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Car Hire Abroad

A guide to hiring a car abroad

Mehdi Punjwani
Written by  Mehdi Punjwani
Saarrah Mussa
Reviewed by  Saarrah Mussa
5 min read
Updated: 12 Mar 2024

It’s advisable that you book your car hire abroad in advance, to prevent last-minute hassle and inflated prices at airport desks. Organising your vehicle well ahead of time means you’re more likely to get a better deal as well as a greater choice in cars - and it’s always less stressful being able to take your time when deciding. Here’s a guide to hiring a car abroad and everything you’ll need to consider.

Key takeaways

  • Valid UK driving licence and passport are essential

  • Obtain your driving licence code from the DVLA website for rental verification

  • Ensure your passport has at least six months’ validity

  • Pay in local currency to avoid unfavorable exchange rates

car hire

Requirements for hiring a car abroad 

At the very least you’ll need a valid UK driving licence as well as your passport to hire a car abroad, while some countries may also require an International Driving Permit (IDP).  

You might even need to access your driving licence code through the DVLA website, as some car rentals will want to see your driving record. The code gives the rental company temporary access to your driving record, and it’s valid for 21 days from when you get it. 

Post-Brexit requirements 

You should make sure your passport has at least six months validity when travelling - including in Europe too, since Britain has left the EU. Additionally, post-Brexit there is no longer a European Health Insurance Card - instead you’ll need a Global Health Insurance Card instead. However, if your current EHIC hasn’t expired it should still be valid. Just remember this isn’t a replacement for travel insurance with medical expenses cover, so we recommend you take this out separately too. 

If you have a UK-issued photocard driving licence, you won’t need an IDP to travel in the EU, even post-Brexit, as well as Norway, Switzerland, and Lichtenstein. However, if you only have a paper licence, or a photocard licence from Jersey, Guernsey or the Isle of Man, then you may need an IDP. These cost £5.50 from the Post Office, but you’ll need to be a UK resident over 18 to qualify.   

Car rental insurance abroad 

When you hire a car abroad, it will come with insurance included - however cover is often minimal, and there is almost always a high excess fee in place. As such, it’s recommended that you take out car hire excess insurance separately to reimburse your high excess payment.  Some car rental companies offer super collision damage waivers (SCDW) or other extras to mitigate their high excess costs, but these can also be relatively expensive compared to finding your own excess insurance. Additionally, they may also offer other add-ons that can be tiresome to deal with, especially after a long flight - so be sure to check and understand everything before agreeing.  

Understanding fuel policies  

Most car rental companies have two different policies for fuel charges:  

  • Full-full is when your car has a full tank upon you receiving it, and it’s expected you’ll return the car with a full tank too. This is the most common option with car rental companies - be sure to top up the tank as close as possible to the rental location 

  • Full-empty is the other option and likely less preferable - you’ll be expected to return it empty and won’t be refunded any fuel left in the tank so it can be expensive. Additionally, you don’t want to risk running out of petrol before you can return the car, so it’s better to opt for full-full where possible 

Payment tips for car rental abroad 

It’s recommended that you pay in local currency, as you might find exchange rates to be unfavourable in comparison. Additionally, it’s wise to pay by credit card so you can take advantage of Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act - this provides valuable cover for purchases between £100 and £30,000 if there’s an issue with the car.  

Key considerations when renting a car abroad 

To ensure your trip goes as smoothly as possible, keep the following in mind:  

  • If there’s any damage on the car when you first get the keys, before driving it take photos to keep as evidence that it was there prior to your hire - and ensure it’s noted on your rental agreement so you aren’t charged for it 

  • Check and double check your insurance policy, and try and get comprehensive cover if it’s available  

  • Familiarise yourself with local road and driving rules, and ensure you and the car are compliant  

  • Check for limits on mileage and ensure it’s enough - and check for extra charges for exceeding the mileage limit 

  • Arrange an emergency contact you can call should the car break down or if there is an accident  

  • Bring your own child seat if you’re travelling with children as a way to save money - you might even be able to bring it on the airplane without any extra charges, though you should check beforehand 

Why compare with MoneySuperMarket?

Getting cheap travel insurance is easier when you compare quotes with MoneySuperMarket. Just tell us about yourself, where you’re going and whether you need any extras insured and we’ll search the market for deals that meet your needs.   You can compare quotes by the overall cost of the policy, the cover you get, and the excess you’ll need to pay. Once you’ve found the one you want, just click through to the provider’s website to finalise your purchase.   

Frequently asked questions

Can you take a hire car abroad?

You’ll need permission from the car hire company if you want to take a hire car abroad. 

Do I still need a DVLA code to hire a car abroad?

You might need a DVLA code to hire a car abroad, it will depend on the car hire company and if they run that type of check

Can I drive a car in Europe with a UK licence?

You can drive in Europe with a UK licence, just be sure to keep it on your person when driving at all times. 

Can I drive a UK hire car abroad?

UK car hire companies will usually let you take your hire car to Europe, but you will need to check with them beforehand. You may have to pay an extra fee to do so. 

Can I rent a car and drive it across Europe?

You should be able to drive a hire car across European borders, however you’ll need to inform your car hire company where you’ll be going, and pay any potential extra charges there might be. 

Do I need a green card to drive in Europe?

Green cards aren’t required for driving in the EU, as well as Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland, and Serbia. It might be necessary if you’re going to Turkey, Albania, Ukraine or Russia. 

What age do I have to be to rent a car in Europe?

The minimum age for hiring a car in Europe varies by country, usually between 18 and 21. In the UK it is 21, while in Spain, France and Italy it’s 18. Some car hire companies might even require that you be at least 25 years old.