Renting a car in England as an American [11 facts]

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Renting a car allows you to drive around locations difficult to reach by rail (such as the Cotswolds), without worrying about schedules, navigating to and from train stations, or transporting large luggage.

Although trains may take you all around England, renting a car can at times be the most convenient way to get to out-of-the-way communities, ancient monuments, and beautiful countryside.

I recommend the following useful facts to understand about car hire in the UK.

renting a car in england as an american
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11 things to know about renting a car in the UK

Renting a car in the UK makes for a convenient means to get around the country, regardless of whether you’re a tourist or a resident. I will be stating below all you need to know about car rental/car hire before you rent a car in the UK.

Driving Criteria

To rent a car in the UK, you should have a valid driving licenceOpens in a new tab., be over 21 years of age (age demand may vary depending on the car rental company), and have a credit card for payment and deposit.

The minimum rental age varies between 17 and 25, required by rental agencies.

There may be significant extra charges for drivers under the age of 25.

Generally, the regulations are determined by the insurance company they choose. When they exist, maximum age limits range from 70 to 80 years old. Even in cases where there isn’t a maximum age limit, there can be additional fees or a requirement for insurance clearance before renting.

In certain circumstances, presenting a medical certificate may be necessary. Understand the necessities before making rental arrangements, regardless of your age, and be ready to compare prices.

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UK car rental agencies offer insurance options such as Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and vehicle theft cover and can be in the £1,000–£2,000 range.

You can reduce the excess amount by purchasing additional insurance coverages such as Excess Cover or Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW). It’s consequential to extrapolate what coverage is entailed in your rental contract and I advise you to consider buying more insurance.

Regardless of the coverages you choose, you will typically not be reimbursed for harm brought on by carelessness, using the wrong fuel, or breaking the terms of the rental agreement.

In many parts of England, car rental insurance costs can surpass the base price of the vehicle in other countries. Perhaps you’re not acquainted with the insurance terminology used.

It is legally required to have Third-party cover (TPC), also referred to as third-party liability insurance, and it is typically included in the base rate for car rentals. This covers accident-related damage to people or property outside the vehicle.

Additional insurance policies deal with harm to the rental car itself. Vehicle Damage Cover covers costs associated with damage to the rental vehicle.

Occasionally, the rental car package includes this. But keep in mind that some things, like tires and windshields, might not be included.

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Left-side driving

In the UK, cars drive on the left side of the highway. Driving on the left is the norm in Northern Ireland and Great Britain. You may be confused if you have never driven on the left. The initial distinction is in the vehicle physically. The driver’s seat is positioned on the right side, thus you move with your left hand rather than your right.

The clutch, gas, and brake pedals, on the other hand, remain in their usual places.

Ahead of driving, I suggest you acquaint yourself with the location of all buttons and controls, just as you would in any rental car.

While on the road, I advise you to go slowly as you get used to the situation. You may automatically look in the wrong direction when approaching cars. Always remember to look both ways and be mindful of your stereotyping. Furthermore, exercise caution to avoid overcompensating or straying to the left.

Speed limits

On certain motorways and expressways intended for rapid and lengthy travel, there are variable speed limits. England uses miles to indicate distances and speed limits. (On most motorways, the posted speed limit for cars is 70 mph whereas, in cities, it’s typically 30 mph).

Lower speed limits could be in place during specific hours of the day to avoid start-stop traffic. Research has indicated that when people slow down during periods of heavy traffic, the flow of traffic becomes more efficient and swift.

You can find the speed limit and the duration of the variable speed limit on overhead digital signs. I suggest that you kindly abide by the updated boundary. The number plates of speeders are captured on speed cameras.

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Diesel or gasoline, as it is known in North America, can also be used to fuel rental cars. To ensure that you choose the appropriate pump when refueling, I suggest you keep in mind the type your rental car uses.

Incorrect fuel type placement in the tank can result in damage for which you could be held accountable. Be mindful that almost all gas stations in the UK are self-serve. Remember that liters, not gallons, are used to sell gasoline and diesel in the UK.


In the UK, parking laws differ from place to place. Observe parking signs and regulations to prevent financial penalties or towing.

Parking is usually charged in urban areas, and parking zones are set aside in rural areas.

If you are driving in the UK and receive a speeding fine, your rental car company will get in touch with you.

Parking in cities can be very difficult, but most do provide short- or long-term parking lots.

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Transmission type

Standard transmission is the default setting for the majority of rental cars in the United Kingdom.

There are cars with automatic transmissions available, and although expect to pay a lot more for one.

Should you be unfamiliar with operating a standard transmission, the expense might be justified to prevent further strain.


Despite being a popular and effective way to manage traffic, roundabouts—circular intersections with a central island—can be difficult for drivers who are not accustomed to them. How to navigate a roundabout can be done in a few simple steps.

To help you plan where to exit before you enter, signs indicate the location of the roads and exits as you get closer to the roundabout. Give way to any oncoming traffic in the roundabout. The right-of-way belongs to it.

When it’s safe to do so, turn left to enter the roundabout. Traffic lights may be used to regulate entry to roundabouts in crowded areas. Traffic flows through the roundabout in a clockwise direction.

Limited pathways

Aside from the major thoroughfares and motorways, certain roads may appear narrow in comparison to those in North America. However, only on one-land or single-track roads in rural areas can two-way traffic become a problem.

I advise that you stay aware of a few things before operating a vehicle on one of these incredibly narrow roadways. Go slowly at first. Secondly, be alert when you come upon a pullout, a turnout, or a widening in the road. When a car comes from the opposite direction, be ready to reverse to such locations.

Likewise, if you notice that the motor vehicle behind you is moving quickly, pull into the first widening and let it pass. Thirdly, proceed around all curves in the road as though there was unquestionably another car coming, particularly those where trees obscure your view of what’s beyond the bend.

Fourthly, take in the view! Although you can arrange your travel to avoid them, tiny roads are frequently lovely and will take you to sleepy towns with friendly taverns and lodgings.

Driving in London

Avoid driving in London if at all possible. In addition to the congested and chaotic nature of London traffic, driving in the Congestion Zone Area of central London on weekdays costs £11.50.

There’s great public transport available via the subway, buses, and above-ground trains.

There are plenty of taxis. The beautiful back roads, undulating hills, and charming villages in the countryside are worth exploring with your car rental money saved up.

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No left turn on red, no cell phones

Turning left on a red signal is not permitted. Separate left-turn lights are present at some intersections. In addition to becoming amber when they go from red to green, traffic lights also do this.

Although that indicates that you should be prepared to move, you should first wait for the light to turn green before you do so. It is required that you use seat belts, I strongly advise this.

Additionally, it is prohibited to use a portable phone or other comparable equipment while driving a car, even while halted at a stop sign or stuck in traffic. See the UK Highway Code for an exhaustive list of driving regulations.

Manual or automatic transmission for your journey

Most car rentals have a manual transmission/stick shift. Although auto transmissions can also be ordered, expect much greater prices for an automatic vehicle.

I recommend that you should specifically request an auto transmission.

Please note that a driver’s license allowing you to drive a manual car is limited. You can always get more automated seats, so book ahead so you won’t miss out.

Where to pick up your hire car?

Picking up a car in airports or railways is a good solution. One caveat is if you fly into London airports such as Heathrow and Gatwick and want to travel for 1-2 days in London before taking your trip.

This would require that you wait before taking out your hire car from your city. I advise you to watch the train back to Heathrow and return to the station where you planned to take your car.

Please note that the rental car is only accessible at an airport because most businesses are shut down on the day. Plan a proper tour plan.

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Is renting a car a good way to travel in the UK?

There are several advantages for travelers when renting a car in the UK. It’s a comfortable and adaptable mode of transportation.

I will list the following elements below, that you should take into account when determining if renting a car is a wise choice for your trip to the UK:


Having a car rental allows you to travel at your speed and see off-the-beaten-path locations that would be difficult to get to via public transit. You are free to design your schedule and include impromptu stops in your travels.

Rural areas

Owning a car enables you to travel to sites that are inaccessible by other means, such as distant areas and scenic spots, especially in rural and rural areas where public transportation may be scarce.


Having your vehicle is convenient when you rent a car in the UK, especially if you need to move equipment or luggage. Additionally, families or groups traveling together may find it much easier.

Time efficiency

Driving allows you to choose your travel plan and skip the lines at traffic signals, which can save you time when traveling between locations.

Exploring beyond cities

Even though major cities have excellent public transit, owning a car gives you the freedom to visit rural towns, villages, and landmarks without being constrained by bus or train timetables.

