Renting a car in Ireland and Tips for planning your trip!
Car rentals are a whole other process in the Republic of Ireland. We had a really hard time finding up to date information online when we were planning our trip. The general consensus seemed to be the insurance is expensive, and the roads are narrow. We also had a tough time getting accurate information from the rental companies themselves. Calling their customer service often lead to someone in North America who knew as much or less than we did.
Why am I sharing this?
If you are anything like me arriving jetlagged in a new country on no sleep doesn’t prepare you for the car rental line-ups. The general confusion and being inundated with questions and options at the counter. There is enough to focus on, like driving on the left hand side in a manual transmission. Showing up with your license and credit card and getting the hell out of there and finding caffeine and a warm shower is more ideal. So I have put together information from my experiences and research as of 2019.
Lets start with the lingo:
Collision Damage Waiver is the basic insurance that is required for car rentals in Ireland (covers the car in an accident, not the driver), the cost varies from about €7/day and up in to the €20 range on typical rentals.
Excess is essentially a deductible for the CDW insurance and is held in the form of a deposit. With basic CDW the excess deposit was around €2000.
To lower this Excess deposit you can chose to pay non refundable amounts to ‘Reduce your Excess’.
This is pricey for sure, and there is really only one work around.
Rental companies will not accept third party insurance in lieu of the CDW. However you can purchase third party to get reimbursed if you end up making a claim. The car rental company won’t deal with them for you. They will accept letters confirming insurance through your major credit card. This letter has to clearly state that you have coverage in the Republic of Ireland. After confirming with the insurance department at Visa I had no problems getting this letter.
Here is where is gets interesting
Most of the rental companies will accept this letter. However, even with this letter they require a refundable deposit of €5000 to decline the CDW they are selling. The deposit of €5000 held on that same credit card that has the letter, and is paying in full for the rental. That seems to be the going rate after checking with a several rental companies. If you go this route make sure you have enough space on that credit card to cover: the full cost of the rental, extra deposits, and the €5000 hold.
A note about reducing your Excess:
We chose this route with our campervan rental, and it seemed like a good idea. We paid €600 to reduce our excess deposit to €2000.. great right? Stay with me here… so now I have paid €600 non-refundable to lower my deposit. In the event of an accident the rental company will still keep the necessary funds up to the total excess deposit. So if there was €600 damage (say a windshield) they keep that from your excess deposit….at this point I would be out €1200 for €600 in damage.
So if you have the room on your credit card or can have your limit increased for your trip…it actually costs you less in the long run even if the worst should happen and you have to make a claim.
What about your insurance back home?
I went back in forth with ICBC who I will say is not the best, I also contacted other private insurers. It was like I was speaking another language when asking about insurance to drive in the Republic of Ireland….
In the instance of the camper van rental, a rental agent tried to tell me not to worry. If the there were any damage costs, I could always claim back that money with my own insurance back home….not the case. Also that “rental insurance” on your credit card needs to be understood clearly, Visa’s coverage does not include RVs, large passenger vans, cargo vans, or luxury vehicles. So ask those questions very specifically when you are inquiring about insurance.
Since our experience was different with 4 vehicles and three rental companies, let’s recap. The two cheapest options we found at the time of our trip: Easyrent, and Budget Rentals.
Budget Car Rentals
We had a €2000 excess deposit held on my Mastercard. This did not show up as a payment so no conversion fees were applied…and over the course of 21 day rental the funds were still accessible on my card. The shuttle service from the airport was simple and direct. The checkout was quick (though they do to try to sell you more insurance at the time of rental, the basic CDW does not cover windshields, mirrors or tires, and even some of the higher tiers didn’t include them)
There was no walk through, we were given a carbon slip with markings of existing issues with the car, and told to go check it out on our own and just take pictures of any other issues….our page had three issues marked to start, we took about 40 pictures and a walk around video just in case. We had two vehicles from Budget and the normal state seems to be scratches on the sides, hubcaps, and mirrors. (Chalk it up to alot of first time left hand drivers on Irelands very very narrow roads).
The return process was equally easy. We showed up they did a walk through and we were on the shuttle in minutes. They were never really clear on what kind of damage they look for (so I documented every little scuff just in case)
Our second vehicle with Budget was an easy exchange. We were in Dublin (and flew to Scotland for three days) the little hatch back we received was basic, and making alot rattling noises. I called budget, and asked about exchanging the vehicle, they were happy to oblige. I also asked if I could keep the vehicle parked in their secured lot over the weekend as it wouldn’t be in use (saved me doing two separate rentals with two deposits, also saved me parking costs).
Upon pick up the process was the same, a self guided walk around, pictures of all the scuffs and scratches, and we were on our way in a small s.u.v. The return was just as smooth the second time, a quick walk through and they called us a cab to our next destination.
We booked this through carrentals.ie and learned a couple of good though annoying lessons. When we arrived at the offsite pickup/drop off location the office was full and every customer had the same issue….”I bought Excess Reduction when I booked online, but now at the counter Easyrent is still taking the €2000euro hold.” We took a chance and bought the excess reduction when we booked as this was just for one day it seemed simple, we were flying out the next day and wouldn’t leave with a huge hold in our credit card. We were wrong.
If you are booking with a travel site (think carrentals.com, Expedia.com or Booking.com), you are not buying ‘their’ insurance. You are buying third party, and that means if you need it, you have to claim any incidentals back through this other company….this does NOT lower any of the fees or deposits with the actual rental company, it actually has nothing to do with the rental company.
The deposit they held at Easyrent went through as a charge on my card and I was told it could take up to 6 weeks to reverse it after I returned the rental. The girl at the counter was not friendly and her response to my concerns as “you should read more clearly next time”. This hole process was never communicated clearly, and not just to us as was obvious from the crowd of stressed out renters pleading with their credit card companies and reservation companies to help them….
So what’s a traveller to do?
Price compare for sure, talk to your insurance and credit card providers but there’s more…
This is a sneaky little tip:
When searching online, search the “.ie” sites.
The .ie sites are the Ireland domains and they price differently. They build the CDW into the cost of the rental automatically and it is less expensive.
Here is our example:
When we rented through Budget our rental cost ended up being under €400 for 21 days (our Excess deposit was €2000, + €100 for a fuel deposit). After hours on the phone and online, this was a pretty great deal!
My parents rental was booked using Aeroplan points, their options were to buy CDW from the rental company, decline it and leave the €5000 Excess deposit, or pay to reduce…..they paid over €400 to have full coverage on their car, their rental was for a week!
When calling, find the toll free number for their Ireland customer service or at minimum a European customer service. The most accurate information for renting a car in Ireland is from the location directly. (Speaking with a 1-800 agent from more than one company actually led to even more confusion as they don’t always actually know the policies for Ireland)
All in all the rental costs in Ireland were actually very reasonable (probably cheaper than home). Preparing for the deposits and holds is important, and unavoidable without buying insurance right from the rental company, so plan ahead to avoid being caught off guard at the counter. Decide what kind of coverage feels right for you.
One more suggestion is to use Ebates/Rakuten when booking your tip whenever you can. We earned hundreds of dollars in cashback when we booked our trip. Check out Rakuten/Ebates and other money-saving programs for travel here.
Do you have any tips or suggestions for renting a car in Ireland? Please share your experience with us!