Renting A Car In The UK: What You Need To Know

Renting A Car In The UK: What You Need To Know

Planning on exploring the UK by car? It’s a smart choice. The UK has some of the most historical and cultural landmarks in the world.  It’s a country famed for its quirky cities, old manor houses and quintessential country charm – but if you’re used to Australian traffic or US freeways, how do you even begin to get your head around intricate UK road systems and car hire?

Well, whether you’re looking at renting a car in the UK and driving to Europe or are curious about the insurance side of things, we’ve got you covered.

Think of this as your complete guide to car hire in the UK – let’s begin!

Renting a car in the UK as an American or International

Driving unknown roads is one thing, doing it on the opposite side to what you’re used to is another thing entirely. While you’re in the UK, you’ll have to drive on the left side of the road, not the right. That can make manoeuvres a little confusing at times, especially since the driver’s seat is on the right-hand side.

A good tip before you land is to watch the odd YouTube clip, so you get used to the idea of where you’ll be positioned in the vehicle. The good news is that the foot pedals are in the same locations so at least that will feel familiar.

Once you’re in your rental car, make sure you take the time to get used to the feel of it, taking it slow and steady to begin with. Don’t leave the car hire shop until you’re completely in control and comfortable with the pedals, gear box and buttons. At times you’ll find that you will have to battle certain instincts, such as looking in different directions, but after a few loops and practice drives it will become second nature. Factor a couple of hours into your schedule for this and avoid being overly ambitious on your first drive.

Renting a car in the UK if you’re under 25 or over 70

Knowing what age you can rent a car in the UK isn’t as straightforward as it should be. While it is legal to drive from the age of 17 in the UK, some car hire companies set their minimum rental age at 25, others who do cater for drivers between 17 and 25 will add on a substantial fee. Prices and restrictions are typically ruled by which insurance providers they use. The same applies to older drivers between 70 and 80.

Since insurance is usually higher for young adults and older drivers, there may be a premium to pay. However, this does vary from company to company so it’s always worth shopping around to find a care hire that fits your requirements.   

Renting a car in the UK as a Non-EU resident

So, can you use your US driver’s licence while you’re over in England? Can Australian citizens rent a car in the UK? Of course, but you’ll need to take along some documentation. Here’s a list we’ve put together to help you get the all-clear.
  • Current driver’s licence and passport: No proof of identity or ability to drive means no car hire.
  • International Driving Permit (IDP): Valid for 12 months, this is a legal requirement that should be processed before travel. Contact local authority for details. Keep in mind that this does not replace your licence.
  • Proof of address: Bring along a utility bill or bank statement with your address clearly stated.
  • Proof of previous travel dates: Non-UK residents may be asked to provide details of their travel dates to and from the country. Often people use their flight tickets or hotel confirmations.

Renting a car in the UK without car hire insurance

No insurance is just not an option. As you would expect, rental car insurance in the UK can be costly and no matter what level of coverage you purchase, you will still not be covered for any damage that occurs due to misuse or breach of the rental agreement such as using the wrong fuel or negligence. Here’s a quick guide to UK insurance terminology so you don’t get left in the dark:
  • Third Party Cover (TPC): Covers accident-related damage to anything or anyone outside the car. Not to be confused with damage to the rental car itself.
  • Vehicle Damage Cover: Covers the cost of damages to the rental car, tyre changes and windshield chips are often excluded in most policies.
  • Vehicle Theft Cover: Often optional, this covers the cost of replacing the entire car or car parts in the event of theft.
  • Excess Insurance: Be sure to shop around as the excess is often where car rental insurance companies catch you off guard. Read this for added precaution.

Renting a car in the UK and driving to Europe

Lastly, what happens if you rent a car in England but then decide you want to explore France, Spain or Italy too?

Firstly, take this into account: European countries like France tend to drive on the right side of the road.
Since you will be driving a car in the UK suited to left hand side, it is not recommended to drive the same car across England, through to Europe. Car rental companies will also charge a hefty sum for the privilege and in our opinion, it is just not worth it.

Instead, we would suggest treating the trips separately in terms of car hire. Do the UK, hop on a train from London into Europe (or fly) then rent a car in that country separately. This will not only work out cheaper, but you’ll get the right car for the right road.

Rental Car Insurance Advice