Renting a Car in England?

The Curbar Edge - a cliff in the Peak District National Park in England.
The Curbar Edge in the Peak District National Park.

5 Things To Consider When Renting a Car when visiting the UK

If you are planning to spend a week or up to 3 months in England, you may be wondering if you should rent a car or rely on public transport and ride shares. We are an international trusted house sitter couple who spend months at a time in the UK, traveling from housesit to housesit around the country. Our budget allows us to rent a car for these months. You might know that you’ll have to drive on the left side of the road (driver’s side on the right side of the car), and you will have to deal with roundabouts/rotaries. But there are other things to consider. Here are what we have found to be the most important things to keep in mind when renting a car for your stay.

1. Automatic vs Manual Transmission Price Gap

The price of renting an Automatic transmission car in the UK is way higher than anywhere else we have traveled in Europe. The cost difference can be up to twice as much. If we were not able to drive a manual/stick transmission, we probably would reconsider the whole rental idea. It’s really quite a staggering price gap. If you are confident that you can drive a stick/manual, remember that the roads may be steep, and you’ll have to deal with roundabouts as well as the gears. It may be worth taking a refresher.

A manual gear shift - stick shift
Photo by Riley Franzke on

2. The Magic 28 day limit

If you are planning to travel in the UK for more than 28 days, it is worth splitting your rental into two parts or looking into a long-term rental. As soon as you hit the 28 day mark, the rental price goes up exponentially, and some rental car companies may show that they have no days to offer you. It took us a while to discover that booking two 27 day rentals was way cheaper than one rental for the entire period. Even a “3 month” rental, which Europcar, for example offers, is not really 3 months, but 84 days. We still don’t know why this is the case, but it is the same across the board.

Passing place on country lane in England.
Country lanes have passing places that you may have to reverse to when you meet oncoming traffic.

3. Big is Not Better

You may be tempted to select a nice SUV either as your original booking or when offered an upgrade. This may backfire. If you are exploring ANYWHERE in the UK – cities, villages, countryside, wherever – big cars are almost never the right option. Roads villages and towns are narrow to begin with, and then you’ll find cars parked along the roads everywhere, rendering just about every road a one way. You have to coordinate with oncoming traffic to see who goes down the street first. You will have probably have to parallel park or 90 degree angle park in very narrow spots even at large supermarkets. Even parking buildings at malls or attractions are very tight. We know someone who found it physically impossible to exit a parking garage, because they had selected a semi-large car. Sometimes, you will have to drive down a country lane with hedges growing thick and close, almost touching the car. SELECT THE SMALLEST CAR THAT WILL FIT YOUR LUGGAGE.

A two way country lane in England.
This is a two lane road in the country. Non unusually narrow.

4. Avoid the Upsell

When picking up your car, you will be subject to aggressive upsell from the rental agents. Not just for insurance but for automatic, larger car (which you don’t want, see number 3), and for diesel for longer range. Remember, the UK is not that large. Longer range is NOT like in America.

This post contains an affiliate link. This means that if you make a purchase following my link, I’ll make a small commission. I only provide links to products I have tried and am happy with. Thanks for your support!

You can search for great car deals through Discover Cars.

5. The One-Way Penalty

You will be smacked with a very large fee for dropping off your car at a different location than where you picked it up. If you want to pick up your car at Heathrow and drop it off at St Pancras to get the Eurostar, it’s 10 times more expensive than dropping it off at Heathrow and catching the Heathrow Express train back to London.

Lake at Stourhead in England with parkland temple
Stourhead in Somerset, England.
Cheap Car Rental 320x50

7 responses to “Renting a Car in England?”

  1. Thank you… I’m just considering renting for a holiday in the UK and this is timely and very helpful.

  2. Public transport is good here, though a bit sporadic in more rural locations. In my opinion, the best places are off the beaten track and therefore renting a car is a good option.

    • We don’t rent a car when sitting in cities (London, Brighton for us in particular for us) – it’s great to catch the bus, but not here in the Peak District where we are now, for example 😀

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: