What you need to know about renting and driving a car in Europe

So you have decided to come to Europe. You’ve booked your flights, you’ve booked your hotel and now you want to rent a vehicle.

If you’re going to rent and drive a car in Europe, the rules are different, and you need to know now, before you even book the car.

We also often receive car rental complaints — not just booking issues but also damage claims, including clutch problems.

Of course we can advocate after something has gone wrong. It’s what we do. But we like also to try and help keep things from going wrong in the first place. And at the very least, if something does go wrong, we want to ensure you’re in the best position to fight your case.

So let’s take a road trip through the European car rental experience. I’m a U.K. resident, so I will show you around.

On the way, we’ll take a tour of driving tips, stop at the petrol station (sorry, gas station) to look at prices and then we will finish up back at the branch to return the car.

Car booking

We need to start by booking our car. I know what you are thinking: that’s easy! A quick search on a price comparison website, couple of clicks through to the provider and you’re done. Well, it is easy — sort of.

Price comparison websites can be a useful tool to compare prices — sometimes. On this trip, we are going to avoid them though. Why? For the same reasons as we always advise you to avoid booking airline tickets using an online travel agency — which is a misnomer.

When something goes wrong, it’s harder to deal with two companies, and it makes it easier for them to blame each other.

To avoid the blame game, book direct. Here in Europe, we have many of the big companies such as Hertz, Enterprise and Avis, along with some aimed at European car rentals such as EuropCar. I am obviously not going to recommend a specific company, but my tip is to book with one of the larger companies, rather than a small company with a limited fleet.

Rental extras

So you have arrived (hope you had a safe flight) and want to collect the car, which means of course it is upsell time. Do you want more insurance? Do you want a satellite navigation system?

Did I not mention satellite navigation? Most rental companies will not guarantee the car has sat nav built in, but they will let you rent a separate sat nav unit. The cost is at least $15 per day.

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My advice? If you can bring your own, then do. You can buy one cheaply in the U.S. or even rent one and pick it up when you get to your hotel.

Phew — we’ve dodged that extra cost, so now we need to consider insurance. Which insurance you get as standard with the car rental varies significantly from country to country. Nearly all will include liability insurance, but the question is whether it includes Collision Damage Waiver (CDW).

In the U.K., CDW is standard, but there will be a deductible (called “excess” in British English). The excess works the same way as other insurance polices and simply means you will have to pay the first part of any claim before the insurance pays out.

In the rest of Europe, whether CDW is included as standard varies from country to country — and even if CDW is included, you may not be covered for theft of the vehicle or for any damage to the tires or windshield. For more details take a look at this article.

You can upgrade the insurance to give you more coverage, but before you do, check your credit card to see what protection it offers. Otherwise look into buying a policy in advance. I rent cars a lot, and I have an annual European policy; it covers for CDW, any excess, theft and damage for tires and windshield, as well as misfueling (i.e., putting gasoline in a car with a Diesel engine). The cost of the annual policy is cheaper than paying for excess insurance for a two-week rental!

Oh, another upsell. Do you need an extra driver? That will be an extra $15 per day. OK, that is less of an upsell and more just a practical, “Do we need an extra driver or not?” Some companies may allow a spouse as an additional driver for no charge, but make you sure that you have that in writing.

One last thing before we get into the car. Let’s do a walk around the vehicle and look for any damage. I know the agent said there is no need, but we must check. If the car is parked in a dark corner, we will move it into the light before we check it. That way we are less likely to miss any damage. We’ll also take some pictures just to be on the safe side.

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Ok, I think that is it; if you’re ready, hop in the passenger seat, buckle up, and let’s start this journey.


Before we can set off, I do need to check if you are old enough. For most countries in Europe you have to be at least 21 to rent a car. In some countries, such as Spain and the U.K., if you are under 25, you will pay a “young driver surcharge.” That can cost at least $40 per day, so think carefully about who you designate as a driver.

