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Car Rentals in Scotland

I’m new to the travel forum, so hope I’m doing this right? Have been reading other posts and appreciate the sharing of helpful hints for those putting together their own itineraries! Thanks!

I was scheduled to visit Scotland & England later this month ( obviously had to cancel but now working on plans to reschedule for next April/May instead) and had a difficult time trying to figure out several aspects of renting a car there. Hoping some travelers are willing to share their experiences. Have not rented a car on previous trips to Europe & UK.
1) Which Car Rental service did you use? I have explored thru Costco, Expedia, airline mileage programs, credit cards, Arnold Clark (big car rental in Scotland) etc
2) Manual vs Automatic -The prices are quoted with manual transmission-hard to find automatic & it appears to be substantially higher price per day? My cousin (60 yrs) & I (75 yrs) women, are both decided we need the automatic.
3) Navigation - some charge per day/ some have max cost overall? Has anyone taken their own portable GPS instead & did that work ok?
4) Cost per day vs 2+ wk rental? We want to do some day trips from Edinburgh, but wondering if we should stay outside Edinburgh with car or only rent on days we will need it - due to scarcity/expense of parking?
5) What is an average cost per day for rental to accommodate 2 women travelers? Are there certain cars to avoid. It appeared that on some sites the cost was less for a little bigger car - perhaps larger inventory?
6) Insurance - Some credit cards say insurance IS included & rental companies vary on cost & if some included?

Posted by
96 posts
  1. In Scotland, I’ve rented from Alamo, Sixt, National and a Scottish rental company that I can’t remember anymore during both business travel and personal. I always booked directly with the rental company, never a 3rd party site. It was easier to change or cancel our reservations that way. Also we’ve usually picked up the car at the airport. It’s likely cheaper if you pick it up in the city, or anywhere but the airport.
  2. We always rented manual transmission. Husband and I both drive manual at home so it’s our preferred rental. There are more cars available and always cheaper to rent.
  3. We’ve just used our phone primarily to navigate even when the car had navigation available. Don’t remember the extra cost but it wasn’t much. Car navigation systems were always a backup option for us. Sometimes we use it and sometimes we don’t.
  4. The last time we rented last year, it was less than £300 for 14 days, including insurance. The car was a Hyundai something or other and classified as a “compact” even tho it didn’t feel like it to me. We specifically rent a small car - compact or mini - when driving anywhere in Europe. It’s just the 2 of us with carryon size luggage. Parking is just easier. Filling up is cheaper. And I like zipping around in small cars since I’m the primary driver most of the time.
  5. We try to keep our costs to less than £40 per day but we’ve paid more during high season. I guess that will depend on how much driving you’re going to do, how comfortable you feel driving a vehicle that’s bigger or smaller than what you usually drive. When driving in another country, we prefer small vehicles for easy parking in small spaces and cheaper fuel costs. I’ve never considered avoiding certain car models. We’ve never had problems driving any car we got, like no breakdowns or engine problems.
  6. We use a credit card that has good rental car coverage as a backup. When I traveled for business I was required to buy the insurance that the rental company offered. Now that we travel for fun, we still do. It’s a habit. Maybe it’s a bad habit and an expensive one but it makes us feel comfortable. The only time I had to file a claim was when another car had obviously slammed their door on our car while it was parked in a covered car park. It was a very small and tight car park so I understood how that happened. The insurance we bought covered everything and we paid nothing out of pocket, so it was worth paying for it.

Hope this helps.

Posted by
15 posts

Thanks SO much for your info, Rosebud, it was very helpful. I drove a manual transmission for many years but my Cousin & I felt with trying to drive on the other side of the road & roundabouts & turns, that adding shifting with my left hand was more stress than we thought we wanted to tackle. How was the traffic outside the big cities? Were you traveling in rural areas when you said you were able to use your iPhones? I was worried I would not be able to get Internet if trying to use if for navigation?

Posted by
1909 posts

Cost per day vs 2+ wk rental? We want to do some day trips from
Edinburgh, but wondering if we should stay outside Edinburgh with car
or only rent on days we will need it - due to scarcity/expense of
parking?

I personally see no reason to pay for a car on days you won't need it. Also, if all you plan to do with it is a couple of day trips from Edinburgh, are you sure you need a car? There are plenty of trains and buses that will take you outside Edinburgh.

Posted by
96 posts

shifting with my left hand was more stress than we thought we wanted to tackle. How was the traffic outside the big cities? Were you traveling in rural areas when you said you were able to use your iPhones?

