My experience renting a car in Ireland (Woof!)

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Thinking about renting a car in Ireland?

Woof:
verb: to declare something bad, ugly, terrible, or nasty.
interjection: use as an expletive to express disgust or surprise.
Can be a replacement for damn that sucks!

Upon landing at DUB, I knew the next step was to go pick up the rental car.

So here’s how I did it (made the booking not picked up the car).

The booking

I ran a quick search on the Chase Ultimate Rewards website – they generally have fantastic rates on rental cars. That’s how I got such a good deal in Hawaii. Keep in mind that they ONLY service airport locations and you MUST pick up and return to the same location.

They quoted me at ~$325 for a 6-day rental. Not bad.

But when I hopped on kayak.com to compare and they had rentals pricing out at 9 Euros per day. And 85 Euros for the 6-day rental (~$97). Now that was a screaming deal. I booked a car at Dollar via priceline.com.

renting a car in ireland

My Kayak to Priceline to Dollar car rental booking – 85 Euros

My only criteria were:

  • 4-door (for ease of getting luggage in and out)
  • Automatic transmission
  • Unlimited kilometers (I wanted to drive a lot)

So, I did it. I thought I’d gotten a better deal than what the Chase Ultimate Rewards site was displaying.

Now that I’m back safe and sound, I’m not so sure any more.

Pickup

To get to the car rental pickup area, you have to take a shuttle about 5 kilometers down the highway to a pretty isolated lot, but still on the airport grounds.

I thought when I got there, I’d put down a credit card so they could put a hold on it and kinda… drive away.

My convo with the desk agent

“You’ve driven on the left before?”

“Yes. In New Zealand.”

“And how are you on the left side? Are you…?” *made swooshy motions with her hands*

“Yeah, no. I’m fine. I’ll be fine.”

“Which insurance would you like Personal & Commercial Van Insurance or something else?”

“None, it’s included with my credit card.” (Chase Sapphire Preferred now includes all countries under their primary car rental insurance.)

“Uh oh. Have you ever tried to file a claim with a credit card company?”

“Well, no. And I don’t wanna find out. I’m sure they’ll be fine, though.”

This is when an older gentleman piped up. He explained that it would be a nightmare for me to get Chase to help me with any type of mishap while I was in Ireland. “Happens all the time to you Americans. Everyone always thinks it’ll be OK and it never is.”

But I insisted on waiving the coverage.

30 Euro admin charge to take the insurance off.”

WHAT?! Ridiculous.

“And if you waive it, we have to put a 5,000 Euro hold on your credit card.”

WHAT?!?! That’s over $5,700!!!

Yeah, but if you pay 125 Euros, the hold is only 2,000 Euros (~$2,300). And if you pay 250 Euro, there is no hold.”

So for me to waive the coverage would cost me 30 Euros. And they kept pressing me. Finally, just to get the hell out of there, I paid the 125 Euros, and let them put the 2,000 Euro hold on the card, which burned me HARD.

“You’re making the right decision,” the older man said. “That way if you get into an accident, you can pay the deductible, hand us the keys, and walk away.”

“Do uhhh… accidents happen a lot in Ireland?”

“It’s what I spend every day filing claims for.”

Woof!

Dozens of dents, dings, and scrapes that I didn't want to be responsible for!

Dozens of dents, dings, and scrapes that I didn’t want to be responsible for!

Dozens of dents, dings, and scrapes that I didn't want to be responsible for!

Dozens of dents, dings, and scrapes that I didn’t want to be responsible for!

They took me out and made a big production about me examining the car. It had a LOT of scrapes and dings on it, so I took out my phone and recorded dozens of pictures in the Evernote app (this is another great use of Evernote for travelers!). There was no way they were gonna pin those on me when I returned it.

If you see anything like that on ANY rental, whip out your phone and snap some pics. It’s worth the 2 minutes that it takes to walk around the car once and record any big issues.

The driving experience

Beautiful country, narrow roads. And lots of traffic! ;)

Beautiful country, narrow roads. And lots of traffic! 😉

The roads in Ireland are NAR-ROW. And the trickiest part is getting around in town. Once you’re on the highway, it’s just like driving anywhere else. For me to drive to Dublin to Galway to Cork via Limerick and back to Dublin, the roads were fine.

And no accidents!

Outside Blarney Castle. Pretty much the same roads as in Medieval times

Outside Blarney Castle. Pretty much the same roads as in Medieval times

But I did see, at times, how the roads could be confusing. And they definitely do NOT get points for their signage. So be careful out there (as always, when driving in another country)!

And have lots of coins for tolls if you plan on driving from one city to another. A few of the toll booths accepted my Barclaycard Arrival Plus, but a few of them also didn’t.

Bottom line

Getting to the Radisson Blu Royal in Dublin and seeing that hold on my account made my “good deal” booking with Kayak feel like a terrible deal after all. Especially after finding out about the admin charges and basically being bullied into getting insurance I didn’t want.

Things to look for when renting a car/driving in Ireland

  • Always check the Chase Ultimate Rewards travel portal as their prices tend to be the BEST for airport rentals. And, surprisingly, the AA Car website gives out some really decent rates too
  • You will most likely have to put some monstrous hold onto your credit card, so be prepared for that
  • And be prepared to pay a bullshit fee if you don’t want their insurance (“admin charge” my A!)
  • Take lots and lots of pictures of anything you see on the car. Mine had lots and lots of dings and scrapes
  • Pre-plan your driving as much as possible. It’s easy to miss signs in Ireland – signage is really not their strong suit

Now, my questions. Would I have been charged those ridiculous fees if I’d just booked through Chase Ultimate Rewards (Update: it seems so. See link at the bottom.)? Because the price ended up being the same after the insurance payment. Although I saw disclaimers about extra fees charged by the rental car agency and now that I’m back, have read many reports of huge credit card holds. And man, I wish I’d Googled that before I left!