Right, off we go — you will see we are driving on the left side of the road (which is the correct side). Most of Europe drives on the right-hand side, but the U.K., Ireland, Malta and Cyprus all drive on the left, so watch out.

That does of course mean that the gear stick (sorry, gearshift) is on the left, not the right. Did you notice it? Yes, it means we have a manual car, not an automatic. Manual cars are very common in Europe. You can rent an automatic, but make sure you check the company carefully. For some it only adds about $10 a day — for others it means they double the price.

If you can avoid the companies that charge double for renting an automatic, then you should; if you are not used to a manual, I would recommend renting the automatic. You only have to look at some of the issues our readers have had with clutch damage, such as this case and this case, to see the issues driving a manual causes if you are not used to one.

Now I know what you are wondering: how do you know we are going the right way? That is easy. As well as having your own map, there are many useful route planners: Michelin, for example, has an excellent route planner for Europe, so just remember to print off your route before you come (you don’t want to have to find a printer when you get to your hotel).

After doing quite a bit of driving, it must be time to fill up. In Europe, we fill up with petrol or diesel — gas is, well, gas.

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This is when you are truly in for a shock. Petrol can easily cost $1.50 a liter (about $5.50 a gallon).

Not surprisingly our cars tend be smaller — a lot smaller. However, when you do rent a car, don’t automatically go for the smallest one if you are going on a long journey. A larger car will give you more room for luggage, and the total cost including petrol may not be much more if you are going to be using fast roads with a lot of accelerating.

If you want to know current prices, this website has them.

Sadly, our trip is almost over and there is still so much to tell you — too much information to include here. So, for more information on driving in Europe, go to the U.K. Automobile Association website or follow this link to the U.S. State Department.

We must hurry; we don’t want to be late returning the car. Most European car rental companies charge in 24-hour blocks. Just being 15 minutes late means you get charged an extra day’s rental — so it is important to be on time.

When we return the car we have one last thing to do. We must get the agent to check the car for damage, and make sure they do it properly. Then we will take photos of the car so we can prove there isn’t any damage that isn’t already recorded.

That is it — our little tour around car rental is over, but before we finish I have one last tip. If you are coming to London and thinking about renting a car: don’t. It isn’t worth the hassle — it really isn’t. Instead use the Underground; it is much cheaper, quicker, and better for your sanity.

To work out which stops you need on the Underground use this simple journey planner on the Transport for London site. Besides planning your journey, you can check prices, the latest travel information and obtain maps of the Underground.

And if you want to travel farther afield by public transport, both in the U.K. and in the rest of Europe? Well, that is a story for another day.

For now if you are planning on coming to Europe, safe travels — and we look forward to seeing you soon.

John Galbraith

John is a UK based lawyer and writer. He loves to travel and can be frequently found in remote locations in a suit and cravat. Read more of John's articles here.

  • sirwired

    I would change the advice on a manual transmission to: If you are an American, do not, under any circumstances, rent a manual. Pay the extra. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been driving a stick your whole life; if anything goes wrong with the transmission, even if you just barely limp out of the lot before the remains of the clutch drop onto the asphalt or the gear synchros turn into chunks of scratched-up brass, you are going to get blamed (and charged) for it.

  • DChamp56

    Also amend the part about bringing your SAT NAV to Europe. Very few, if any US Sat Nav devices include roads for Europe, which must be purchased and installed before travel.
    Otherwise, good advice.

  • disqus_00YDCZxqDV

    In the UK most traffic enforcement is carried out by cameras. That does not just include speeding, but also ‘offences’ like banned turns, driving in a bus lane (even if you just pop a wheel into it), and driving into a junction before the exit is clear. As well as the fine, your rental company will charge a ripoff ‘administration fee’.

    Parking in the UK is almost never free and is also usually enforced by cameras. Most parking places – even at shopping malls – strictly enforce time limits by photographing your car when you enter and when you leave. If you are 1 minute over the allotted time, you’ll be fined a hundred pounds or more. This even applies at motorway (expressway) service areas! If you are tired during a long journey and pull in to one to grab some shut-eye or a meal, be careful to check how long you are allowed to stop, and set your alarm so you don’t exceed the limit. Where you have to pay parking you generally have to do it using a smartphone app like RIngGo, so bear that in mind.