First off, being a lefty, I didn’t have problems with shifting gears. It was nice to be able to use my dominant arm. My husband, who is a righty, took a little time adjusting so he at first drove when there was less traffic. We would remind each other to “stay left, stay left” esp at roundabouts, when turning, when pulling out into traffic from a parked location. It was easier to drive on the left when you’re following local drivers. It was harder to stay on the left when we were on narrow remote roads with no one else around. There’s that tendency to drift back to the right when you’re all alone on the road admiring the scenery. That’s when it helps to have a companion yell/gently remind you to stay on the left.

As for navigation, we used our Google maps on our phones 90% of the time, and the car nav system, our sense of direction, paper maps and verbal directions from our hotel or b&b hosts the rest of the time. We did get lost / turned around a couple times but we lived to tell about it.

There were a couple of other helpful discussions on driving and renting cars in this forum that you might want to search and read.

Posted by
489 posts

I live here in Scotland, so don't rent cars very often in the UK, but have a B&B so talk to lots of guests with rental cars. Here are my thoughts.
1. Arnold Clark are highly recommended.

2. Most Brits drive manual cars which is why automatics are not so popular here. You will pay more for an automatic, but if it is what you need then pay the extra. You will not be accustomed to our narrow roads (mostly with no shoulder) and driving on the left side, so the fewer things you have to think about the better!
3. No idea - sorry.

4. You definitely do not want a car in Edinburgh. Navigating around in the city is a nightmare and there are many bus only roads and one way roads. Parking is extremely, eye wateringly expensive. Only get a car when you need it and as someone else said you might look at day tours. Rabbies are highly recommended and could work out cheaper than a car.
5. Not sure on prices sorry. Unless you are hauling luggage then I'd opt for a smaller car, easier to drive and park.
6. Sorry - not sure.

Hope this helps
Jacqui (Skyegirl)

Posted by
16832 posts

You will probably find that one-day rentals are the most expensive cost per day. Price breaks are often best for 3 days or 7 days, with the result being that 1, 2, or 3 days all cost the same and 5, 6, or 7 days all cost the same, especially when I’ve booked through AutoEurope. No additional discount for two weeks. Do just get the car for the period you most need it, but I would try to arrange your travel so that it’s a continuous period. Where in the plan does Edinburgh fall?

Posted by
1731 posts

Hi JMJ;

I'd posted this answer on one of my posts yesterday where you had asked some of these questions. Here it is again in case you didn't get back to my post yet;

My trip was scheduled for May 31st so I can't recommend a rental car company through experience but we booked with https://www.celticlegend.co.uk/ after getting many recommendations on this forum. Their customer service so far has been outstanding when I've emailed with questions. I did book an automatic. Also, 18 months ago in England I booked through Enterprise and had no problem getting an automatic.

As for the GPS, in England we brought out TomTom but our car also had a GPS at no charge. Our rental guy recommended that we search for our destination by Postal Code, but TomTom will only search by street address. I started out using it anyway because I was more familiar with it, but the rental guy was right and we switched to the car's GPS. Celtic Legend said my car won't have a built in GPS, but I think renting one is only going to cost me 25 Pounds for the week which is far cheaper than downloading a European map to my TomTom.

Posted by
15 posts

Thanks for all the input! I was trying to schedule to be in Edinburgh on weekends, to spend time visiting with cousins there. I appreciate the advice to do the longer distances clustered together & then give up car & use public transportation in Edinburgh.

Allan, can you give me an idea of what your car rental cost With an automatic was going to be with Celtic legends? I haven’t heard of them before. Were you planning to get their insurance?

I plan to do some further planning of our itinerary and think with some twicking days of arrival I should be able to cut down on the days with car rental.

Skyegirl, we had planned to stay 3 nights in Evanton and take a day drive to Skye from there & return. Would we be able to take the drive on Skye that includes the crofter’s cottages with some short walks to see views on a day trip and drive back to Evanton that evening? I figured it would be about 2 hours from Evanton to Skye so more likely to just spend a day there than with a 5+ hour drive from Glasgow? Your thoughts?

Thanks, Janet

Posted by
1731 posts

JMJ; Since there is just my wife and I we had booked a small car for 5 days, cost is £320, broken down is £187.50 for rental, £20.83 drop off fee (picking up in Edinburgh, dropping off in Glasgow), £58.33 for zero deductible insurance, £53.34 sales tax.

