When NOT to rent a car in England
A rental car is not always the best choice for a U.K. vacation
Do not rent a car just to get around a city.
In fact, avoid having a car in town at all costs.
Traffic is horrendous, signs confusing, street parking impossible to find, and half the place you want to go are closed to traffic (plus, in London, there's the daily congestion charge).
I can think of no aspect of travel less exciting, more stressful, or more wasteful of your precious time and cash.
Rather than seeing, say, Westminster Abbey and the Tower of London, you’ll wind up spending an hour or more crawling through traffic while you try to find your way into downtown from the spaghetti tangle of ring roads, then being repeatedly foiled by one-way street and do-no-enters as you try to worm your way into the historic center to your hotel, only to find out that your choices for parking are either £45 per night at the nearby garage or another hour's torturous drive to find a cheaper lot.
Who wants that?
Not only are cars useless in town—where public transportation is widespread, easy to use, and laughably cheap—but the parking fees will gobble at your travel budget.
Free curbside parking in cities is rare these days, open spaces even rarer, and often it’s just an invitation to have your window smashed.
So your best bet is a lot. However, whether it’s a public lot, private garage, or hotel garage, expect to pay anywhere from $20 to $75 a day—just to park a car you don’t actually need in the first place.
- Autoeurope.com - Wholesale prices on rentals (and short-term leases) from major rental companies. You end up picking up the car at the local Avis, Hertz, Europcar, or whatever office; you just pay less than the rack rate from those companies.Partner
- Rentalcars.com - Comparison shop the rates at multiple rental companies all at once.Partner
- Momondo.com - Comparison shop the rates at multiple rental companies all at once.Partner
- Europebycar.com - Offers both short-term rentals and short-term leases, making it easy to compare prices on a single site.
- Priceline.com - Actually finds good prices on U.K. rentals.Partner
- Vayama.com - aggregatorPartner
- Carrentals.com - This Expedia.com property searches about a dozen major rental companies at once.Partner
- Gov.uk - Official UK governmental rules of the road, guides to road signs and their meaning, and more
- Amazon.com - A link to get road maps of Great Britain.Partner
- Slowtrav.com - Nice article introducing all of the quirks of driving in the United Kingdom—not just how to drive on the left, but roundabouts, highway types, speed cameras, and handy tips.
- Orcutt.net - Almost comically in-depth blog entry—with loads of links—about driving in the U.K. This guy went way above and beyond what's necessary when planning to drive on his British vacation, but it is about the most complete explanation of being on the British road from a Yankee's point of view as you'll ever find. Some good tips.
- Theaa.com - The British version of AAA provides, among other things, a monthly gas prices chart and a map of traffic incidents and slowdowns.
- Parkopedia.co.uk - live parking maps
- Tfl.gov.uk - Driving in London
- Cclondon.com - All about the infamous "congestion charge" you have to pay if you happen to drive in central London.
- Urbanaccessregulations.eu - Central clearinghouse for information on every city in Europe (most, nowawdays) that has some sort of limited access to the city center, congestion charging, Low Emission Zones, or other wrinkle you need to be aware of.