Essential Tips for Renting a Car in UK: Your Complete Guide

PUBLISHED ON Mar, 20 2024


Renting a car in UK? Here’s what you need to know. Our guide simplifies the selection process, explains essential documents, and breaks down costs for a straightforward rental experience. We’re here to help you choose the right car for your UK travels, understand your financial options, and ensure you’re ready to navigate the roads.

Key Takeaways

  • Selecting the right car for your UK trip and having all necessary documentation, including a valid driving license and proof of address, are critical for a hassle-free car rental experience.
  • Planning ahead can save you money on car rentals, with price comparisons on direct booking websites and considering insurance options like Zero-Excess for peace of mind.
  • Familiarize yourself with UK-specific driving rules, such as left-side driving, speed limits enforced by cameras, and urban congestion charges, to ensure a smooth and safe driving experience.

Understanding UK Car Rental Basics

Choosing the right car for your UK trip

Choosing the right car for your UK trip

The beauty of renting a car in the UK lies in the flexibility it offers. Whether it’s a business trip, a family holiday, or a solo adventure, the convenience of not worrying about timetables or heavy luggage adds to the joy of the journey. Besides, the wide range of vehicles available for rent ensures that there’s something for everyone. From the luxurious allure of a Jaguar to a practical, family-friendly Land Rover Discovery, you’re spoilt for choice.

So, how do we determine the most suitable car for your UK adventure and what documentation is required? Here are some detailed insights.

Choosing the Right Car for Your UK Trip

Choosing the right car for your UK trip can significantly enhance your travel experience. If you’re planning to explore the bustling city locales, compact cars are your best bet. They are perfect for navigating the narrow city roads and squeezing into the limited parking spaces that are a common feature of UK cities.

If a road trip is part of your plan, certain factors become critical. You need to take into account the size of the vehicle to navigate narrow roads and parking spaces, while also providing ample space for your luggage. After all, nobody wants to be cramped up during those long drives amidst the picturesque UK countryside!

Essential Documentation for Car Hire

Just like going on a journey without a map is unwise, planning to rent a car without the necessary documentation is imprudent. In order to rent a car in the UK, it is necessary to have held a valid full driving licence for at least one year. In addition to this, you’ll need to present proof of address and a credit card for the security deposit.

For your convenience, we have gathered useful information about the deposits of some major rental car companies:

For our international visitors, a few more documents come into play. While an international driver’s permit is not necessary for licences in English, it is recognized internationally and could come in handy. You’ll also need to present a passport alongside your driving license, proof of return travel, and residency information. For non-airport city locations, you’ll need to show valid proof of address dated within the last three months.

Navigating Rental Car Locations

Picking up your rental car in the UK is a breeze, thanks to the flexibility offered by various car rental companies. You can collect your rental from major airports, rail stations, and several car rental locations in the city center. This wide range of pick-up locations provides considerable convenience, whether you’re landing from an international flight or setting off on a road trip from the heart of the city.

Take note, though, that getting your rental car from an off-airport location tends to be considerably more expensive, averaging around 160% higher than at major airport locations. In fact, on Sundays, certain restrictions may apply, making it obligatory to pick up or drop off hire cars at airports for some rental companies. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to plan in advance and consider these factors when choosing your pick-up location.

Car Hire Heathraw Airport

Car Hire Heathraw Airport

The Financials of Hiring a Vehicle

Car rental involves more than just selecting your preferred vehicle and setting off; it also encompasses comprehending the financial elements associated with it. From rental rates and insurance options to potential surcharges, each element plays a role in the overall cost of hiring a vehicle. But don’t worry, we’re here to help you navigate through these financial intricacies and understand how to get the best deals.

Understanding Rental Rates and Best Deals

Rental car prices in the UK vary by type, with:

  • Mini vehicles averaging at $13/day
  • Economy and Compact vehicles starting at $15/day
  • Intermediate vehicles coming in at $27/day
  • Luxury cars at the high end of $56/day

But how can you ensure that you’re getting the best deal out there?

