9 Easy Tips to Know Before Renting a Car in Scotland

Renting a Car in Scotland

Wondering if it’s worth it to rent a car in Scotland? With countless sights to see around the country a Scotland rental car is definitely something to consider! Still, after our own road trip there’s so many things we wish we knew beforehand. Here’s the best tips for renting a car in Scotland and all about our own experience.

Do You Need a Rental Car When Visiting Scotland? 

Honestly, it all depends on the type of trip you’re planning. Are you heading to the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, or thinking about a longer adventure around the country? Scotland may look small on a map, but there is so much to do and see! Without renting a car in Scotland know that you’re really limiting yourself.

While there are public transportation options (more on this later), having a car hire will allow you to plan out the perfect itinerary. This way you’ll have the freedom to go on amazing hikes, see the small towns, and explore more on your own. 

We started our own route from the beautiful village of Stonehaven on the northeast coast. From there, we went to the Isle of Skye, Fort William, and ended in Edinburgh to see the famous castle. We even included a stop in the seafood capital of Scotland along the way!

Scotland Rental Car

9 Easy Tips For Renting a Car in Scotland

1. Book Your Scotland Car Rental in Advance

The first tip we can give you for a Scotland rental car is booking in advance. Is a renting a car in Scotland expensive? Yes, it definitely can be! We would even go as far to say it’s one of the most pricy countries in Europe to hire a vehicle. 

Nevertheless, there are always ways to save money and find great deals. One thing you should do is look as far in advance as possible for your rent a car in Scotland.

This is especially important if you’re traveling in the peak months of July and August. Prices can fluctuate, but more often than not it’s cheaper the further you plan ahead.

We always use this company when looking for vehicles in Europe. By doing a quick search, we can see it’s almost half price booking a few months out compared to last minute. 

Most rental sites also offer free cancellation. So even if you lock in a price and it drops later on it’s easy enough to make a new booking. 

Scotland Car Rental

2. Pick Up Your Rent a Car in Scotland At the Airport

The reasons for this are two fold. Most people will start their travels by flying into the main hubs at Glasgow or Edinburgh Airport. When planning a road trip, grabbing your car from the international airports is the easiest way to get out and explore. 

Now this won’t apply to everyone depending on your plans. For instance, if you’re going to visit one of these major cities before you get on the road then you’ll want to wait to get your car until after your stay in the city.

Both Edinburgh and Glasgow are very walkable and places where you wont need a vehicle. This means you should save these cities for the very beginning or end of your trip.

The second reason to pick up your rent a car in Scotland at an airport location is the prices. The best deals are typically found with rental companies at the airports as there is so much competition.

We also recommend looking into weekly rates for Scotland rental cars as they can often give price breaks for 7 days or longer.

Rental Car in Scotland

3. Watch the Weather

​It’s no secret that the weather in Scotland can be crazy at times. When looking at pictures of the Isle of Skye and other famous destinations, you’ll notice that it can look gloomy and rainy more often than not.

However, you don’t need to let that ruin your experience! The weather gives a certain mystique to the mountains and lochs that every traveler will appreciate.

Just make sure you’re prepared. If you’re not used to driving in these conditions you may want to opt for a good sized car and automatic transmission.

Also, be sure to pack your raincoat and other essentials to help stay dry. We put them in a large tote bag in the back of the car so we always had what we needed if the weather changed.

Scotland Rental Car Tips

4. Drive On the Left in Your Rental Car in Scotland 

Something to be aware of before renting a car in Scotland is that they drive on the left-hand side of the road. This is the same as the rest of the United Kingdom in England, Wales, and Ireland.

If you’re coming from the United States then this can definitely take some getting used to. Luckily for us, we had some experience with it renting a campervan in New Zealand and driving motorbikes in Southeast Asia.

Also, know that they use miles per hour and not kilometers on the roads in Scotland. This can be confusing as the rest of the country goes by the Metric system. I know we were very surprised to see it when we jumped in our Scotland rental car! 

Renting a Car in Scotland Tips

5. Prepare For the Tight Roads 

​We’re not going to sugarcoat it… The roads in Scotland are tight! Once you get off the main highways outside of the city you’ll notice this immediately. We consider ourselves pretty experienced drivers, and even we struggled at times with the narrow roads. 

Some places (especially around Loch Ness) will have single tracks where you’ll need to pull over at a designated passing spots to let other cars go. So when you mix that with driving on the left and the wild weather, you may have a tricky time.

While renting a larger car may feel more comfortable, know that smaller may be better with the size of the roads in Scotland. The best tip we can give you is to travel at your own pace and take your time. Don’t hesitate to pull over and let locals pass when you get the opportunity. 

