London is a well-connected city with a well-developed public transport network. The Tube, Overground, DLR, bus routes or train services run regularly, connecting the city and its surrounding areas. If you are planning on visiting London for a short period, make the most of public transport as all of London’s main attractions are easily accessible in a short walk from a tube or bus stop.
Ii you plan on staying longer and want to explore the areas around London or even venture further afield on a day trip from London, hiring a car is an easy way to do this. To help you decide whether a rental car in London is the best transportation option for your trip, here is a guide answering questions on how to hire a car, what is needed and much more to help you decide.
- Car Rental In London
- Do I Need A Car Rental In London?
- Best Car Rental Sites
- General Driving Tips To Be Aware Of In London
- Most Popular Driving Destinations from London
Car Rental In London
Do I Need A Car Rental In London?
Should you rent a car in London?
This is one of the biggest questions to consider when you are planning a trip to London, particularly if you plan on staying for a week or more.
The best way to decide whether to rent a car is to weigh the pros and cons.
- Hiring a car in London opens up more of the southeast and south of England to you during your visit and gives you great freedom to spend your time.
- London’s transport network is one of the best in the world, however getting to a specific destination could mean multiple tube changes and the addition of other forms of transport, such as a train or bus, to get to where you are going. By hiring a car, you use one mode of transport only and don’t have to worry about making connections.
- London offers car hire by the hour at some in-person and app-based stores. This gives you added freedom and flexibility to see the places you want without being held down by a timetable or a lengthy rental agreement.
- London is a congested city with a lot of daily traffic. This can create a stressful driving atmosphere, particularly if you are new to the city.
- London has a range of laws to help reduce the number of cars on its roads. There is a congestion charge made payable for the day you are driving in the city, the ULEV charge, which is payable if your car does not meet specific emissions standards, some tolls, and then of course, expensive parking charges.
- Parking in London is very limited. Many streets are ‘red routes’ where no stopping is allowed. Stopping here will result in a hefty fine and your vehicle being towed. Where parking is available, spaces are limited and very expensive, even in car parks or multi-storeys.
If you decide to rent a car, here’s what you need to know:
What’s Required To Rent A Car In London?
A valid photocard driving licence is required to hire a car in London.
If the licence is not written in English, a valid International Driving Permit must also be shared when booking and collecting the car.
If you only have a licence for an automatic car, ensure that you book one, as you risk losing your deposit.
Proof of address
You will be required to share your address in the form of a bill or agreement in your name with the rental company.
If you are not a UK citizen and are hiring a car, you will also be required to give the address of where you are staying during your trip.
Credit or Debit Card
This is needed to secure your vehicle when booking online and may be required again when you collect your vehicle.
If you have fully paid for your vehicle before collection and have purchased insurance and collision waivers, your card might only be used to confirm the purchase and ID.
If all you have paid is a deposit, you will have to pay the full amount on collection and may need to purchase extras.
Ideally, drivers should be over the age of 25 (it’s possible to be younger but there are additional costs).
To hire a car in England, you must be over the age of 23 and have held your licence for at least a year before hiring a car.
Many companies will not rent a car to you if you are under 25, and those that do often increase their costs in what is known as a Young Driver Surcharge.
This additional cost varies from company to company, so be sure to check their policies carefully.
You will be required to have valid insurance in the form of both travel insurance and car hire excess insurance.
This is often included as part or as an added extra on your rental agreement.
Car hire companies typically offer additional insurance packages such as Collision Damage Waiver or Loss Damage Waivers.
Some companies include this as part of your vehicle hire cost, while others have this as an optional add-on.
Carefully read your policy beforehand to be aware of any deductible you may be responsible for, and thoroughly read the terms and conditions to ensure you aren’t paying for things you don’t need.
A deductible is an amount you will be responsible for paying towards any damage to the vehicle before the insurance comes in.
For example, if you take a policy when renting a car with a £1000 deductible and get into an accident or damage the car, you are liable to pay the first £1000.
With a 0 deductible, the car rental company and their insurance provider pay for everything, allowing you to drive away worry-free.
Passport and FMM tourist card/visa
International drivers need to produce their passports and provide details on return travel.
You may also be asked to share details on where you are staying in London and the UK.
What Cars Can You Rent In London?