Comparing prices on various websites can lead to significant savings. Websites like KAYAK and Discover Cars offer comparisons across hundreds of the best car rental companies, including prominent ones like Hertz, Europcar, and Avis. Remember, booking your rental car at least one day in advance can help secure a price below the average daily rate, so it’s always good to plan ahead.



Insurance and Protection Packages

Driving with peace of mind is crucial, and that’s where insurance comes in. In the UK, holding Third Party Liability Insurance is a legal requirement when driving. Rental car insurance costs for Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Theft Protection (TP) range from $20 to $58 USD per day, and the average deductible is between $1,100 to $4,500 USD.

But what if you could reduce your deductible to $0 USD? If you want more comprehensive coverage, Full Protection packages, also know as Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW) can offer savings by bundling Excess Waiver, Roadside Assistance, and zero deductible excess. While SCDW may double your rental cost, CarInsuRent’s car rental insurance for UK stands out as a favorable choice for several reasons:

  1. Comprehensive Coverage: CarInsuRent offers extensive coverage for car hire excess, providing you peace of mind. This insurance covers expenses related to windscreen damage, theft, misfueling, breakdown, and towing, up to a generous limit of US$ 4,500.
  2. Cost Savings: By opting for CarInsuRent’s Car Hire Excess Insurance, you can avoid overpaying at car hire desks abroad. Booking this insurance online before traveling ensures competitive rates and helps save money in comparison to purchasing excess coverage directly from rental companies.
  3. Ease of Booking: The process of booking our Car Hire Excess Insurance is straightforward and can be conveniently completed online before embarking on the trip. This simplicity ensures a hassle-free experience for you, allowing you to focus on enjoying their journey.
  4. Positive Reviews: CarInsuRent’s Car Hire Excess Insurance has garnered positive reviews from satisfied customers, highlighting its reliability and effectiveness in providing coverage during car rentals abroad. Such testimonials from previous users attest to the quality and value of this insurance option.

See How Much You Can Save on Your Rental Car Insurance UK

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Got an insurance for rental car in Iceland, while on the trip I had a tire damage that was not covered by the car rental company.
Emailed a claim to CarInsuRent and got the payment fully covered without any problem. Make sure you take photos of everything before and after.

In summary, Our car rental insurance for UK is a preferred choice due to its comprehensive coverage, cost-effectiveness, ease of booking, and positive customer feedback. It offers you the necessary protection and financial security while renting a car in UK.

Driving in the UK: Rules and Regulations

Driving in the UK is quite an experience, especially if it’s your first time. But remember, it’s not just about the thrill of the drive – it’s also about ensuring safety and avoiding penalties. Several UK-specific rules and regulations like mastering left-side driving, adhering to speed limits, and interpreting road signs need your attention.

Mastering Left-Side Driving

If you’re used to driving on the right side of the road, driving on the left in the UK might seem a bit daunting at first. But not to worry, it’s something that countless visitors have mastered before, and so can you!

The key is to become familiar with the layout and handling of your rental car. Take the time to adjust to the new driving environment and ensure you feel in complete control and are comfortable with the car’s operations before driving away from the car hire location. Patience is your best friend here, and in no time, you’ll be navigating those UK roads like a pro!

Speed Limits and Speed Cameras

One of the most fundamental things to remember while driving in the UK is to adhere to speed limits. Speed limits on UK roads are up to 30 mph in built-up areas and up to 70 mph on motorways, with variations signposted. Speeding beyond these set limits can result in fines and points on your licence, so it’s always safer (and cheaper) to stick to the limit.

Keep in mind that the UK uses speed cameras to monitor and enforce speed limits. These cameras can result in fines starting at £100 and three points on your license for minor infractions. So, it’s always a good idea to keep an eye out for these cameras and, more importantly, to stay within the speed limit.

Preparing for Your Journey

After familiarizing yourself with the basics, you can proceed to map out your journey. Whether you’re dreaming of a scenic road trip through quaint villages and the Scottish Highlands or navigating the bustling urban areas of London, a bit of planning can go a long way in ensuring a smooth and enjoyable ride. Let’s dive into some top tips and destination ideas.