    Generally I would strongly discourage Americans from driving in the UK. Consider the endless, pointless roadworks, the thousands of enforcement cameras, ripoff parking charges, the unbelievable congestion, the outrageous gas prices, and the quite frankly terrible cars (sub 1 liter) you are often forced to drive.

    Aside from all that, the roads are often super narrow and winding and the other drivers more aggressive than in most parts of the US. If you would not feel comfortable driving in Manhattan, definitely give driving anywhere in the UK a miss. They have excellent (although very expensive) public transport compared to the USA.

    Enjoy your trip !

  • sirwired

    Yeah, I would have suggested Google Maps instead. You can download maps over WiFi for offline use if you don’t want to mess with foreign data plans.

  • Bill___A

    I bought a UK map for my “sat nav”. Still cheaper than renting one.

  • Bill___A

    What are you talking about? I’ve rented a car dozens of times in the UK. There are lots of places I went where public transport would have been a problem. You have to be smart anywhere you rent a car, including many places in the USA. ” If you would not feel comfortable driving in Manhattan, definitely give driving anywhere in the UK a miss.” – this is not good advice. Although driving in London is not for the faint of heart (and they do have a good public transport system) I definitely do not agree with most of your remarks. I fail to see how it is helpful.

  • disqus_00YDCZxqDV

    I lived in the UK for 35 years, in the USA for 15 and last rented a car in the UK in February. My advice is aimed at people who may be considering going for the first time. If anything I have written is incorrect please feel free to point it out.

  • BubbaJoe123

    “If anything I have written is incorrect please feel free to point it out.”

    1. The parking charges are quite reasonable.
    2. Enforcement cameras aren’t a problem if you obey the traffic laws.
    3. The congestion is no worse than in the US, and non-existent in many parts of the country.
    4. Gas prices are quite reasonable, given the greater vehicle efficiency.
    5. There are lots of very non-terrible cars.

  • Dutchess

    100% agree, plus it’s one more piece of electronics to keep track of on vacation. On my recent road trip through the Loire Valley I found a cell phone with a European data plan was the best. Not only could I get real time directions, it also allowed me to use apps like Waze which warned me about speed, and more importantly speed cameras that are abundant throughout France.

  • Dutchess

    “Parking in the UK is almost never free and is also usually enforced by cameras.”

    I learned this one the hard way. Pulled over to read a map for maybe 2 minutes in London and when I got home I had a ticket for parking in a no stopping zone.

  • BubbaJoe123

    Most important piece of advice is on the damage issue. Go over the car with a fine-toothed comb, and make sure ALL damage is noted. For Germany in particular, the rule of thumb is “if the car looks any different than what you’d expect if you were taking delivery of a brand new car, make sure that’s on the form.”

  • vmacd

    To add – have been burned a few times in reserved an automatic, only to find out when I got there that the company only had manuals on hand (luckily, I can drive one). Many cars take diesel, so do be CAREFUL about what you’re putting in the gas tank. Lastly, a few times the rental agency has demanded a copy of the insurance statement from the credit card company. Cost me time and money to call them and have it faxed. Now I print it out and bring it with me.

  • Bill___A

    It is my understanding that CDW is not standard in the UK. Of course, I have only rented a car in the UK about 25 times to far but…

  • Bill___A

    I didn’t find your advice very helpful really.
    I guess the point is that most Americans should not rent a car in the UK, but I would say that the big reason would be the difficulty in adapting simultaneously to a few different rules and driving on the opposite side of the road. However, it is not an impossibility. I have, so far, not received a ticket in the UK, and I have driven there substantially.

    My advice to a first time renter would be to get their heads around the left hand driving. Driving is all about reactions, and if you are going to habitually react as a right hand side of the road driver, then you are going to have problems.