Tips for Your Scotland Rental Car

6. See the Scottish Highlands

Something that brings millions of travelers to Scotland every year is the unreal scenery and epic views. Many of the most beautiful destinations are located in the Scottish Highlands where the large lakes and green mountains seem to go on forever. 

Honestly, if you don’t plan to see this part of the country you’re doing yourself a disservice! The Isle of Skye truly exceeded our expectations and was one of our favorite travel experiences in the country.

This is just another reason to rent a car in Scotland. Having a vehicle will allow you to drive the scenic routes, tour the magical castles, and truly embrace the nature of this special region.

One of our favorite memories was staying in Fort William in the highlands and doing some downhill mountain biking at Nevis Range. We also found and Airbnb right in the Isle of Skye near the stunning Fairy Pools and Old Man of Storr hike. It would have been nearly impossible with our time frame to do all of this stuff without a rental car in Scotland.

Rent a Car in Scotland

7. Bring Your Scotland Rental Car on the Ferry

Something to be aware of when renting a car in Scotland is the ferry system. Depending on your route, you may find yourself crossing the lochs and seas by boat. This can be a fun way to get out on the water and also can be a time saver.

We used the ferry service to get from Armadale to Mallaig on our way back from the Scotland Highlands. We really enjoyed the quick boat ride and it even cut our travel time in half for that day. 

If this is going to be a part of your plan be sure to book your ferry in advance. In the peak summer months you should buy your ferry tickets several days beforehand as they fill up fast. 

How to Take the Isle of Skye Ferry From Mallaig to Armadale

Renting a Car in Scotland Ferry

8. Check Insurance Coverage

No matter where you’re traveling in the world you’ll always want to have insurance. Personally, we use our credit card company to cover us abroad.

If you don’t have insurance that transfers over to Scotland then you’ll want to purchase the additional coverage from your chosen rental company… But the job doesn’t end there!

When picking up your rent a car in Scotland it’s time walk around it and check for damage. Overall, we thought the cars were in good shape compared to other countries we’ve been to. Just know they’ve probably seen their fare share of wild stuff on these roads.

​Take pictures while walking around your Scotland rental car and have any damage noted on the contract. We even go as far as to take a video of the entire vehicle before driving off.

Even if you do have insurance, noting any damage can save you any hassles when you return. It’s also not a bad idea to have an international driver’s license when renting cars in different countries.

Scotland Rental Car Guide

9. Public Transportation vs Renting a Car in Scotland

Scotland has a large network of trains and buses that can get you to different places around the country. Specifically, the trains can be a fun and easy way to get between the cities and towns.

Once we had our travel dates, we looked into getting around Scotland by train and were a bit shocked. The prices were way more then we expected! After this realization it made way more sense to rent a car in Scotland.

Now the buses are another story. We did see several stops even in the Scottish Highlands, but very few actual passengers waiting for them. So if you’re not interested in renting a car in Scotland know that you do have options! Still, a rental car is the best way to get the most out of your experience.

Another way to see some of the most beautiful places is by taking a guided tour. Bus tours run from the big cities regularly and can be a decent way to see the famous sites. With that said, there’s nothing like having your own vehicle and the freedom to explore on your own. Check out our full Scotland route below to see how we used our car. 

10 Day Scotland Road Trip Itinerary: Our Epic Highlands Adventure

Rental Car Scotland

Have any questions about this article or want to share your own tips for renting a car in Scotland? Leave us a comment below!

Safe Travels,
Brigitte & Jake

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Scotland Rental Car

Scotland Travel Planning

More Posts: Dunnottar Castle  – Balmoral Castle Eilean Donan Castle Urquhart Castle Royal Mile 

 Rental Car: The best way to get around Scotland is by rental car! We always use Discover Cars when traveling in Europe and have found some great deals by booking in advance.

Transportation: Omio is a great place to search for trains, buses, and transfers while traveling through Scotland.

 Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for activities all over Scotland. You can find everything from a Scottish Highlands tour from Edinburgh to a Loch Ness boat cruise, Harry Potter Magical Guided Walking Tour, and even chocolate making classes.

 Flights: It’s easy to find cheap flight deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. That’s how we got flights from London to Aberdeen for $30 USD and Edinburgh to Budapest for less than $80! 

 Accommodation: Compare multiple sites for the best prices such as Booking.com and Agoda. Also,  Hostelworld should be your go-to if you’re traveling on a budget. 

 Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without protection. We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.

 Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials

Scotland Travel

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