Road Trip Planning: From Quaint Villages to Scotland’s Highlands

Exploring picturesque villages and coastal routes with a rental car

Exploring picturesque villages and coastal routes with a rental car

The UK is a treasure trove of scenic routes, each offering a unique blend of landscapes, historical sites, and cultural experiences. The North Coast 500 in Scotland is a celebrated 516-mile route that showcases mountains, castles, and beaches, making it perfect for a week-long road trip.

If you’re a fan of coastal views and historical castles, the Coastal Way in Wales offers a 180-mile road trip from Aberdaron to St David’s, suitable for a journey up to 7 days. And let’s not forget the Causeway Coastal Route in Northern Ireland, which takes you past the awe-inspiring Giant’s Causeway and historic castles.

For those interested in literary history and UNESCO World Heritage Sites, a road trip through the Yorkshire Dales, which inspired the Brontë sisters, or a visit to Stratford-upon-Avon, the birthplace of William Shakespeare, can be quite a treat. These destinations offer a refreshing alternative to bustling city centres.

A rental car journey can also encompass the remarkable landscapes of the Scottish Highlands, including Inverness, Loch Ness, and the A82 route near Glasgow and Ben Nevis.

Urban Navigation: Dealing with Traffic and Parking

Dealing with traffic and parking in urban areas

Dealing with traffic and parking in urban areas

Navigating urban areas, especially in a city like London, comes with its own set of challenges. For starters, you need to be aware of the London Congestion Charge. This charge is enforced within the Congestion Charge Zone (CCZ) in Central London on weekdays from 7 am to 6 pm to reduce traffic congestion. The standard congestion charge is £15 per day if paid in advance or on the same day.

There’s also the Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) that operates in London 24/7, applying charges to vehicles that do not meet the specified emissions standards. To mitigate these charges, it’s a good idea to utilize navigation apps that can route around charge zones and consider Park & Ride services to avoid parking in congested areas.

Parking in London can be tricky, with many roads reserved for resident permit holders only. So, it’s always a good idea to plan for parking in advance. Look for car parks, check parking regulations, and always ensure to park fully within the markings of designated bays to avoid Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs).

Special Considerations for Different Drivers

Different drivers, be it international visitors, young drivers, or elderly drivers, should bear in mind certain special considerations when renting a car in the UK. From driving license requirements to age restrictions and young driver surcharge, each driver’s circumstances can influence their rental experience.

Here are more detailed insights into these special considerations.

International Visitors: Driving Licence and Rental Requirements

For international visitors, renting a car in the UK comes with a few specific requirements. First, if you hold a non-European license or your driving license is in a language different from the renting country, an International Driving Permit is required along with your driving license.

In addition to this, you need to have held a full driving license for at least one year. Remember, driving licenses designated for automatic vehicles do not permit you to drive manual cars in the UK. So, always ensure that your license is suitable for the type of car you plan to rent.

Young and Elderly Drivers: Age Restrictions and Surcharges

Age can be a determining factor when it comes to renting a car in the UK. Generally, the minimum age to rent a car is 20, but if you’re under 25, a daily surcharge is applied. Some companies even allow rentals to drivers over 23, with a surcharge for certain models.

On the other end of the spectrum, elderly drivers over the age of 70 should be aware of potential age restrictions. If you’re over 70 and planning to rent a car, it’s recommended to call the rental company in advance for assistance and to ensure all your needs are met.

Accessorizing Your Rental Experience

Renting a car is more than just getting from point A to point B; it’s about the overall experience. Just like adding accessories to your outfit can enhance your look, some added extras to your car rental can greatly enrich your journey. From safety features to navigation systems, let’s explore how you can accessorize your rental experience for maximum comfort and convenience.

Optional Extras for Comfort and Convenience

Considering safety extras and satellite navigation systems for comfort and convenience

Considering safety extras and satellite navigation systems for comfort and convenience

Optional extras can significantly enhance the comfort and convenience of your travel experience. For instance, safety extras like child car seats suitable for various age groups and pet restraint systems can ensure a worry-free trip for the whole family, furry friends included!

