My wife, two kids and I will be traveling in Ireland and the UK Nov. 1st through 21st. We're flying into and out of Dublin. Our plan is to do a clockwise tour: Fly into Dublin -> Belfast -> Scotland -> England/London -> Back to Dublin to fly home.

We've been planning to rent a car when we land in Dublin (doing just things outside Dublin at the start of the trip) and have a car all the way until London, then turn in the car and take a train/ferry to get back to Dublin before flying home.

However, reading through the car rental section of Rick Steve's 2012 Ireland book is causing us to question if this is the right plan. He says (p. 480):

If your trip covers both Ireland and Great Britain, you're better off with two separate car rentals, rather than paying for your car to ride the ferry between the two islands. On an all-Ireland trip, you can drive your rental car from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland, but be aware of drop-off charges ($75-150) if you return it in the North.

So it seems like he recommends against doing one car rental for both islands, but he also recommends against renting in the Republic of Ireland and returning it in Northern Ireland (our other option for our current itinerary). So we're not sure which is best here. A few questions about this:

  • If we do one car rental all the way from Dublin to London, will there be a similar $75-$150 fee?

  • Is there an easy place to return a car on the Northern Ireland side of one of the Northern Ireland -> Scotland ferries, and an easy place on the Scotland side to rent a car? We'd like to minimize the number of buses/whatever we need to take between car rentals since we'll be lugging around car seats for both of our children (on top of carrying them and our luggage).

  • Will one way be significantly cheaper than the other? Besides the basic cost of taking the car on the ferry and the drop-off charges, our credit card will cover insurance in Scotland/England but not in Ireland, so we could potentially get a better rental rate by renting a second vehicle once we're on Great Britain. Although, I know you often get a better rate when keeping a car rental for longer, so that may negate any benefit from the credit card covering the insurance.

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    Personally I would expect the one way fee from Dublin to London to be a lot higher than $150, though I haven't looked into it...
    – Gagravarr
    Aug 28, 2012 at 12:39
  • Even if you drop it off where you pick it up, you may have additional charges for driving it across the border. On our recent Europcar rental from Belfast we had to pay an extra daily rate to get permission to drive the car into the Republic of Ireland.
    – gerrit
    May 30, 2017 at 14:23

3 Answers 3

  • There probably will be a one-way rental fee between Ireland and the UK. For example, Hertz describe theirs in general terms here (update: it looks to be around ~1000 EUR+ for Ireland to the UK). I know from past experience that Hertz, for example, will show you the applicable one-way rental fee as part of the costing if you plan a reservation on their website (you don't need to actually book it). I assume other rental companies are similar. You can also use this to compare the one-way rental in one direction and the other.

  • Most major rental companies will have offices in city centres in Ireland, NI, and the UK mainland, and typically the largest (with the most choice and best opening hours) will be near airports, ferry terminals, and major train stations (the latter in turn typically being in city centres).

  • Be careful about the credit card covering your car rental insurance. I'm assuming you're from the US, where this kind of thing is typical. Make 100% sure it covers the insurance abroad, too - it might well not do. This concept doesn't typically exist in the UK, for example, so most people buy the add-on insurance from the rental company. I'm not sure about the situation in Ireland.

I think your best option is probably to rent one car for Ireland/NI (checking on the one-way fee), and another for the UK. Failing that, I think the second best option is to keep the same car all the way from Dublin back to Dublin. Either way, watch for costs in London from the Congestion Charge and Parking (an example national chain you can use for representative costs is here).

  • Just checked on hertz.com to get an indication of the one-way fee. Wow! For a week's one-way rental between Dublin and London, they are asking for 1321 EUR. That's eye-wateringly high. Maybe that might come down if you have any discount or special rate codes, and it might be a bit cheaper with other rental companies, but at that price I would definitely either stick with one car or switch cars between Ireland and the UK. Aug 29, 2012 at 17:19
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    The price will be that high because they don't really want to have to get their Irish car back from London...
    – Gagravarr
    Aug 30, 2012 at 5:18
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    @Myron, yes, in London you have to pay the Congestion Charge every day your car is on the road (tfl.gov.uk/roadusers/congestioncharging). You would also need to park it. Secure central parking isn't going to be cheap - see ncp.co.uk for an example of a major parking chain. Aug 31, 2012 at 15:33
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    Increasingly I am thinking your cheapest option may be two rentals - one in Ireland and one in the UK. You shouldn't find it too difficult to find rental offices either near ferry ports, or that will deliver/pickup a car to them. Double-check your Ireland<->NI rental fee though. You could take the train between Ireland and NI? Aug 31, 2012 at 15:38
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    @Myron - to be clear, I wasn't suggesting using the car whilst you were in central London... no-one sane does that (!): so you'd only do that tube journey at the beginning and end of your 4 days, just parking it outside London. Still I agree - I think separate rentals may be easiest. Enjoy your holiday! Aug 31, 2012 at 15:48

The excessive cost from Hertz is to pay for somebody to bring back an Irish registered car to Ireland and then fly back to London. Two days work probably, plus ferry and flight.

