A Guide to Car Hire in the UK

Hiring a car or van isn’t always the easiest or cheapest experience. Within hidden costs, additional charges and poor customer service putting off potential vehicle hirers. But here at Gatwick Car and Van Rental, you can rest assured that our customers will only receive the best possible customer care, without the possibility of being stung by unforeseen expenses. This article will help you to avoid common mistakes, making for nothing but a pleasant vehicle hire experience.

Car hire in the UK

Renting a car in the UK is fairly simple, especially if you’re already a resident. Rules are still in place to ensure the safety of both yourself and their vehicle, so it’s important that they’re adhered to. You will still be asked for all the necessary documentation, including (generally) two forms of photo identification and a full UK driving license. Some companies many require you to have a certain amount of driving experience, or be over a certain age (sometimes 25) to hire a car with them.

If you’re hiring a vehicle to use while you’re on holiday here in Britain, here are a few useful pieces of information to help you ease into the new road system:

Speed Limits:

  • City driving – 30mph/48kph unless stated otherwise
  • Open/country roads – 60mph/96kph
  • Single lane carriageways – 60mph/96kph
  • Motorways – 70mph/112kph
  • Dual carriageways – 70mph/112kph

Petrol/Gas Stations:

  • Gasoline is known as petrol in the UK
  • Petrol/gas stations are widely available, with some being open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week


  • There are many multi-story car parks that display the price, per number of hours, before you enter.
  • Some parking will require you to put coins into a machine to get a ticket which you must display on the dashboard, enabling it to be read easily by a traffic warden. Not doing this could land you with a fine.
  • There may be some places to park which are free, but check any signs to make sure you aren’t overstaying the free period, or you could risk getting a fine.


  • Tolls aren’t common in the UK.
  • All road users entering the city of London during a week day will have to pay a congestion charge.
  • The M6 motorway also has a toll, so make sure you have upwards of £5 in change if you’re driving a car (all information correct as of June 2019). Although, there are alternative routes which enables you to avoid the toll, so do some research before your journey.

Here are some more useful driving tips for UK visitors 

Booking tips

It’s important, before you set out to hire a car or a van, that you consider your vehicle requirements. The smallest available car may not suit your needs. Consider the number of passengers you will be carrying and the amount of luggage you may have, for example. 

Comfort and safety is also an important factor in the hiring of a vehicle, so research the make and model of the car or van fully and read online reviews to gauge whether that particular vehicle is right for you. Before you sign the contract, and for your own peace of mind, ensure you carry out the following checks:

Check what the rate includes – it’s important to know exactly what the rate includes. Where the initial price may be unbelievably cheap, there could be hidden costs.

Make sure you’re well protected – in Europe, car rental companies generally offer Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and Third Party Liability (TPL) cover, with theft Protection (TP) most likely being an optional extra. We recommend checking that you’re fully covered to avoid liability if the vehicle is stolen or damaged.

Check age restrictions – many companies will charge a premium for drivers under 21 and high performance vehicles may be limited to those over the age of 25 and many won’t rent to those older than 70.

Pre-book in the UK – if you’re going on holiday abroad, a pre-booked programme at a guaranteed rate is likely to be cheaper than booking your vehicle an alternative way. It will also ensure that you’re guaranteed a vehicle upon your arrival.

Rent from a widely recognised brand – renting from a reputable car rental company is advised, especially when abroad. They may provide cars of the latest models, operate in a broader network of locations and offer emergency roadside assistance. Also, if you have a complaint, they’re more likely to have a UK based office as your point of contact.

Check for bodywork damage – this should be done before you even get into the vehicle. It’s also recommended that whether you find some damages or not, to take photos of the car, ensuring they’re time stamped. You should also notify the company of any damages before driving away. If not, you could be charged for marks or scratches that you aren’t responsible for.

Check the fuel gauge and the tyres – check with the company how much fuel should be in the tank at the time of pick-up (you can also find this on the paperwork). If the fuel gauge doesn’t correspond to that, notify the rental company. You should also take the time to check the tyres, as well as the overall condition, you should also check the tread and their level of inflation.

Essentials for car pick-up

essential things to take when hiring a car in the UK

Before collecting your rental vehicle, there are a few documents which must be brought with you and subsequently checked before the car or van is released to you. These include:

  • Your passport
  • A full driving license
  • A credit card (preferably the one you paid on if pre-paid)

Some vehicle renting businesses may require more documentation, so check with the company before you go to collect the car or van. Failure to supply this documentation may result in you not being supplied with a vehicle.

Things to check before you go

Things to check when giving a hire car back in the UK

There are a few things which you must do before handing the vehicle back in. There are other things you can check simply for your own peace of mind. Always make sure that you’re complying with the company rules, which can be found in your paperwork.

Make sure that:

  • The fuel tank is full
  • You have checked for damages and you have taken time-stamped photographs
  • The tyre pressure is adequate
  • Windscreen wipers and sprayers are fully operational
  • All gadgets included are in fully working order

Here at Gatwick Car & Van Rental, we’re proud to be able to supply our customers with safe and reliable vehicles that you can count on. We even offer free breakdown cover in the unlikely event that you’ll need it. With a fleet of over 300 vehicles, you’re guaranteed to be supplied with a car or van that is right for you. If you’re looking to rent a vehicle from us here at Gatwick Car & Van Rental, then get in touch with a member of our friendly team today – we’re always happy to help.