to rent a car should visit Motability Ireland, which specialises in modified and hand-controlled cars. Accessible Ireland also offers information for reduced mobility visitors.

Our Advice

To avoid misunderstandings, it is recommended that you always check the detailed terms and conditions of your rental booking in advance. You will be required to sign a rental agreement with the car rental company, even if you book through a third party (e.g., broker, agent, tour operator) so we suggest that you spend some time in advance understanding the options before you select the various insurances, waivers and other options as appropriate. 

The section below provides some general information on two issues that car renters can find confusing.  

Insurance Options and the Excess/Deductible

  • Third party insurance is compulsory and is included in the rental rate. This, however, only covers you for other people’s injury and damage to their vehicle – it does not cover injuries to you or damage to your rental car. 
  • Car rental operators also offer more comprehensive insurance cover which limits your financial liability should the car be stolen or damage. This is known as collision damage waiver (CDW) and  theft protection cover. 
  • Visitors who wish to claim CDW coverage using a credit card facility (e.g. US MasterCard Gold or Platinum) are advised check that such cover applies in Ireland and to bring documentary evidence confirming such covers. Please note that credit card CDW coverage often comes with various exclusions. 
  • Customers declining CDW may be required to pay a liability deposit and be charged an administration fee. 
  • All CDW cover is subject to a non-waivable excess fee.  Car rental companies also offer additional cover against the excess fee. Alternatively, you can buy separate insurance to cover the CDW excess fee from a third party, but please note that in such circumstances rental companies will require a security deposit.  The security deposit is most often taken, at the point of car pick-up, via a refundable pre-authorised charge to your credit card. A security deposit does not apply if you purchase an excess waiver directly from a car rental company. 

The following example explains how this works. Take the case of a rented car with an excess of €1,000 which has suffered damage worth €1,500:

  • If you took out cover against the excess fee with the rental company then you either pay nothing or pay a minimum amount depending on the terms of the car rental company’s excess policy.
  • Alternatively, if you got separate insurance to cover the CDW excess fee from a third party / car rental broker then (a) the first €1,000 of the damage comes from the excess insurance and (b) the balance of €500 is covered by standard CDW insurance. In this case, the rental car company will invoke the pre-authorised €1,000 charge to your credit card and you seek redress from the third party insurer / car rental broker for reimbursement of €1,000 on their policy, on your return home 

Renters are advised to check for exclusions in the terms and conditions of excess waiver policies purchased from third parties / car rental brokers. 

Fuel Policy Options 

Most Irish car rental companies give renters the option to select from one of two fuel policy options. These are as follows.

  • Full-Empty: Whereby the car is picked up full of fuel and can be returned empty. In this case you pay a fuel charge upon pick-up but no refund is given for unused fuel left in the tank at the end of the rental.
  • Full-Full: Whereby the car is picked up full of fuel and must be returned full. In this case you do pay a deposit equal to the price of a tank of fuel which is then fully refunded when the car is returned full. You only pay a fuel charge (and is some cases an additional administration fee) if you fail to return the car with a full tank. 

You may find it helpful to review the following page on the Car Rental Council of Ireland’s website. 

Renting a motorcycle

Motorcycle enthusiast, Paul Rawlins of Celtic Rider says it all when he talks about taking to the roads by motorbike in Ireland: “If you enjoy good clean air, good roads with little traffic, spectacular scenery, a soft drop of rain, great people, fine food, music, and craic [fun] then motorcycling in Ireland is for you."

Age restrictions for motorcycle rental on the island of Ireland vary, but are generally around the 23-25 year-old region. You will need a driver’s license (for most rental companies you will need to have passed the specific motorcycle driving test) and current passport in order to rent a bike. Should you be interested in renting a bike with side car, be sure to contact the rental company in advance to ensure the vehicle is available before travelling.

Campervan rental on the island of Ireland

Travelling Ireland by camper van marries two great loves of any traveller – good value and freedom. Also, if you think that a camper van will restrict you to the mainland and not leave you free to visit the islands, then think again: Melindam from the US decided “on a whim…to see if the island ferry (to Aranmore Island off the Donegal coast) could handle the camper van – and it could. The ferry skippers are master packers.”

That said, it is advisable to check with the ferry operator before arriving at the port. If you have any specific motor-home or camper van queries, a great port of call is Motorcaravan Club Ireland.

Drivers will need to be in possession of a license held for a minimum of eight years. This will vary somewhat between rental companies. Specific information regarding restrictions will be provided on the rental company’s website in their FAQ or Terms and Conditions sections.

VW Campervan rentals have become particularly popular recently (especially for festivals), and there are companies in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland where they can be rented.

Renting a motorcycle

Motorcycle enthusiast, Paul Rawlins of Celtic Rider says it all when he talks about taking to the roads by motorbike in Ireland: “If you enjoy good clean air, good roads with little traffic, spectacular scenery, a soft drop of rain, great people, fine food, music, and craic [fun] then motorcycling in Ireland is for you."

Age restrictions for motorcycle rental on the island of Ireland vary, but are generally around the 23-25 year-old region. You will need a driver’s license (for most rental companies you will need to have passed the specific motorcycle driving test) and current passport in order to rent a bike. Should you be interested in renting a bike with side car, be sure to contact the rental company in advance to ensure the vehicle is available before travelling.

Campervan rental on the island of Ireland

Travelling Ireland by camper van combines two great loves of any traveller – good value and freedom. Also, if you think that a camper van will restrict you to the mainland and not leave you free to visit the islands, then think again: Melindam from the US decided “on a whim…to see if the island ferry (to Aranmore Island off the Donegal coast) could handle the camper van – and it could. The ferry skippers are master packers.”

That said, it is advisable to check with the ferry operator before arriving at the port. If you have any specific motor-home or camper van queries, a great port of call is Motorcaravan Club Ireland.

Drivers will need to be in possession of a license held for a minimum of eight years. This will vary somewhat between rental companies. Specific information regarding restrictions will be provided on the rental company’s website in their FAQ or Terms and Conditions sections.

VW Campervan rentals have become particularly popular recently (especially for festivals), and there are companies in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland where they can be rented.