For efficient navigation and travel ease, you can add satellite navigation systems to your booking. While these extras come with additional fees, the added peace of mind and convenience can make them worth the investment.

Managing Additional Drivers and Special Requests

Sharing the joy of driving is part of the fun, right? With up to three additional drivers allowed on a car rental contract, you can share driving duties with your travel companions. While this comes with a starting charge of £15 per driver per day, sharing the drive can make your journey more enjoyable and less tiring.

Apart from additional drivers, car rentals companies also cater to special requests for rental cars. For those seeking specific features or types of vehicles, you have the option to choose a guaranteed car model. Whether you’re dreaming of a luxury ride or a sports car, you can customize your rental experience to suit your preferences with a hire car.

Returning Your Rental Car: A Checklist

Like all good things that eventually come to an end, so too does your car rental. But before you return your rental car, there’s a checklist to follow. From refueling and cleaning to a thorough vehicle inspection, these steps can ensure a smooth and hassle-free return process.

Refueling and Cleaning Protocols

Adhering to refueling and cleaning protocols

Adhering to refueling and cleaning protocols

Before you return your rental car, it’s crucial to refuel it to a full tank. Most rental companies operate on a full-to-full fuel policy, so it’s always a good idea to plan ahead and allow extra time for refueling before returning the car. Always remember to use the correct fuel for your rental car to avoid the high costs associated with filling up the vehicle with the wrong type of fuel.

Just as you wouldn’t return a borrowed outfit without cleaning it, you should also return your rental car in a clean state. While normal wear from driving, like minor dirt, is usually acceptable, significant soiling or damage should be reported. After all, cleanliness is a sign of respect, and it can save you from potential cleaning fees.

Post-Rental Vehicle Inspection

After a memorable journey, it’s time to return your rental car. But before you wave goodbye, it’s important to conduct a thorough post-rental vehicle inspection. Repeat the same process used at pickup, ensuring all areas are rechecked and photographed for consistency.

In case you find any new damage, immediately inform the rental company and make sure it’s properly documented and photographed. This can help you avoid any potential disputes regarding the vehicle’s condition. Keeping a comprehensive photographic record of the vehicle’s condition at the time of drop-off is particularly crucial if you’re returning the car to unstaffed locations.

Vehicle inspection for rental car

Vehicle inspection for rental car


From understanding the basics of UK car rentals, navigating through complex financials, mastering left-side driving, to planning your journey and accessorizing your rental experience, we’ve explored all the essential aspects of renting a car in the UK. Whether you’re an international visitor, a young driver, or an elderly driver, this guide has got you covered. Now, with this knowledge at your fingertips, you’re ready to embark on an incredible journey through the picturesque landscapes of the United Kingdom. Happy driving!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I rent a car in UK with US drivers license?

Yes, in most cases, you can rent a car in the UK with a US driver’s license, as it is usually recognized by rental companies. However, some companies may require an International Driving Permit if you plan to drive across the channel.

What are the rules of renting a car UK?

To rent a car in the UK, you must be at least 21 years old, hold a valid driving license for 1 year, and expect additional fees if under 25. Non-EU license holders may need an international driving permit if their license is not in English. It’s important to have photographic ID, such as a passport or driving license.

Can you rent a car in England as a tourist?

Yes, as a tourist, you can rent a car in England, but you’ll need to bring along your current driver’s license and passport for documentation. No proof of identity or ability to drive means no car hire.

How expensive is it to rent a car in the UK?

Renting a car in the UK can be affordable, with many options for cheap rentals available. You can find the right rental car for you at a reasonable price.

Do I need an International Driving Permit to rent a car in the UK?

Yes, you will need an International Driving Permit if your license is non-European or in a language different from the renting country’s, when renting a car in the UK. Having one will ensure a smooth rental process.

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I buy a plan for just one day?

Yes. Insurance for a single day is available.

Can I buy a plan for part of my rental only?

No. We provide a single journey plan. You are covered from the time you pick up the rental car up to the time you return it or on the last date written on your Certificate of Insurance, whichever comes first.

Can I buy a plan when I pick up my rental car?

No. You should purchase a policy before starting your travel.

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