London’s most popular hire cars are typically economy cars, including the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagen Polo.
Those looking for a smaller car more suited to inner-city driving typically opt for a Fiat 500.
There is however a wide range of cars available to hire in London depending on your needs.
If you are a solo traveller or are travelling with one other person and have little luggage, a mini or compact-style car would be a good choice.
Families with a lot of luggage should opt for one with more space in the back and a roomy boot to fit their cases comfortably in.
If you intend to drive a long way from London, a premium car such as a BMW 7 series or Porsche Panamera offers space and excellent ride comfort.
Cars in the UK typically have manual transmissions however, there are a large number of cars with automatic transmissions available from most car rental places in London.
These do tend to get booked up quickly, so if you require an automatic booking in advance is recommended.
How much does it cost on average to rent a car in London?
Depending on what vehicle you intend to hire and how far in advance you book, the daily, weekly or even monthly rates do vary.
For a small car, expect to pay an average of £45 per day; for a larger car, such as an SUV, this could increase to an average of £175 per day.
When browsing online for the best deals, be wary that the cheapest price you see may not include full coverage fees and potential other costs.
For more ideas around England, read:
- 40 England Landmarks
- 20 Hidden Gems in London
- 20 Day Trips From London
- 20 Famous Landmarks in London
- 20 Things To Do In London At Night
- 20 Best Beaches In England
- 20 Things To Do In Portsmouth
- 20 Things To Do In Sheffield
- 20 Things To Do In Ipswich
- 21 Things To Do In Nottingham
- 20 Things To Do In Bristol
- How To Rent A Car In London
- Best Time To Visit England
- The Borough Markets
- Which London Museums Should I Visit?
- The Gore London Review
- 10 Beautiful Villages in the Cotswolds
- 20 Things To Do In Southampton
- 20 Castles In London
- 21 Things To Do In Blackpool
- 20 Things To Do In Exeter
- 20 Best English Cities
- 20 Things To Do In Manchester
- 20 Things To Do In Newcastle
- 20 Things To Do In Leeds
Best Car Rental Sites
Enterprise is one of the highest-rated car hire companies in the United Kingdom.
The company has overwhelmingly high reviews.
With Enterprise, you are likely to get a good price and you won’t have to pay any fees if you need to cancel or amend your trip.
They have a wide range of cars on offer and they can be collected from a number of sites across London, including airports Heathrow and Gatwick, and at many in-person sites.
Enterprise also allows for drop-off at a different location.
Zipcar has an app that removes many complications around hiring a car in a big city, particularly if you only need it for a few hours.
Zipcar uses your location via their app to find the nearest car to you.
Once you have selected the vehicle you need, a more refined list is brought up.
Simply find your vehicle via the app, unlock it with your card or phone and enjoy your time!
It is possible to book round trips or a vehicle for a one-way journey as little as 15 minutes before you need it.
Zipcar includes 60 miles per day of travel, so be sure to factor this in before you book.
Discover Cars is a great online car rental site to use in London.
The site is easy to navigate and they offer the added bonus of no hidden costs, free cancellation and 24-hour support.
Discover Cars acts as a search engine of more than 500 rental car companies to find you the best deals for your trip.
Step By Step Guide
Enter your pick-up location into the search bar and add your desired pick-up date and time and when you intend to return the car. Then press search and let Discover Cars do the legwork for you.
Once the search is complete, you will be given a selection of initial vehicles to browse and can filter further by size, specification, extras and much more to ensure you have the best car for your planned journeys.
Each car displayed on Discover Cars shows you the mileage you can cover during your agreement and what is included.
Most vehicles on Discover Cars have no hidden fees, so your Collision Damage Waiver, theft protection and third-party liability insurance are all covered.
You also get a quick overview of the vehicles as you browse to help you learn more about the number of seats, space for luggage and transmission.
When you have found a vehicle that meets your needs, click ‘View’ to learn more.
At this stage, Discover Cars offer the optional extra of a full coverage package. This package is optional and covers a deductible/excess for damage and theft, repairs to damaged windows or wheels, towing fees, lost key or lockout fees and admin charges.
While your initial package includes the required third-party insurance, this package can be purchased for added peace of mind.
Once you are happy with all your choices and additional selections, scroll to the bottom of the page to view your summary (cost of rental plus full coverage), and your total displayed.
