Over-age-70 drivers in Ireland, driving Mediterranean islands


Q

Steve, I have heard that a driver over 70 years of age cannot rent a car in the Irish Republic. I called the Irish tourist office and their representative did not seem to know much about it but said it was probably “an insurance thing.” What can you tell me about this? Is it the government, the rental car companies or the insurance companies — or all three — that are behind this age discrimination? Are there any exceptions? Could we rent a car in Belfast, which is in the U.K., and then drive it into Ireland? — Thomas McKenna, Montpelier, VT

A

Dear Thomas, all rental car companies have a minimum rental age, usually 25 years. And some also have an age cap, especially in Ireland.

Enterprise Rent A Car says they have no maximum age limit there, but others cut you off at somewhere around 69 to 75 years.

If you meet certain requirements, such as an exceptional driving record, and select a designated car (perhaps one they’re hoping to get rid of?), Hertz may make exceptions up to 79 years.

In Belfast, Northern Ireland, Alamo, Avis and National appear to have no upper age limits, although Budget, Hertz, Enterprise and others do.

Most Northern Ireland car companies will allow you to take your car south into Ireland, either for free or for a modest fee, provided you return it to your original rental location. A dropoff fee is added for one-way rentals.
I was able to locate car rental age maximums in England, Italy, Denmark and several other countries and recall having run across this problem occasionally, but I feel that if you search hard enough, you can get around this roadblock.

I tried checking Irish driving laws and could find none that were discriminatory against seniors, so I suspect it’s the insurance that’s causing this problem. Some companies do have insurance surcharges as the upper age limit is approached, just as they do for young drivers.

Be safe, and drive on the left in Ireland.

Q

Steve, I saw in the July ’06 issue of ITN your comment that using frequent-flyer miles for a one-way trip “logically. . . cost only half the miles of a round trip.” It’s always been my impression that the airlines charge the same amount for a ticket regardless of its being one way or round trip. I am using Delta in October for a flight on Air France from Washington to Lisbon, and I am certainly being charged the round-trip mileage. — Harvey Lampert, North Bethesda, MD

A

Dear Harvey, you ever say something and wish you hadn’t? The minute I read your letter I realized I mixed up their upgrade program with their free tickets.

Upgrades are calculated for each direction, while most airlines charge the same for a “free” ticket whether it’s one way or round trip. Some airlines do give a break in this regard, but Delta is not one of them.
You’ll find an excellent site to review and compare frequent-flyer plans at www.webflyer.com.

Q

Steve, are there ferries I can take to visit Corsica, Sardinia and Malta? Perhaps you know of other islands in the vicinity that I could add to my list. If there are ferries, should I rent a car on the mainland to take with me or should I wait and rent a car in each location? — Nancy Tan, Fresno, CA

A

Dear Nancy, Corsica (France) has ferry service from both France and Italy, while Sardinia (Italy) is served from Italy. Malta (an independent country) has ferry service from several ports on mainland Italy and Sicily (Italy). There is also some limited ferry service between Corsica and Sardinia, but, offhand, I doubt you can include Malta without going back to the mainland first.

Taking a car on a ferry can be expensive, so I would recommend you rent yours locally.

For an island pretty much unvisited by North Americans, consider Pantelleria (Italy). It’s ancient, remote and fairly untouched by tourism, with only about 10 hotels, yet there is daily hydrofoil service from Trapani, Sicily, for €34 per person, one way. No vehicles are taken on this service, but the island is small enough that, once you’re there, you can get along without renting a car.

—Ask Steve is written by Steve Venables.