    Some roads are narrow but there is an etiquette to follow which one needs to learn. Drivers are actually in general more polite than in the USA.

    Traffic circles are better designed in the UK than in North America. However, you need to learn how they work. Inside lanes have the right of way. You need to watch and learn the process before driving in a congested one.

    Distances in the UK are far less than in the USA. Although you will find progress slower due to all the “works” (road construction) I do not find the price of fuel prohibitive. Yes, it is more expensive, but you don’t use as much.

  • Bill___A

    I have a pdf copy of the insurance coverage with me, but haven’t been asked for it yet…..

  • Patrica

    Might I add a question about “no renting to those above 60/65/70”: I had read that some companies are not allowing rentals to those elders. Is this by country? OR is this by agency? AND how do I find out which? Is this occurring in the U.S. also? p.s. AARP was of NO USE on their “travel” site. I now believe they are a computer booking agency.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Wow, what perfect timing of an article! My husband and I just finalized planning our vacation to Scotland and Ireland in June/July, and we’ll be renting a car in both countries. We’ve never driven in the UK before.

    I especially appreciate the info about manual vs automatic. I already booked the cars – now I have to go back and see if they are manual or auto. If they’re manual, I will switch. My husband will be doing the driving, and he’s quite experienced at driving a stick, but not when it’s on the other side.

    Thanks so much for this article!

  • Lori Heathorn

    Also worth noting that diesel fuel in Italy is called Gasolio–very easy to mis-fuel your rental car and kill the engine!

  • LeeAnneClark

    Ooh, great advice! We’re using Amex…I’ll print that out before we leave.

  • Bill___A

    I rented an automatic for at least the first dozen times I rented a car in the UK. When I finally did get a stick, I found it a non-issue. The big thing was adapting to the other side of the road. However, on a first time rental, not having a stick is, I suppose, one less thing to worry about. I have never rented in Ireland. Have an enjoyable trip.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I disagree that the public transportation in the UK would be an appropriate option vs renting a car.

    My husband and I are visiting Scotland and Ireland for the first time this summer. We carefully researched our trip, and there is just no way to properly see the country without a rental car. We would be mostly stuck in the cities, which is not what we want to see. Or, in order to see the countryside, we’d be saddled with bus tours – not our style, and limits how far we can go. We prefer to be “travelers”, not “tourists”. We’ve reserved AirBnb’s in some lovely remote areas, for multi-day stays, where we will be able to live like a local. You just can’t do that without a car. Some of these places can’t even be accessed via public transport.

    Thanks for the advice about parking – we’ll pay attention to that. But we will not limit our vacation to touristy bus rides. We’ll make use of public transportation during our short stays in the cities, but for the rest of our trip we’ll be driving. :)

  • tio2girl

    Very useful article (and comments)! I would just point out that the price comparison websites can still be useful. I use them to do just that – compare – for everything from rental cars and hotels to plane tickets, but then actually buy from directly from the rental car/hotel/airline.

  • John Baker

    Beyond that, if you’re renting in Ireland or the UK, you’ll shift with your left hand instead of your right. If you’re very right handed, it can be an issue.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Looks like we’ve got some experts on driving in Europe. I have a question – can anyone tell me what the best option is to deal with tolls? I’m reading that there are many cashless tolls in the UK…do the rental companies offer a “Fastpass” type device? Any idea how much they cost?

  • LeeAnneClark

    AHH!!! I have some info to add. I just called Amex to confirm what’s covered with our rentals in Scotland and Irelent, and find out where to print out my insurance statement. Turns out they don’t cover ANYTHING in Ireland. Our Amex coverage will not apply at all on that rental.

    I’m now trying to find out if our only option is to purchase the insurance from the rental agency (expensive!) or if our insurance policy over our own vehicle covers us for anything.

