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Car Rental: where?

Hello Good Folks-

Flying into Edinburgh in late January with my two adult boys. We will spend 4-5 days in Edinburgh using public transportation, then renting a car (my first time renting a car not in the U.S.) to drive down the East coast of England. I have a couple of questions:

  1. Is it a problem/more expensive to rent a car in Scotland and return it in England? I would return the car at Gatwick airport.

If it is NOT problematic and/or more expensive to rent in Scotland and return in England, where would be a convenient location to pick up the vehicle where I can get there on train/bus, and yet avoid driving in the city.

If it IS a problem and/or more expensive to rent in Scotland and return in England, what would be a good location on the English side in which we could access the car after leaving Edinburgh by train?

Another forum member offered an option I liked and would appreciate feedback on as an alternative to the above: Rent a care in Edinburgh for a couple days to visit Hadrian's wall and what not, then return it and take a train to London and then a train to Salsbury and rent a care there.

Posted by
1564 posts
  1. No.

If it is NOT problematic and/or more expensive to rent in Scotland and
return in England, where would be a convenient location to pick up the
vehicle where I can get there on train/bus, and yet avoid driving in
the city.

The airport would be my suggestion.

Another forum member offered an option I liked and would appreciate
feedback on as an alternative to the above: Rent a care in Edinburgh
for a couple days to visit Hadrian's wall and what not, then return it
and take a train to London and then a train to Salsbury and rent a
care there.

Much better option in my opinion. Rent a car in Edinburgh, return it maybe in Newcastle, Berwick or York, depending on "what not" is. Take the train to London from there.

Posted by
4117 posts

Our last car rental in Scotland involved picking up the car in Scotland and returning it elsewhere in Scotland, which was simple and carried no additional charge. You’d want to check with the rental company regarding any car return fees, including airport return charges. We turned it in at the Edinburgh airport, which was actually a pleasure.

While there are sometimes extra costs with picking up and/or returning at an airport, they’re usually a very convenient location, away from crowded city centers, usually close to a motorway, and easy to locate - just follow the signs. I believe that airports charge the rental companies site fees, which get passed on to the consumer, but maybe the rental companies also tack on a “convenience fee” to people on vacation or business travel. Whether or not it actually costs a few extra pounds, the convenience is likely well worth it, compared with picking up at a rental office downtown or in the suburbs. It might also depend on the rental company or type of vehicle, so double-check.

Our Hadrian’s Wall experience was walking it, end to end, over several days a few years ago, so we didn’t have a rental car. Still, the major locations, including Housesteads Fort, Vindolanda, Chester’s Fort, and even Wallsend near Newcastle are a bit of a drive from Edinburgh, and not what I’d consider a simple day trip. If anything, I’d take the train from Edinburgh to Newcastle, then rent a car there. Or investigate a tour that visits Hadrian’s Wall highlights. Train from Newcastle to London is fabulous.

We both drive a manual transmission car at home in the USA, and are both left handed, and have stuck with stick-shift rentals in the UK and Ireland. Many others on this Forum stringently advise going with an automatic. Either way, having an easy, smooth first several miles to practice driving on the left before you get to major UK traffic, roundabouts, and parking challenges would be helpful to get under your belt.

Posted by
4335 posts

Car hire prices will vary depending on demand, the time of year and the duration of the hire. There’s no difference between Scotland and England price wise, but locations within each country may differ - airports are usually more expensive as their costs are higher. Don’t drive in central Edinburgh if you haven’t driven here before - it’s congested, so hire from the airport.

Are you happy with a manual or do you need an automatic? Most U.K. cars are manual and you will pay more for an automatic.

Late January could mean lots of snow.

I have previously hired a car at Glasgow airport and returned it in central Glasgow a few miles away, for which I had to pay a little extra. It will vary by company.

If you have a car in Northumberland, if you have time, a trip to Holy Island is a must, as it’s one of my favourite places in the U.K. It is connected to the mainland via a tidal causeway, so you have to pick your times to get on and off. If you want to return the car and take the train to London, don’t drive all the way back to Edinburgh - it would make more sense to return it in Newcastle and take the train from there. Any one way car drop fee will be offset by the three cheaper train tickets.

Salisbury isn’t a big place, so your car hire options will be limited. What do you want to see from there?

Posted by
24613 posts

Jennifer, her other post is about wanting to get her son to the Bovington tank museum, the purpose for heading south.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/england/edinburgh-to-london-e7ad2e44-dd8b-40bd-b21d-0fc3fa248401

troublesmommy I want to echo the caution about snow in Scotland and northern England in January. January and February are worst months historically for the white stuff. And it blows when it snows.

