9 Tips for a Smooth Car Rental Experience at Dublin Airport

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Dublin Airport is Ireland's largest and busiest airport, serving millions of passengers each month. Walking into the busy Arrivals Hall after leaving the relatively quiet baggage claim can be a shock to the system.

If you are renting a car at Dublin Airport and the best advice I can offer is that all rental desks operate a bit differently.

Some offer pick-up in the terminal, while others require a shuttle. And not all that offer terminal pick-up allow terminal return.

Always clarify pick-up and drop-off locations before you leave the airport. Most car rental companies will also have a flier in the glovebox with this information.

These tips will help your car rental at Dublin Airport go smoothly and get you on the road faster.

Dublin Airport terminal 2
Dublin Airport Terminal 2 – most international flights arrive here
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Dublin Airport Car Rental Tips

Tip #1: Rent Your Car in Advance

While you can take your chances and rent your car at the airport there is no guarantee a vehicle will be available, or that the available vehicle will suit your needs – or your budget.

Plan ahead and have a car waiting for your arrival.

Tip #2: Make Sure Your Rental Car Isn't Too Small

Yes, you want to rent the smallest vehicle you can comfortably use, but don't underestimate the amount of space your luggage will take.

Upgrading a rental car at the airport can be a costly mistake – and one we have made twice.

The first time was when we had 2 car seats – and my mother – along on the trip. Upgrading from our 5 passenger car to a roomy Land Rover was a costly, but much more comfortable, mistake.

The second was when we miscalculated the ability of a month's worth of luggage to fit in the boot of the mid-size sedan we had rented. (This is one that you really need to pay attention to as trunk space in European cars is much smaller!)

rental car and too much luggage
The face you make when the luggage doesn't fit in your rental car

Tip #3: Prepay Your Insurance and Other Fees

Pay for as much as possible when you make your car rental reservation, including insurance and additional driver fees.

Some charges, like cross border fees, toll, and refueling options, may need to be paid when you pick up the car.

Understand all fees and insurance requirements when renting a car in Ireland:
read Everything You Need to Know About Car Rental in Ireland.

Tip #4: Know Where to Find Your Car Rental Reservation Desk

Terminal 2 car rental desks are located across the sky bridge from the Arrivals Hall.

Terminal 1 car rental desks are found in the lower level Arrivals Hall.

Car rental companies at Dublin Airport include Irish Car Rentals/ EuropCar, Hertz, Avis/ Budget, Dooley/ Enterprise/ Alamo/ National, PayLess/NewWay and Sixt.

After checking in at the reservation desk you will exit the terminal and wait for a shuttle to take you to car rental location the off-site.

Be prepared to stand in another line to finalize your reservation, receive your key, and pick up your car.

Tip #5: Be Sure Your Paperwork is in Order

Be sure to have your passport, valid driver's license, credit card used to rent the car, and proof of insurance (if not purchasing from rental company) ready when finalizing your reservation.

Ireland Car Rental

Tip #6: Refueling

If you did not purchase the refueling option know where to find the nearest petrol station to the airport along your route.

Tip #7: Dublin Airport Car Rental Return

Most Dublin Airport rental cars are returned off-site. Be sure you allow time for check-in and shuttle back to the airport. 30 minutes is usually sufficient.

Tip: when traveling in a group drop people and luggage at the airport before returning the car. It is much easier – and faster – when only one or two people, and no extra bags, have to use the shuttle.

If your rental company allows airport drop off be sure you know where in the airport car park it is located.

Which rental car return at Dublin Airport is better – at terminal or off site?

I've done both, and my answer may surprise you.

While it is really nice to pick up your car at the terminal and be on your way, returning your car to the terminal can be a major hassle. Dublin airport is very busy and parking spots – even for rental returns – are at a premium.

When you do find a spot to park – in the correct area – you have to navigate between a lot of people with luggage and a lot of other cars. And you are requested to back into the parking spot as it is safer for pulling out. (I back into my garage daily and I found backing into a spot at Dublin Airport to be a bit nerve wracking!)

After doing that and unloading your bags you will find one of the attendants on duty who will take your keys and inspect your car. Because of the busyness (and controlled chaos) this can take a bit – I have waited 20 minutes to return my keys and have my car inspected.

It is just easier, in my opinion, to return the car off site and shuttle back. It is usually just as fast and less stressful.

Tip #8: Use Your Camera

Take photos of your car at pick up and drop off in case of any after-rental disputes. Car rental at Dublin Airport is busy and you will want proof in case of any mistaken charges.

Note: this step is not necessary if you purchase Excess insurance or Super Collision Damage Waiver (SCDW).

Tip #9: Patience

Remember that not everyone will be as well prepared as you and be prepared to wait while people argue about insurance coverage and fees.

Know that when it is your turn your experience will be quick and pleasant, and you'll be exploring Ireland soon.

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Jody Halsted
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