According to a survey conducted by the AA in Ireland a couple of years ago, around a third of all Irish people who travel abroad hire a car. In my experience, I think that it is actually a lot less than that and I don’t know why? A few reasons do occur to me and these range from travel agents themselves being remiss in not offering or suggesting it in the first place, together with consumers themselves being intimated at the prospect of driving abroad in the first place —negotiating all those complicated motorway systems in intersections along with driving on the wrong side of the road. Given though that we’ve now had our own motorway system in Ireland for at least the past 10 years, you would think that we would have gotten over ourselves by now!
I’ve been hiring cars abroad now for at least 30 years and have picked up rental cars all over the world including large cities such as New York. London and LA and I can honestly say that, like so many other things in life, once you get used to it and build up your confidence, hiring a car abroad provides you with a level of freedom that simply cannot be replicated in any other way. You find yourself in complete control not only of your timetable but also your itinerary, not to mention the considerable cost savings that renting a car has over being dependent on taxis etc.
There are some downsides of course — not being able to drink and drive being the main one — but overall, the advantages override the disadvantages to my mind and enable holidaymakers to get themselves out of the big cities or resorts and explore the real countryside that often lies just over a 30-minute drive away. Car rental has also come down so much in price in recent years that it is now much more accessible cost-wise, than it used to be in the past plus the fact that you have a much greater range of car types to choose from. Car rental brokers such as Affordable Car Hire have also recently added RV’s (recreational vehicles or camper vans to you and me!) to their range of inventory so more intrepid types can really go and explore the great outdoors in vast countries such as the USA and Canada.
A word of caution though — be wary of some deals that sound too good to be true. As with things like travel insurance, the devil is always in the detail so when making an enquiry regarding car or motor-home rental make sure that you establish what’s included and what’s not; how much the rental company is going to hold as a damage deposit against your credit card; whether you pick up your vehicle full of gas and drop it back full or empty and how big the damage excess is on the policy hat’s just to name but a few.
Always make sure that you take plenty of photos and video of both the outside and inside of the rental vehicle, particularly if there is any noticeable damage and bring them to the attention of the car rental personnel and make sure that they record it on the vehicle schematic that comes as part of your rental documentation.
It also always pays to spend a little bit of time before you travel abroad, researching your pickup and drop-off points on Google maps so that you can familiarize yourself with the road layout — especially if you’ve chosen not to rent a satnav/GPS unit as part of your rental package.