As you have never driven here I'd advise studying up on the road signs which are different from what you are used to. For example the National Speed Limit sign which has no numbers or words on it and means different things depending on streetlights and number of lanes... If you don't understand its meaning the camera will flash and you will be poorer.

Posted by
4335 posts

Sorry - didn’t look at the posting history. Salisbury is quite a way from Bovingdon. You maybe better hiring a car from Poole or Bournemouth, which are closer. Car hire places in some smaller places are closed Saturday afternoon and Sundays.

I am currently near Manchester and we have had quite a bit of snow today. Roads can get closed due to snow in January, particularly in rural spots such as the location of much of Hadrian’s Wall. Bring appropriate clothing, particularly footwear.

Posted by
489 posts

Jennifer – are you positive that renting a car in Scotland and returning it in England does not cost more than if you rented a car in England and returned it in England? In the US, you cannot rent a car in one state and return it in another without paying an exorbitant price. The same with Europe. You cannot rent a car in one country and return it in a different country without it costing a ridiculous amount of money.
True, Poole and Bournemouth are closer to Bovington than Salisbury, but Salisbury is 20 minutes from Stonehenge and Avebury is 45 minutes from Stonehenge which would make good stops either on the way to Salisbury or on the way back. Furthermore, Salisbury has a nice cathedral to visit if interested.

Posted by
1830 posts

A quick look at the AutoEurope website shows a one-way drop charge of USD$103 for a sample booking from Edinburgh to Gatwick. I'd guess that other rental car company rates for a one-way drop are probably pretty similar.
Whether the extra charge offsets the other logistical considerations is strictly a personal decision.

Posted by
24613 posts

Just playing around with the Hertz website for a medium SUV for 6 days at Edinburgh Airport to Gatwick costs £43.35/about $60 (for the whole period) more than at Salisbury town centre - but that may be because of the airport pickup.

I would be much more concerned about the petrol and the possibility of winter weather.

Posted by
1564 posts

If you want to return the car and take the train to London, don’t
drive all the way back to Edinburgh - it would make more sense to
return it in Newcastle and take the train from there.

Or, take the train to Newcastle and rent the car there. Then there will not be any drop off fee for returning the car in Newcastle.

Posted by
95 posts

Just for your planning - there is a car rental facility at Edinburgh train station with multiple agencies. It is quite a bit more convenient than trekking out to the airport. If you use google maps getting out of the city should not be a problem. As others have noted car rates and all vary with the seasons and the demand. Dropoff charges come and go with their need to retain or to move cars to another location. You just have to put in your dates and look for the best deal. Currently, due to lack of demand, some offices are closed and car availability is very limited. Who knows when they will begin buying more cars. They are all in financial difficulty. Hertz is in bankruptcy reorganization.

We rented a car in Southampton and drove via York and Hadrian's wall to Edinburgh and turned the car in there. As we went north the roads go more and more narrow and twisty. I would be concerned about winter driving on the roads we encountered.

Posted by
4335 posts

Mary Pat. Hiring a car in Scotland will not cost any more to return it in England. I just did a dummy booking from Alamo for a car for 1 day next week. Hiring it and returning it to Glasgow airport will cost £57. Returning it at the same time in either Edinburgh or Birmingham will both cost £112.

Posted by
489 posts

Thanks Jennifer, I think troublesmommy now has her question answered.

Posted by
24613 posts

MaryPat, why did you pick on Jennifer and not me? We both looked at the same question.

maybe troublesmommy is still looking at the answers...

Posted by
489 posts

So sorry Nigel! I read your post that answered both mine and the OPs question (I believe). The reason I responded to Jennifer was because I was waiting to hear back from her.
Was it you who corrected me on the vaporetto ride on another post? Thank you because I had the word “taxi” stuck in my brain. Moving forward, I will refer to it as “bus”.

Posted by
2637 posts

Chiming in late here, but we rented from Hertz in southern England and returned the car in Scotland. I'm not aware of any significant surcharge for the cross-border one-way rental.

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you everyone for your thoughtful replies! I think we are going to take a Rabbies tour from Edinbugh to Hadrian’s Wall, then train to London, train to Wool or somewhere near Bovington, rent a car just for two days to get the boy to The Tank Museum and tool around the area, return car, then train to Gatwick.

We really enjoy train travel and although I have strong stick shift in the snow skills, the whole shifting with my left hand things kind of freaks me out.