The first thing that you need to know if you want to rent in a car in the U.K. and you are not from the U.K. is that car rental companies in American English are car hires in U.K. English. The second thing that you should know is that if you are coming from Europe or the Americas, you will be driving on the opposite side of the road of what you are used to.

GETTING STARTED

There are plenty of car hire companies in the U.K. from big global names like Alamo, Avis, Hertz and Enterprise to smaller and lesser known local companies. Their prices often vary and most companies often have some kind of a promotion going on so it is worthwhile to do some research to see who has the best offer at the time. Many of the U.K. car hires offer week-end 3 day specials. You can usually book online and make your booking before you even enter the U.K. but you will need a credit card, a valid driver’s license and your passport number.

WHAT YOU NEED

If you have been living in the U.K. for more than 6 months, there is a law that states that you hold an international driver’s license if you do not have a U.K. driving license. But if you are visiting and have not been in the U.K. more than 6 months, the driving license from your own country is sufficient. Note that in the U.K. it is called a driving license and not driver’s license. You will also need to show your passport and the car hire company will make and keep a photocopy of it. Many car hire companies require that you pay with a credit card and they take an imprint of your card for a refundable deductible in case there is any accidental damage to the car.

MANUAL VERSUS AUTOMATIC

Most cars in the U.K. are manual transmission. If you do not stipulate otherwise you will automatically get a car with manual transmission. There is usually a surcharge for cars with automatic transmission. However because they are rare they are often not available and if you have asked for an automatic you might very well be upgraded from the model you selected. Being upgraded to a better model used to be a good thing. With the price of petrol these days, being upgraded to a larger car that requires more petrol is not necessarily a good thing. So remember that if you need to hire an automatic transmission vehicle to try to book well in advance.

SELECTING CAR SIZE

If you are coming from a country with wide streets and highways such as Canada and the U.S.A. it is important to consider the size of U.K. roads. There are many U.K. roads which are two-way streets but do not have the room for two wide cars. If you are not accustomed to driving in the U.K. and on the left hand side of the road, it is probably wise to select as small a car as possible. It also makes parking in the U.K. a lot easier.

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