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Ireland Rental Car -- Manual or Automatic?

Greetings! Quick question: Doing a driving tour of Ireland in August. Is an automatic, as opposed to a manual, worth the additional price? I've heard very strong opinions both ways, and woudl appreciate more advice.

Posted by
484 posts

If you normally drive a manual then stick with it. Shifting with the left hand is no big deal as the shifting pattern is the same. If on the other hand you have at some time in the past driven a manual but do not feel comfortable with it now then go for the automatic.

Posted by
658 posts

It's probably more important to get the right size of car than anything else.

If you haven't experienced Irish roads before; all I can say is that some of them are very narrow and have lots of blind bends very close together. Bearing that in mind a small car can get you out of big trouble.

If you can get an automatic in the size of car that's right for you - great ! If not a small right hand drive with manual shift isn't too difficult if you relax.

The roads in Ireland may be small and winding but Irish drivers are very well mannered and pleasant natured.

Posted by
9363 posts

The last time I drove in Ireland I got an automatic. We had a tiny car, rented through Irish Car Rental. I had driven manuals there twice before, and while I didn't have any particular problems those times, I thought having the automatic just removed one level of stress. (I don't drive a manual at home.) I would suggest booking your rental car and then continuing to watch the prices and do comparisons. On this last trip I booked a manual at first because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, particularly since the automatic was so much more expensive. By the time I actually got ready to leave, though, the company was having a special, and I ended up getting an automatic for only a few euros more instead of almost double the price. There is no penalty for changing a car rental reservation, so it wasn't a problem to cancel the first reservation and take the second.

Posted by
10344 posts

Bryan: You probably will want to read Al's and Nancy's replies closely. A significant number of people on this board who were first-time drivers in Ireland have reported that they were glad they paid the extra four an automatic.

Posted by
10344 posts

Ken (& the others): Great posts and good advice here! We appreciate your insights.

Posted by
425 posts

Having just returned I say get the automatic. Judging distances on the left side is hard enough, without the added stress of shifting with a different hand. I am an accomplished driver (high speed pursuits) but found first time driving on the left to be quite a challange. I found the narrow roads quite fastinating, challenging, and a bit scary!

Posted by
319 posts

One more vote for an automatic. It's totally worth the extra expense.

Finding a straight road in Ireland is like finding the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Every road curves constantly, and sharply, and usually has overgrown vegetation blocking your view around the corner. Oh, and by the way, most roads are only two lanes so oncoming traffic is whizzing by you in the right lane.

My point is you would probably need to shift quite frequently on the roads in Ireland, and it's just another hassle that you're better off not adding to your trip.

Having said that, it's the only way to really see the country, and I did enjoy the experience despite the stress.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
32111 posts

Bryan, I would also strongly recommend an automatic! Although I've never driven in Ireland (I chose to take a RS tour last fall instead), I have driven considerably in England so have some experience with driving in that part of the world and on "the other" side of the road.

I'm considered a "professional" driver (emergency vehicles) and can easily use either manual or automatic transmissions. However, I felt that with the narrow roads, unfamiliarity with the location and all the other factors that it would be best to stay with an auto. If you get into any kind of traffic density in the cities, perhaps along with one-way streets and not knowing your way around, you'll be glad to have an auto!

I've been travelling these days with both a GPS and Michelin Maps, and find that's a good combination. In Ireland especially, some of the roads didn't appear to be well marked and also many of the signs were in Irish (Gaelic) with the english lettering spray painted out.

Be especially careful with speeds or you'll be meeting the Garda under "unpleasant" circumstances, and you might want to get an International Driver's Permit also, as that includes an excellent summary of various road signs and what each of these means. This is especially important for parking. Check the net for the protocols for roundabouts.

Good luck and happy travels!

Posted by
22 posts

Thanks for all the good words. Can anyone point me in the correct direction for information regarding International Driving permits? ie. How, where, and cost to obtain. Thanks

Posted by
2 posts

I think that you can get the international drivers' permit through AAA.

By the way, with a family of 5 (2 kids plus mother-in-law) + baggage, I've got to rent a van. The price for an automatic seems to be about 3 or 4 times the cost for a stick shift. I'll keep looking for a deal on an automatic, but otherwise I guess I'll have to deal with the shift. As a first timer to drive in Ireland or the UK it'll probably just have to be a nail-biter.