  • Bill___A

    Well, for one thing, don’t drive in the parts of London that need a congestion charge. The toll on the M25 tunnel in the NE of London is only if you are going counterclockwise…big line up when I went there. I haven’t been everywhere in the UK but I have been to a lot of places and most areas. Never seen tolls except the two places I mentioned. I’m not saying there aren’t any but on your GPS/Sat Nav, make sure it is set to avoid tolls. I have only run into them once in UK. No knowledge about Ireland, I went to Dublin only.. I expect you’ll have a very nice trip.

  • LeeAnneClark

    We’re not going to be in London at all – only Scotland and Ireland.

    Good advice about setting the GPS to avoid tolls. Still haven’t figured out what to do about getting a GPS/Sat Nav…we tend use our iPhones at home, and don’t have a stand-alone unit that we can add a UK plan to. We’re hoping not to have to rent them from the rental car agencies. Still investigating that issue. Wish us luck!

  • LeeAnneClark

    Thanks! I checked my rentals – yup, both are manuals. But my husband says he doesn’t think it’ll be a problem. He’s left-handed, and is very experienced with manual transmissions…we’ll just have to take it slow to start. Our first rental is out of Edinburgh…it should be a quick trip to get to the countryside from there, so only a little city driving before we have some open road to practice on. The only other city driving will be returning that car to Glasgow airport, then picking up and dropping off the car in Dublin. But by then he’ll have had a lot of practice. So…hoping for the best! :)

  • sirwired

    Something else I just thought of:

    If you are renting in Ireland or Italy (or Israel… I wonder what it is about countries that start with “I”?), many credit cards do NOT provide their normal included insurance package. This can be a very expensive surprise if you get in an accident, and you were relying on your Visa card.

  • Skeptic

    But I’ve never owned an automatic, and I live on a mountainside that is covered with snow and ice 6-7 months each year. In 45 years of driving, I’ve never had a transmission problem, apart from routine clutch replacement at well over 100K miles. Does your rule apply to me?

  • sirwired

    Yes, it does, because you have no idea what the last schmuck(s) to rent the car have done to the thing. If you were European, they might give you the benefit of the doubt, but as an American, you are automatically assumed to be completely ignorant how to drive a car with three pedals, protestations to the contrary.

  • Annie M

    Very good article. Thanks for posting.

  • Annie M

    If you have any inkling that the clutch doesn’t feel right when you pick the car up – don’t go off the lot without bringing it back and getting another one. Once you are off the property it’s your word against theirs as to the condition of the clutch.

  • Annie M

    “2. Enforcement cameras aren’t a problem if you obey the traffic laws.”

    Sometimes one inadvertently breaks a traffic law. Dutchess gave a perfect example below. Most folks don’t want to break traffic laws but driving one tire over a bus lane marking accidentally isn’t intentionally breaking the law.

  • AMA

    We spent three weeks driving around France and Belgium. Their road signs are 500% better than any state in the US. We had a GPS and paper maps, and hardly even looked at them, just followed the highway signs. Even the little villages had good road signs!

    We rented from Hertz in Paris and bought every penny of additional insurance they offered. We didn’t need it, but it made us feel MUCH safer, especially driving in the cities. We also spent extra (which was really not that much) to get an automatic. I can’t drive a stick, and I’ve read all the horror stories about burned-out clutches that they try and charge you for.

  • Harvey-6-3.5

    After reading the article and comments, my question is based on the premise that if the excellent public transportation can’t take you where you are going, are Uber or Lyft or equivalents available in Europe?

  • Richard Shaw

    M6 toll road around Birmingham still takes cash and is a far better driving experience than taking the M6 non-toll route. It never seems too busy, there is a service area and it will save you lots of time.

  • Lindabator

    still can end up cheaper than renting – and you can pick p a cheap Garmin for Europe for less than the rental cost, too!

  • Lindabator

    thank you – by the time they figure it out – TOO LATE!