Posted by
489 posts

Hi Janet

With regard to your question about driving from Evanton for a day trip on Skye. Well personally I wouldn't do it. You are looking at 3 hours minimum drive to the Skye bridge - that is with no stops for photos and you will likely be driving slower than I would (I overtake a lot of rental cars in the summer!). Then if you are planning on visiting the Highland Life Museum (I imagine that's what you mean by the crofter's cottages?) then that is at the very northern tip of the island, so a good 1 hour 30 from the bridge - again likely to be longer if you don't know the roads and if you want to stop to admire the scenery. You would really not get a good appreciation of the island on a day trip. You'd be skimming the surface of the island and probably encountering some fairly stressful driving conditions if you're not used to driving here.

Best wishes
Skyegirl (Jacqui)

Posted by
68 posts

I used Celtic Legend for my rental back in 2016. I needed one way from Glasgow to Inverness, by way of Mull and Skye.. They had the best rate for one way of all places I checked plus lowest cost gps rental. I got an automatic because I just didn’t want one more distraction with driving on the left! They were very responsive to emails and the car was top quality - it was actually from Arnold Clark where I picked up and dropped off. Celtic Legend is like a travel agent, but had great rates and customer service. I highly recommend them for car rentals in Scotland.

Posted by
4533 posts

Trip 5 years ago included Edinburgh at first (no car), then flying to Shetland (rented car, then left it off at ferry dock), ferry to Orkney (rented another car), then flew to Inverness. There, we picked up the rental we’d arranged with Arnold Clark, directly thru their Website. Best price we’d found after looking at several companies. Our B&B owner in Fort William said he’d never buy a car from them, but was glad we’d gotten a decent rental.

We drove from Inverness to Skye, then back thru mainland Scotland to the Edinburgh airport, where we returned it to the Arnold Clark location before a short walk to the terminal for our flight home. Taking a bus to or from downtown Edinburgh to the airport location after dropping off, or in order to pick up your car, avoids driving in the city, and makes it a lot easier to finish or start your trip.

We’re both lefties, and drive a stick at home, so that wasn’t an issue, and saved money on the rental. We stick with the smallest car that will hold us and our luggage. As noted above, staying far enough on the left, without dropping off the road, was the biggest challenge. Skye’s particularly narrow roads, often just one lane wide, involve additional attention. Well-marked “Passing Places” on Skye allow cars going in opposite directions to get past each other safely.

Check the rental company’s’ Websites for current prices. We used paper maps and road signs 5 years ago, but navigation Apps on our iPhone in other countries more recently. On Crete last September/October, a windshield-mounted GPS came with the car, but the phone was generally easier to use, and was relied upon much more.

Our Visa card includes insurance, if you rent using that card. But we’ve never needed to file a claim, except a minor one, once. The paperwork requirements are extreme though, and can take a long time, even trying to get reimbursed for costs of replacing a tire. And if the tow driver’s handwritten receipt is illegible to the Visa claims department, that complicates things. So, depending on premium costs and conditions, getting insurance thru the rental company may provide more and easier piece of mind and successful resolution. Of course, not having any damage, and no claim to file is best, but as you noted, JMJtraveler, you are dealing with the other side of the road, plus distracting, phenomenal scenery!

And some insurance companies limit drivers, based on their age, wrong or right, so make sure what limitations might restrict your eligibility.

Posted by
15 posts

Thanks SO much to all of you who replied and gave such great input on your experiences! I really appreciate it & it will be very helpful in updating my trip plans for next year!

Posted by
1709 posts

Janet,

You've gotten some great advice so far. I'll add a few more thoughts.

Since we were aware of the downsides of having a car in Glasgow and Edinburgh, we elected to stay in bedroom communities and commute into town. I don't know how practical that will be for you and what kind of experience is appealing. We stayed outside of Glasgow in B&B that was a working dairy farm. It was Spring and they just had 13 new calves. We got to visit the barn and see the new babies, along with their dairy operation. We stayed just outside Linlithgow on a farm that raised Clydesdales and from there we commuted into Edinburgh. The farm had a pregnant mare who was a week overdue. We were hoping she'd drop her colt while we were there, but both she and us were disappointed she didn't deliver.

Skye is a magical place but really impossible to see as a day trip. At the minimum, you need to spend three nights (two days) there. We actually preferred Mull. We stayed at the very northern tip. We stayed in a B&B that had a legendary Aga stove. We spent a wonderful evening with the owners boiling fresh crabs and making crab salad. There is a spectacular drive down the western side of the island from Dervaig to Iona. We drove for nearly two hours without seeing another car.