When renting a car in the UK, there are a few other things to bear in mind, though:

Traffic and parking

Congestion in the streets can be problematic, particularly in large cities like London. In urban areas, parking can be costly and scarce, so it’s critical to make advance plans and understand parking laws.

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Driving on the left

It could be unfamiliar to tourists from nations where driving on the right side of the road is customary to drive on the left-hand side of the road. To guarantee safety, more consideration and modification are needed.


When comparing the total cost of renting a car to alternative modes of transportation, it’s critical to account for additional expenses such as fuel, insurance, tolls, and parking.

Ultimately, your travel interests, itinerary, and degree of comfort driving in a foreign country will determine whether or not renting a car is a good option to see the UK. Think about the aforementioned aspects while deciding if hiring a car suits your vacation requirements and tastes.

What city should you rent a car from?

There are a few factors to take into account when choosing where to rent a car.

First of all, where are you taking off or arriving from?

I would advise against picking up your car on the first day of your road trip if you are traveling to a large city (such as London, Edinburgh, Glasgow, etc.) and intend to stay there for some time.

An additional consideration is whether taking the train to a smaller city and picking up your hire vehicle there will be less expensive.

Which car rental companies are the best?

The UK is home to many respectable automobile rental businesses that are well-known for their high standards of client satisfaction, selection of cars, and high caliber of service. I have stated below a few of the best UK-based car rental companies:


Renowned vehicle rental firm Enterprise has a large network of outlets throughout the United Kingdom. They are renowned for their excellent customer service and provide a wide selection of cars at affordable costs.


Hertz is a well-liked option for renting a car in the UK because it has a wide selection of cars and offers easy pick-up sites at major hubs like airports.

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Another reputable rental car firm in the UK is Avis, which is well-known for its assortment of premium and specialized automobiles as well as its dependable service. Additionally, loyalty programs are provided for regular renters.


In the UK, Budget provides affordable car hire with a variety of vehicles to meet various travel needs at cheap prices. They have venues in city centers and at major airports.


The UK is home to a significant portion of the global automobile rental corporation Sixt. They are known for their flexible and accommodating policies, and they provide a large assortment of cars, including luxury models.


Europcar, a reputable car hire company in the UK, has a selection of cars to suit all spending levels and vacation tastes. Main cities and airports are home to their locations.


Thrifty is a well-liked option for tourists on a tight budget in the UK because of its upfront pricing and reasonable prices. They provide easy pick-up locations and a range of automobiles.

Choose the right car for your trip in the UK by taking your driving style, the terrain you’ll be traveling on, and your comfort level with each type of transmission into account.

Select the car with the gearbox type that best suits your needs and tastes for an unforgettable road trip. Both automatic and manual transmission vehicles have benefits.

Regardless of the company you pick, I advise that you keep all of your records (including the checklist the company uses to inspect the car when you return it) for a few months following the rental period in case there is a billing issue.

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Do I need extra insurance when renting a car in the UK?

I advise that you obtain additional insurance from a third party or car rental agency if your auto insurance policy does not provide coverage for driving a hired car in the UK.

What do you need to rent a car in England?

To rent a car in England, you usually have to fulfill certain standards and bring certain paperwork:

Driving licence
Credit card
Means of identification
Proof of address

Can US citizens drive in England?

With a current US driver’s license, American individuals can drive in England. An International Drivers Permit (IDP), which is effectively a translated copy of your driver’s license, is advised to be obtained as well.

Respecting UK traffic laws and ordinances, like as staying on the left part side of the road and obeying speed limits, is also crucial.

Is it good idea to rent a car in London?

If you intend to stay in the city, renting a car in London might not be the best choice. The famous red double-decker buses and the underground tube, which connects most of the city, are two of the many public transportation options available in London.

London’s congested traffic, constrained roads, and congestion fees can also make driving there difficult. On the other hand, renting a car is a smart choice if you intend to travel outside of London.

What should I do if my license still has my old address on it?

I recommend you supply documentation under three years of age to verify your address. It could be a utility bill or bank statement.

You can give your name on this document to the car rental agency that can view this. Please make sure the documents shared on your car rental website are original and not copies.


You may have the freedom to travel throughout the UK at your speed and find undiscovered treasures by renting a car. If you are well-prepared and knowledgeable about driving in the country, you may enjoy a safe and pleasurable road trip experience when visiting the UK.

I hope this piece of writing has given you an insight into all you need to know about renting a car Opens in a new the UK as an American.

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