  • Lindabator

    I find Ireland and Scotland fairly easy to drive, although parking can be costly at times. LONDON should be avoided, though, unless very familiar with all the traps for unsuspecting motorists

  • Lindabator

    You are correct — but when you rent the car, you can choose an inclusive rate versus exclusive rate, and it will include the basic coverage, or upgrade to Super CDW coverage and all set. I NEVER rent exclusive rates for my clients – as you will be required to purchase more expensive policy at the desk, or worse, put a HEFTY deposit on your credit card to rent

  • Lindabator

    If it is Garmin, you can add a sim card (try Amazon) for like $45 – still less expensive than renting

  • Lindabator

    actually – none do for Ireland — some may cover your liability, but that is not what is needed — always take the inclusive rental rate, as it includes basic required coverage – or opt for Super CDW for fullest coverage – especially for nervous first time drivers :)

  • Lindabator

    I think they refer to longer distances — like driving a couple hours from Edinburgh to the Highlands areas, or across Ireland. But trains, regional bus services and even chauffered drives are always an option

  • While driving abroad, I always get the insurance. Expensive yes, but I figure all I have to turn in is the keys, and maybe the steering wheel. Has saved me in Ireland and Italy. My only incidents occurred in those “I” countries…hmmmm

  • sirwired

    Check to see if Google Maps for iPhone allows offline (WiFi) download of map areas. (It does on Android.) I’ve done that for multiple international trips at this point. (Great for walking too! Nothing is worse than being lost while strolling around an unfamiliar city!) As long as you aren’t trying to download a whole country at once, it doesn’t take much space.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Good to know!

    Fortunately we won’t be going to London at all – we’re flying into Edinburgh, picking up a car there, returning it to Glasgow and flying to Dublin, then picking up and returning a car there.

    We will be keeping our city driving to a bare minimum – only what’s necessary to pick up and drop off the car. The rest of the time we’ll be out in the countryside. We’re a little concerned that his first time driving will be out of Edinburgh, but we’ll be careful. :)

    Helpful to know that driving in Ireland and Scotland is fairly easy. Unfortunately I was unable to change to an automatic – sheesh, the price of the automatic was QUADRUPLE the manual! No lie! But he’s a lefty, and has driven manuals all his life so I’m thinking we’ll be okay.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Oh, good info – thanks so much! Sorry to pepper you with additional questions…I already reserved the car through Amex, with Dollar Rent-a-Car. The rate on the reservation is clearly exclusive – and super cheap. (Which I was confused about at first – why was the daily rate so much cheaper in Ireland than in Scotland? And now I get it – because in Scotland you don’t need their insurance, but in Ireland you do. DOH!)

    This is not a pre-paid thing, it’s just a reservation. So my question is…will be be given the opportunity to change to an inclusive rate when we pick it up? Or would you suggest I change the reservation in advance? (If I even can – I haven’t checked to see if I’m even able to do that online.)

    Thanks for your help here. This is why I love this community – I learn so much!

  • LeeAnneClark

    We don’t have a Garmin…we just use the Google Maps app on our iPhones. But I just reached out to Verizon, and learned that they have a pretty reasonable international plan that will allow us to use our Google Maps app using our existing data plan. We were planning on using one of our phones there anyway – we want to be able to make calls and texts to our kids, and locally as needed. And the most cost-effective way to do this was to extend our existing voice and data plan so that it can be used there. It’s only $10 a day, unlimited talk/text and all of our data, which should be more than sufficient. And they only charge the $10 on days that you use your phone. I’m sure there will be days we don’t need it, so I’ll just leave the phone turned off on those days to save the ten bucks.

  • LeeAnneClark

    I just posted above to Lindabator…we’ve decided to use the Verizon international plan which will allow us to use our existing data allowances over there. I checked the coverage map, and Verizon has excellent data coverage in most of the places we’re going. So we should be able to use Google Maps online for the most part, which will be really helpful.

    Great advice about downloading maps offline! I’ve got an Android tablet – I’ll download maps onto that for any times we’re unable to get online. It should be easier to use a map on a larger screen, so that seems like a good solution.

    Such great advice I’m getting in this thread! Thanks to everyone!

