Guide to Rental Cars in Britain

by Ben Johnson

Renting a hire car is often the most convenient way to travel around the UK, especially if your visit is going to be centred around visiting historic sites.

It goes without saying that the UK drives on the left hand side of the road, but if you’re coming from abroad then we also recommend reading this guide to British road signs.

Roads in Britain are nearly all toll-free with the exception of central London (where a ‘congestion zone’ is in place), the M6 toll-road to the north of Birmingham, and also the occasional bridge and tunnel.

Motorways are usually three or four lanes but can get extremely busy at rush hour. Other major roads include ‘A’ roads, many of which are dual carriageways and have the same 70mph speed limit as motorways.

In terms of rental car companies, the largest are Hertz, Enterprise, Avis, National, Alamo and Budget. Prices do vary between the different companies but not by a huge amount, so we would suggest going with whichever provider you’re most familiar with.

Rental car companies will also offer you the option to take out insurance on your rental which will either lower or completely remove any excess for collisions or damage. Here at Historic UK we usually decided to opt in for this insurance, although the decision is completely up to you.

Our Top Tips for Driving in Britain

Drive on the left!

Be prepared for lots of roundabouts.

Most cars have manual gearboxes (i.e. use a gearstick). If you are only qualified to drive automatics or prefer an automatic, then be sure to request one.

Overtaking on the inside (also known as undertaking) is illegal.

The UK is full of speed cameras so don’t speed.

Motorway speed limits are 70mph.

Try and refuel at supermarkets as they are nearly always cheaper than at service stations. Sainsburys, Tescos, Morrisons and Asda are usually the cheapest.

Useful Links

The AA’s Route Planner

The Highway Agency

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