Has anyone else rented a car in Ireland? Are there any tips for next time? Would love to hear from someone more seasoned – and would love to share this info with readers. Please comment below if you know anything about renting a car or driving in Ireland.

Update: This is an amazing resource – A Comprehensive Guide to Renting a Car in Ireland

Stay safe and scrappy out there!

Editorial Note: Opinions expressed here are author's alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.

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About Harlan

Just a dude living in Dallas.

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  1. hey, Harlan, I’m probably necroposting but I really just started reading your blog after realizing that you’re the same guy that recommended apple cider vinegar.

    I was in Ireland in May as well. I’ve been going there regularly since I was a kid in the 19**’s and renting cars on my own since 1985. I never took the insurance offered, not once, always assuming that I was covered by a combination of my own auto insurance and my credit card. This trip, for some reason, I decided to check with my insurance company and found that I am not covered by them in Europe or anywhere other than US/Canada and when I checked the credit cards, they offered only really terrible coverage. That’s when I realized that for 30 years I have been renting cars and driving all throughout Europe and Australia and never actually had proper coverage. Thank whatever gods there might be I also never had a reason to claim in what must be at least 25 rentals. But seriously, I can’t believe I never checked it.

    I found that I got a very good 7 day rate, including full insurance, picking up in Galway City and dropping at Dublin Airport for a full size (family event – dozens of cousins coming from the US – my spouse does not drive on the left hand side nor does he do stick shifts) I used Autoeurope who in turn organized the rental from Budget. The total about came to a little over $300 for the week and well worth it. The car we got was Renault Megane, which seated 5 adults well for short trips and had ample trunk space.

    And accidents do happen all over Ireland. Tourists unused to country roads and Irish drivers who still don’t have the hang of how freeways work seem to be the most common. And the laws have gotten stricter.

    True story. My family is from a small town in the West. When I explained to one of my cousins that I had just now understood how under covered I was with the insurance in previous trips, she replied indignantly, “It’s gotten terrible all over. Do you know that [another relative who is a police man – a gardai] told me that I had to get a driving license or he would cite me? And I’ve been driving since before his mother was born. It’s altogether a disaster.”

    • “Necroposting” – I’d never heard that word before. I like it!

      But nope, there’s none of that around here. As long as people read the posts and the experiences are still valid, it’s still fair game for discussion (and here I am necroreplying).

      I can easily imagine accidents on those narrow, left-hand roads in Ireland. I specifically requested an automatic – that was my only big request – because I didn’t want to focus on manual shift in addition to everything else. Some of those roads are VERY narrow. I really thought I was going to scrape the side of the car with how they have walls and fences so close to the pavement!

      And like you, I was horrified when I found out the rental car/insurance situation first-hand.

      I’d love to explore Cork, and the south, more. But knowing what I know now, I stand behind my original sentiment of “Woof!”

      Only thing is to go better prepared next time.

      Thank you for reading and sharing your experience!

  2. Another old comment. In researching an “Irish Car Rental” (new verb) I noticed that many of the main go-to credit cards won’t provide primary or CDW coverage unless you opt out of coverage. Also many pay the tolls and charge them to your credit card later even if you pay at the toll booths. I’m wonder how much of that is true. I also wonder why Ireland is such a PIA to do a simple car rental, seriously.

    • Hey Dan! I didn’t notice that about the toll booths (I paid in cash each time and never saw the charges appear later).

      But I agree – renting a car in Ireland is a MESS. I’ve rented cards in England, New Zealand, and other countries where you drive on the left, and never have I had more issues or hassle than Ireland.

      Definitely make sure you read ALL the fine print on an Irish car rental, or many nasty surprises await – was the lesson I took away from it.

  3. It’s like we are renting the car together. I had the exact same experience (nearly word for word) at Avis and I have international travel credit and charge cards: AMEX Platinum and Black Citi Executive card and a Amex Propel World Card that covers insurance everywhere; except Ireland. Such a rip!

  4. Praying this doesn’t happen to me! Planning a trip to Ireland in November and using Avis rental – picking up in Cork and dropping off in Dublin. We are waiving the CDW because my Chase card covers it – I called both my credit card to make sure, and Avis to confirm they would accept the letter of eligibility my credit card sent me. All together, for 4 days, we’re only paying $50.

    We are getting a “mini” car, and I’m hoping that will help with the narrow roads…

    • That will definitely help with the narrow roads! And good that you’ve done your research and gotten that letter!

      You should be good to go. Ireland is so beautiful. Enjoy your trip! 🙂

      • I thought no American credit cards covered auto insurance in Ireland. $50 for 4 days? Sounds like Heather may be in for a surprise – no ?

  5. I’m in Cork now and thought I was getting an amazing deal at $72.00 for a week long rental. After we were told that the U.S. insurance companies didn’t cover in Ireland we decided to get Irish coverage. The Irish Car Rental price went up to €562, or about $600….. what the WOOF!!! There is a sign in our car that says not to pay the toll at toll 50 because ir is already charged to the car fee. We may keep the car half the time because we really want to drive the ring of Kerry and see the western coast. Doubt I would rent a car here again though. Now I see why there is a lot of gold at the end of an Irish rainbow, it’s all the money from rental and overpaid toll fees

    • OUCH! Yep, that’s exactly the thing to watch out for.

      Definitely hear you about the tolls and the way they jack up the prices once you arrive to pick up your car – thanks for sharing this!

      I have definitely learned my lesson about renting a car in Ireland. As long as you look out for those and verify your coverage you *should* be good.

      Hope you have a good time there despite the car issues!

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