Depending on earlier options selected, you may have to pay the full amount at checkout, or make a partial payment with the remaining balance payable at pick up.
Simply fill in your details and book now to secure your car for your London vacation.
2- Collecting the car
Before setting off to London, bring the required documents needed to hire your car.
This would include your ID, passport, proof of address, copies of your rental agreement and accompanying documents (insurance and add-ons purchased), and your credit or debit card.
Once you have been given your keys, ask for additional copies of your policies and agreements from the rental office, and be sure to get information on when they are open and how you can contact them in an emergency.
When you arrive at your vehicle, check the make and model match your agreement, and ensure that the transmission is correct for your booking.
Then check the exterior and interior for any damages and general wear and tear, and ensure that you have both photographed them and told the rental car representative.
A diagram sheet is used at this stage to note any damage, which you and the rental car representative will sign to ensure you are not charged for any damages that aren’t your fault.
Make sure have a copy of this sheet before you leave.
Finally, before setting off and enjoying your time in and around London, take a photo of the date and time displayed in the car, the current mileage and the fuel gauge.
Depending on your policy, you may be limited to how many miles you can drive or how much fuel you need to fill up with on return.
3- Returning the car
When you return the car, come prepared with the documentation you presented when you first collected your car, including copies of the policy and any other documentation you were given on collection.
Before returning your car, ensure that you have refilled the car as per your agreement.
Try to find a petrol station close to the drop-off location to avoid having to pay expensive refuelling costs when you arrive.
It is a good idea to have a quick tidy of the vehicle too to ensure no rubbish has been left behind and it is in good condition.
Head to your specified drop-off and make a note of where you have parked.
Before leaving your vehicle, check outside and inside for any damages and photograph these ready to share with the company representative. They will also typically check the car too.
General Driving Tips To Be Aware Of In London
• Cars drive on the left in London and the rest of the UK.
• Drivers and passengers must wear seatbelts.
• Be wary of the congestion charge. Most drivers in London will need to pay the congestion charge when driving in central London. Signs will inform you when you enter or leave the congestion charge zone. Driving in the congestion charge is a flat fee of £15 per day.
• Be aware of the ULEZ charge covering most of London. Ask your car rental company before driving off if you need to pay this charge. There is a flat £12.50 rate to drive inside the ULEZ zone if your car does not meet the standards.
• London’s roads are busy all of the time. Take your time and pre-plan your route ahead of time. It may be worth scanning your map app or GPS so you know where you are heading.
• Avoid driving in bus lanes; they are enforced 24/7 and driving in these areas will result in a fine.
• Do not enter a yellow box junction, these are designed to keep busy crossroads clear of traffic and blocking one can result in a fine.
• Red routes, marked by signs and double red lines on the road, indicate a route that cannot be stopped on. Red routes are operated 24/7, with no exceptions.
• Parking can be difficult. Check for parking close to your destination before you set off and use your SatNav or GPS to guide you to the car park.
• Do not park on a double yellow line, these work the same as red routes.
• Hours of control for parking are usually well displayed so be sure to check carefully before leaving your car.
• London is filled with speed cameras, so ensure you are driving at the correct speed to avoid a fine.
• Some areas of London do not allow left or right turns or U-turns. There may also be streets that are one-way or that have no access.
• The city is busy with cars, pedestrians and cyclists, so stay calm and be aware of your surroundings.
• While London’s roads are always busy, avoid the busiest rush hour peak times.
• Minimise distractions while driving around the city. There is much going on around you to pay attention to, so reduce the risk of getting lost or an accident by waiting till you are on the open road before listening to music.
Most Popular Driving Destinations from London
• Stonehenge – a prehistoric stone circle still in use by Pagans today.
• Brighton – on the south coast of Britain. A great day trip destination to enjoy the best of the British seaside.
• Windsor – Home of Windsor Castle, one of the Royal Residences, and Legoland Windsor, the perfect day-out destination with kids.
• White Cliffs of Dover – iconic chalky-white cliffs looking across the English Channel towards France.
In conclusion, renting a car in London can be a great way to explore outside of the city itself but it’s important to be aware of the requirements, costs, and driving tips to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. If you intend on hiring a car, plan and book only for the duration you need, and research plenty of things to do away from the city.
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