  • Lindabator

    next time – if you are a DIY – try Auto Europe – they have negotiated rates with all the major carriers, and shop across all, and the difference can be much less – and you can add inclusive or super CDW for Ireland/Italy for better peace of mind

  • LeeAnneClark

    Hmm…I’m not tied to these Amex reservations. I can cancel. I’m going to go ahead and check out Auto Europe and see if they look any better. Thanks again for all the tips!

    And yes, I’m almost always a DIY. I’ve traveled all over the world, and tend to do a TON of research and have never made any major gaffes, so I feel pretty comfortable making all of my own arrangements…except in parts of the world that are very foreign to me. For example, in Bali I worked with a TA who specializes in Bali and handled most of the arrangements for us, except for a couple of villas that I rented on my own for mid-trip. But I wasn’t even going to CHANCE driving in Bali…heck no! Our TA did a great job in arranging our flights, most of our accommodations, a few tours and all of our ground transportation.

    But I’ve been to Europe many times, so I feel pretty comfortable doing it myself. It’s just that it’s been a long time since I rented a car there, and some things have changed. So this has been very helpful. :-)

  • rwforce

    Yes, it’s by company, or in some cases, by local franchise. Some Enterprise locations in the US won’t rent to you if you’re over 70. I am, but I haven’t run into it and have rented in the Czech Republic and Australia recently. Tasmania used to require a medical certificate for all drivers over 75, but that was rescinded. It pays to check directly with the rental location if you’re not sure.

  • LeeAnneClark

    Lindabator – I just wanted to say a huge THANK YOU for your advice!

    So I went to Auto Europe as you suggested, and found much better deals than I got by booking through Amex. For the same price I was paying for an economy car with no AC, I got mid-size cars with AC in both countries.

    And just as you said, Auto Europe offered the inclusive options. I didn’t buy their insurance in Scotland, as I confirmed that I’m adequately covered by paying with Amex. But since Amex won’t cover us in Ireland, I was able to get the inclusive rate there, and it was really quite reasonable.

    I still couldn’t upgrade to automatic – way too expensive. But we’ll manage.

    Really, this was a huge help. Thank you so much! :-) We’re very excited for this trip – it’s been on the bucket list for a long time. And your assistance just made it better.

  • Lindabator

    Glad to help! And I agree – only Ireland needs the insurance. Glad to save a Chris reader some bucks! :)

  • wilcoxon

    As others have suggested, we always rent automatics even though they frequently cost quite a bit more in Europe. There are frequent reports of clutch damage claims (on here and elsewhere), the shifting is off-hand in UK/Ireland, and unless you are very good at manuals then it’s very easy to screw it up when you first arrive (and are likely very tired and jetlagged).

    If you are in Ireland or Italy, pay for the SCDW (Super CDW). No credit cards nor US insurance companies I’ve ever seen cover will cover Ireland or Italy. Note that SCDW in Ireland covers everything except tired and mirrors. You may be able to get a third-party policy that will sufficiently cover Ireland and Italy – I’m not sure (haven’t looked).

    Personally, I would recommend Hertz. We have never had any issues with them in any country (beyond the occasional minor vehicle issue at pickup (had to wait about 45 minutes for a car once and had a Mustang “upgraded” to a Camaro once (not a horrible car but not as nice as the Mustang))).

  • wilcoxon

    I would highly recommend Navigon app for your smartphone. You have to purchase it for different areas of Europe but it is relatively inexpensive (much less than renting a Sat Nav for a week with your car) and works offline (no data connection required after you do initial setup).

    Although with Google Maps now offering offline mode, that’s another good option.

  • wilcoxon

    I’ve never driven in England but driving in Northern Ireland wasn’t bad at all (and was better than the Republic of Ireland in a lot of ways).

  • wilcoxon

    I’m not really sure what the issue is with “I” countries either. My best guess for Ireland is that the roads are frequently very narrow and they drive on the “wrong” side so incidents are pretty common.

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