Car rental

When you rent a car from a car rental company, you will be asked to sign a rental agreement.  Always read the terms and conditions of this agreement, especially the small print. If you don’t understand a term in the agreement, don’t be afraid to ask for an explanation in writing.

If you’re booking online, the terms and conditions can sometimes be difficult to find. Check the website under headings such as “Frequently Asked Questions” (FAQs) or “Requirements”. Often, not all charges will be need to be paid when you book – some may only be payable when you pick up the car. However, the total payable amount should be clear. If you are unsure about any charges, particularly insurance charges and deposits, it is best to contact the company for clarification before booking the car.

When you pick up your rental car, read through the rental agreement given to you at the desk. Make sure you understand it and ask for clarification before signing.

Even if you have booked in advance, remember that the rental contract only comes into effect when you sign the agreement.


To rent a car from a rental company, you will need a valid driving licence. In most cases you will also need a credit card to collect the car. While you may be able to make the booking with a debit card, you will usually have to provide a credit card to pay a security deposit at the car rental pick-up desk. The credit card generally has to be in the name of the main driver. Check the terms and conditions on the car rental website before booking to avoid any problems when you go to pick up your rental car. If you are renting a car in another country, you may need an international driver’s permit, so check this in advance.

You may also need to be over a certain age to rent a car – usually 21. Some car rental companies may charge a surcharge for drivers under 25.

Things to do before driving away

  • Make sure you understand the type of insurance cover provided, including restrictions (for example, can you drive across borders, bring the car on a ferry), waivers and the policy excess. Think about whether you require any additional cover such as collision damage waiver, theft loss, and personal accident insurance.
  • Check the type of fuel the car uses and clarify the fuel policy. Does the vehicle come with a full tank and do you have to return it with a full tank?
  • Always check the state of the car thoroughly before driving it away. The rental company should give you a diagram highlighting any existing damage to the vehicle, so check that any existing bumps or scratches have already been noted on the diagram. Remember to check the interior upholstery for wear and tear, marks, scratches, stains, tears or burns. Make sure the rental company notes these before you leave.
  • Check that all lights are working properly and that there are no chips, cracks or other problems with the windscreen.
  • If you are not happy that the rental car is working as it should be, you should return it immediately and explain what the problem is. This will ensure there is no question that you may have caused the problem
  • These checks should help ensure that you are not charged for any damage that existed before you rented the car or for any missing parts, for example, spare tyres or tools that were never there, to begin with!

Returning the car

The rules about returning the car will be outlined in the rental agreement. For example, some rental companies may charge you if you return the car without a full fuel tank or outside office hours. Always ask to have the car checked while you are there.

What happens if I damage the car?

If you damage the car, the outcome will depend on two things,

  • What type of insurance did you take with the car rental?
  • Did you cause the damage or did someone else – for example, if the damage was caused by an accident, did you cause the accident or did someone else?

If you have caused damage to the car, the rental company will decide how much the damage will cost regardless of whether you can find a cheaper quote.

If you have a complaint

If you have a complaint about the rental car or service, you should contact the rental company in writing. If you are not satisfied with the response you can contact the Car Rental Council of Ireland which has a complaints procedure for member companies.

If you feel you have been misled by a car rental company registered in Ireland, you can contact us and make a complaint.

If you have a complaint regarding a car rented in another EU country, you should contact the European Consumer Centre Ireland.

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