Only multinationals like Hertz and Avis will accept your card insurance, so be careful to check with whomever you rent, that you are fully covered!

I reckon the Dublin to Dublin route is the one to go for. Keep the car all the time. Never mind parking on the outskirts of London and tubing in, park further away and take the train in. Check with the stations beforehand. Didcot Parkway is a good choice, West of London. Only 40 minutes from central London and a big car park with 1127 parking spaces. The advantage of not having to pack, unpack and pack your car each time you take a ferry/flight are inestimable. Doing it this way, you only have one journey into London and one out.

Check with the rental company that you can take the car abroad. Ireland and the UK are two separate sovereign countries with different governments and currencies and you will definitely need permission to take the car abroad. You will also need a VE103b form which allows you to take a rental vehicle on ferries between two countries in the European Community. This is issued by the rental company and I guarantee you will never be asked by the ferry companies, but by law, you need one. The rental company will also require you to take out "international breakdown recovery" cover, which can be arranged with the automobile association in Ireland. Your problem is going to be communicating with a rental company who will let you do all this.

Celtic Car Rental would let you do the two rentals in both countries separately if you prefer to do that, but I do not know who to contact to do a round trip rental. Why not contact Hertz customer support and see what they say. It is the contact form for Ireland Hertz, so you will be talking to the locals.

  • 1
    Thanks, this is some useful info. I couldn't find a parking price listed for Didcot Parkway at that link, but I'll do some more looking at that may be a good idea. The info about the VE103b form is really useful, too, although it really surprises me. I think you can rent a car in the US and drive into Canada without any forms needed, and the cooperative nature of the EU made me think it'd be even easier over there. The Celtic Car Rental link you gave doesn't give me a lot of confidence...the "Get a Quote" link is a 404.
    – Myron
    Sep 3, 2012 at 17:25

Disclaimer: As a car rental professional based in the UK (broker), I have a lot of insights when it comes to renting a car on both islands.

First of all - a one way fee from Ireland to London, from what I can see is rarely allowed and when it is, it will cost you a lot. Be advised that if you find a company who will accept that which I really doubt, you will have to pay extra insurance for taking the car on a ferry + the ferry tax for the car.

So, here is my advice: From Dublin to Belfast, hire only one car. You will have to pay a one way fee, varying from £117 to £145, however it is still an economic way to travel, rather than hire a car on each side of the island and in between travel by public transportation.

Why is better this way?

  1. you will only have to pay the rental security deposit once, which is important because you won't have too much money blocked while on holiday.

  2. Comfort. Having to leave the car and take public transportation between Ireland and Northern Ireland can be tiring and also costly.

From N. Ireland to Scotland, I'll recommend the airplane. There are cheap flight towards all airports in Scotland.

If you decide on the ferry from Belfast to Cairnryan, on arrival you will have to take public transportation to one of the large cities in Scotland. There you would be able to hire a car. If you feel adventurous, you can do that, me personally I prefer the plane option.

If you take the plane to one of the major cities in Scotland, from the airport you can hire a car (one way) and drop it to London. Now, there are companies which won't charge you any one way fee or there can be a fee as low as £30 which is totally acceptable in my opinion. Now it depends on which company you choose. I won't say any names as it might be against the rules of the forum.

In terms of insurance, in Ireland and UK the car rentals come with basic insurance(CDW + Theft with excess) and third party liability insurance included (these are the regulations here). If you wish to reduce the excess you can purchase extra insurance either from the supplier itself or third party (which is cheaper). Be advised that 3rd party insurance doesn't reduce the excess on car rental and works on claim basis only. I hope my answer helps. Have a good trip!

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    Trains between Dublin and Belfast are frequent and not that expensive, rentals can be arranged from and to railway stations.
    – Willeke
    Mar 21, 2019 at 11:26
  • sorry but what is the relevance of your comment? what I was trying to say is that instead of hiring a car and then using public transportation and then hiring another car...it is better to hire only once. When travelling with your family, you will see that the cost of public transport add up and is not that cheap anymore.
    – Nick
    Mar 21, 2019 at 15:23
  • the cost of the train for a family of 4 is 50 Eur minimum if you take the cheapest fares, if you want to take the first class then you'll have to pay at least 100 EUR...
    – Nick
    Mar 21, 2019 at 15:29
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    I wanted to balance your "public transportation between Ireland and Northern Ireland can be tiring and also costly." Kids travel cheaper or free and €50 for the adults is cheaper than the drop off fee. (Still +1, good answer.)
    – Willeke
    Mar 21, 2019 at 17:20

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