Car rental

Renting a car at home or abroad is something many people do. When renting a car, it is important to understand the agreement and to know what happens if the car is damaged while you are renting it, and if possible see if you can avoid problems in the first place.

Top Tip
Always read the terms and conditions of your rental agreement carefully, especially the small print. If you don’t understand anything, don’t be afraid to ask for an explanation in writing.

Before you book

If you’re booking online, the terms and conditions can sometimes be difficult to find. Check the website under headings like ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ (FAQs) or ‘Requirements’. It’s not unusual that all fees are not charged at the time of booking. Some are only payable when you pick up the car. However, the total amount you have to pay 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 the rental agreement given to you at the desk. Make sure you understand it and ask for clarification before signing.

Top Tip
Even if you book in advance, remember that the rental contract only comes into effect when you sign the agreement.
Did you know?
Thanks to an EU enforcement action, five of the main car rental companies (Avis, Europcar, Enterprise, Hertz and Sixt) have changed their commercial practices to be more consumer friendly.

Insurance & other charges

  • Car rental agreements usually include third party cover as standard but not personal cover. You may have to pay extra to ensure you are covered as the driver of the car.
  • Theft protection and Collision Damage Waiver (CWD) may be included in the price but you will have to pay an excess with this cover. The excess can be very significant. You can usually buy additional cover from the rental company, however this can work out quite expensive. Alternatively, many insurance companies offer policies to cover the excess on your car rental agreement, and at a lower cost. If you buy excess cover from another insurer and you have a claim, the rental company will still deduct the excess from your credit card, and you will have to claim the cost back from your third party insurer.
  • Other charges to be aware of may include:
    • surcharges for drivers under 25
    • collection charges for the car, for example if you are picking it up at the airport
    • additional driver fees
    • returning the car late or returning the car early
    • Fuel fees – find out in advance what the fuel policy is as you may be hit with additional charges if, for example you return the car without a full fuel tank if your agreement stated you must return it full

Picking up the car

Documents you will need:

  • Driving licence: You will need a valid driving licence. Many rental companies insist on you having a full licence for at least two years. If you are driving in another country you may need an international driver’s permit.
  • Credit card: In most cases you will also need a credit cardto collect the car. While you may be able to make the booking with a debit card, you usually have to give a credit card as well to pay a security deposit at the car rental pick-up desk and the credit card generally has to be in the name of the main driver.
  • ID: You may also need to bring a passport and/or utility bill for proof of ID and address.

Check the terms and conditions on the car rental website beforehand to find out exactly what you need to bring so you avoid problems when you go to pick up the car.

Before you drive away
  • Make sure you understand the type of insurance cover that you have, including any restrictions (for example, can you drive across borders, bring the car on a ferry), waivers and the policy excess.
  • Check the type of fuel the car uses and clarify the fuel policy. Does it come with a full tank and do you have to return it with a full tank?
  • Always check the car carefully, inside and out, including the spare wheel and tools. The rental company should give you a diagram highlighting any existing damage, so make sure any bumps or scratches are already 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.
  • It is a good idea to take photos of both inside and outside the car.
  • 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 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.
  • Find out what the policy is in relation to toll charges, as this can vary between companies. Are you expected to pay tolls yourself or will they be added on to your ‘bill’?

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 out of office hours.
  • Allow plenty of time for checking the car when you are returning it.
  • Make sure that the car is inspected by the rental company and that you both agree, note and sign for any damage on all copies of the damage report.
  • Car rental companies are supposed to close off your bill in your presence when you return the car. If they’re unable to do this, they should send a detailed report to you on the amount charged, along with information on how you can query the charges.

What happens if I damage the car?

  • If the car breaks down, call the car rental company and follow their instructions. Don’t get the car repaired without permission from the rental company.
  • In case of an accident, you should always note down the names and addresses of everyone involved. If anybody is injured, or when there is a dispute over who is responsible, you should notify the police. Contact the car rental company immediately.
  • If you return the car damaged, the rental company should outline your financial responsibility including any other charges that may apply. For example, in addition to the cost of repairing any damage to the car, they may charge you for lost rent for the time the car is off the road, towing charges or reduced value of the car.
Did you know?
The Car Rental Council of Ireland is the representative trade organisation for car rental companies in Ireland and they have published a Code of Best Practice for the car rental industry in Ireland.

If you have a complaint

Ireland Another EU Country Outside the EU
  • Contact the rental company in writing.
  • If you feel you have been misled by a car rental company registered in Ireland, you can contact us with the information. Please note that the CCPC is not an Ombudsman and will not be in a position to contact the business on your behalf. But we may use this information in our ongoing enforcement work.


  • Contact the rental company in writing.
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