Posted by
32111 posts

As mentioned in a previous post, the IDP is normally available from AAA / CAA at a cost of about $15.00. Two Passport-style photos are required. Note that this is NOT a driver's license; it MUST be used in conjunction with your (valid) home driver's license.

Sam, if you plan on driving in "nail biter" mode, I'd suggest getting the full CDW offered by the rental firm.


Posted by
10344 posts

Ken made exactly the recommendation I was going to make. At least it can be a fully insured nail biter.

Posted by
484 posts

You might take a look at for a lot of useful information:driving times,fuel costs,road repairs etc. The international driving license is not at all necessary for Ireland or any other EU country and a good atlas type map will have the road signs listed. Definitely get all the insurance possible.

Posted by
8700 posts

While an IDP is not needed in Ireland or many other EU countries, it is REQUIRED BY LAW in Italy.

Posted by
12154 posts

Driving a stick reminds me of my youth, especially on narrow, winding roads. Cars in Europe are small and have small engines. Sticks accelerate better, get better gas mileage and cost less. If you are comfortable with a stick, I would go with that.

Posted by
28 posts

We rented a car last week thru Irish Car Rentals at Limerick. We rented a manual transmission. I have driven manual sports cars for 35 years so it was not much of an adjustment.

We drove from Limerick to Tralee with no problems. From Tralee to Dingle and the entire Dingle circle route was another thing altogether. My driveway is wider than the Dingle road. There were many full size buses on the Dingle road and tourists riding bicycles. We folded the passenger side rear view mirror to give us more room from the hedges. Be very careful if you drive that Dingle route....incredibly narrow with very many hairpin or switchback curves. The locals drive the roads very fast. The pavement is marked slow, slower and very slow !!

From Tralee to Cork the road N?? was very good except for a 10 mile detour with very narrow roads.

When you drive through small Irish towns be very vigilant.The locals park their cars on the sides of narrow roads which can make the roads narrower.

In general, the speed limit is 100 kph. Very seldom did I feel comfortable except near Dublin driving that fast.

Since we only rented the car for two days Irish Car Rentals would not sell us the super CDW. The deductible if we had an accident was 1200 Euros!

Happy motoring. It will be an experience

Posted by
158 posts

If you want to see the sights and drive...good luck....the automatic will help you adjust.......

I did just come back from Ireland and we hired a driver who was wonderful....he made sure I learned how to drive the standard/manual to get around in the evenings........

During the will encounter lots of tractors, buses and some sheep...........

.... Tis a beautiful and grand country......

Posted by
72 posts

I vote for the automatic as well. I drive both, but--as mentioned in other posts--it is one less thing to think about.

Perhaps a more important factor--the size of the car. If it is just one or tow of you, get a small car! On our last trip to the UK we stayed in a B&B when another couple pulled in. They were driving a big car--they were given an "upgrade" since the rental company did not have the car they reserved. They loved it.........until they got off the main roads. Believe me, you'll appreciate a small car when you hit small country roads that have about one millimeter of clearance!!

Posted by
520 posts

Last year when I was planning an Ireland trip I had the same question. I had not owned a manual transmission car in the past 20 years or so and had driven one only infrequently during that time.

My first thought when planning our trip was that driving in a foreign country, getting used to driving on the left side of the road, and dealing with the narrow and curvy (limited visibility/short reaction time) Ireland roads would be enough mental torture without having to adjust to a manual transmission as well.

In the end, we went with the manual transmission. Don't remember why (though I know it is substantially cheaper). Had no trouble at all, except for almost rolling into the rental car parked in front of me at the airport because I couldn't find reverse. And except for constantly going to the "wrong" side of the car to enter (but that has nothing to do with manual vs. auto).

Manual shift worked out for me, and that is what I'll use from now on. On the other hand, if you have no experience with either left-side driving or manual shift, it's safest to pick automatic for a first-timer. Depending on how long you will be there, you could rent an automatic for the first few days/week and then if you are comfortable switch to manual if you feel so inclined.

Have a great trip!

Posted by
9 posts

I agree with the others who recommend the automatic. One thing to add... if you get an economy car the ride will be very rough. We rented a Kia Picanto (automatic) and found that we could not drive as fast due to the short wheel base and low profile tires. We bounced all over the road when we got over 80 km/hr. The larger cars may be trickier on the narrow roads, but this is handled by making careful passes slowly with oncoming vehicles. Take into account the fatigue factor from "rough-riding" all day. If you are young the econo car is probably fine, but if you or your passengers are older or have physical problems consider something a bit bigger to smooth out the ride..