I decided to write this post after having a series of discussions with multiple readers of the site on the topic of cars. People seem to have many questions related to cars, insurance, licensing etc, so I figured it'd be a good idea to answer them, in a quick-fire fashion, in a blogpost. Feel free to chime in where you have something to add...


Question 1: Can I drive in Ireland using a foreign driver’s license? 

The answer to this is simply yes. However, you are restricted in length of time you can drive in Ireland before you must acquire a full Irish driver's license. I wrote a little bit about this in another blog post. 12 months is the current limitation, then (depending on your current license country/place of issuance, you may need to take driving instruction classes, and pass the Irish driving test. More details at the link. There is also a possibility that you can ‘trade in’ your foreign license for an Irish one. The information on that is available on NDLS.ie.


Question 2: Can I get auto insurance in Ireland using a foreign driver’s license?

Strongly linked to the first question, with the same answer of yes. The 12 month restriction will be enforced for insurance purposes. You may also have to shop a little harder to find companies who will provide coverage. This topic is covered in the blog post at this link.


Question 3: Do I need to have an Irish driver’s license to buy a car in Ireland?

Nope! You will be allowed to buy one with a foreign license. However, you must have proof of insurance before you are allowed behind the wheel.


Question 4: Is it true that in Ireland cars are driven on the left hand side of the road?

Yes! Ireland, along with a few other countries, requires that you drive on the left. Don't worry, you'll get the hang of it pretty soon. The steering wheel of the car will be on the right side, and if you're used to changing gears with your right hand, you'll now have to adjust to doing it with your left.


Question 5: Are most cars manual or automatic transmission?

Almost all cars in Ireland are operated with a manual transmission. Automatic cars are pretty common at car rental companies, as they know they are catering to many tourists. However, when you're buying a car in Ireland, you'll have a lot more options to choose from if you can drive a manual (a.k.a stick-shift).
Also, you should note that if you pass your driving test in an automatic car, you will not be licensed to drive manual cars. You would need to re-take the test in a manual car if you end up wanting to drive that type of car also.


Question 6: Is insurance expensive?

The cost of insurance is one of the biggest inhibiting factors when renting a car in Ireland. However, when you are buying one, you will have far more options available to you, and therefore be in a position to get the best deal. The answer to this question is not straightforward, as it depends on so many factors e.g. your driving history, your age, the age/condition of the car etc. To minimize insurance costs, be sure to get a letter of insurance history from your previous insurer before you move to Ireland. If this letter states you have had a clean driving history for at least the last 5 years, you will save quite a bit on your premium.


Question 7: How difficult is it to pass the Irish driving test?

It's certainly not easy. According to the stats on RSA.ie the pass rate in 2014, averaged across the country, was 53.35%. That means that almost 1 in 2 tests ended in failure! This wasn't a bad year either. In 2013 the rate was 55%, and in 2013 it was 56%. You can brush up on the Irish rules of the road at http://www.rulesoftheroad.ie/ (You can download the 260+ page handbook in PDF format on that site, or buy a hardcopy in Irish bookshops, or on Amazon.com here)


Question 8: Where can I buy a car in Ireland?

Like most things these days, the internet is the first stop most people make when looking for a car. Whether you're looking for a specific car type, or just want to browse by price or category, then the web is a great place to start. AutoTrader.ie, CarsIreland.ie, and CarZone.ie are all worth a browse.

You can go the more traditional route too, and just stop in to your local car dealership or give them a call. Almost all of them have websites of their own too, or at the very least publish their inventory to one/all of the named websites.

There are plenty of used car dealerships where you'll find cars that can be a little bit more hit-and-miss. The price you'll pay will almost certainly be lower than at one of the main dealers, but you won't get the same peace of mind. If you are looking for a used car, keep in mind that most main dealers usually offer quite good warranties e.g. 12 months, 100% parts and labour. You may be able to negotiate this if it's not included, but you’ll have less of a bargaining chip at a small-time dealership.

You also have the option to buy a car from a private person. Many people looking to get the best price for their car will try selling it online themselves (also try DoneDeal.ie), or advertise it in the paper, or park it up on the side of the road with a number to call. Buying this way is definitely a case of buyer beware, so be sure you know what you're getting.


Question 9: What other costs are involved in buying a car?

Some of other costs you might encounter include:

  • Car registration
  • Road tax
  • The National Car Test (not for new cars)
  • VAT


If there are any other questions please add them below in the comments are send me a message using this form.


Happy driving 🙂

image credit: Flickr/micsworld