England is a country of contrasts and depending on the program of your stay, renting a car can be as much a brake as it is an essential stopover.
Rent a car in London, useful or not?
London, first of all, is not a very practical city for cars. From Monday to Friday, from 7am to 6pm, the English capital has introduced a tax, the “Congestion Charge”, which applies to all vehicles wishing to enter the most central areas (the “Congestion Charge Zone”): St James’s, Waterloo, Covent Garden, London Bridge, Soho, Westminster, Finsbury are some of the areas concerned.
The entrance to this area is marked by signs with a white C in a red circle, often doubled by a ground marking as shown in this photo.
All vehicles wishing to drive in the congestion charge zone must pay a tax of £11.50 per day, payable on the London transport site. The measure aims to limit traffic and pollution in central London.
It is possible to reduce this tax by £1 per day by registering your vehicle in the Congestion Charge Auto Pay (CC Auto Pay) program, a direct debit system for Congestion Charge.
Outside these periods, i. e. on weekends, public holidays or during the period between Christmas and New Year’s Day, traffic is free. However, parking spaces are limited: some streets work with a “Pay & Display” system, such as French parking meters: you have to buy a ticket that you can place prominently on your windshield. It is often possible to pay by phone with “Pay by phone” systems or by creating an account on your mobile; you can pay for your parking directly.
The Parkopedia site is an excellent reference for viewing parking by district and parking rates in London. A day in a car park can cost between £20 and £50.
As you will have understood, renting a car in London is not necessarily a good idea if you only stay in the capital. The city is very well served by public transport, with a wide range of services adapted to all budgets, whether it is metro, bus, suburban train (DLR, overground, etc.)… Or even taxi.
Rent a car outside London
Many English cities with a high level of tourism are well served by train: Bath, Oxford, Cambridge, and Brighton to name but a few. These are cities on a human scale, which can be visited on foot and thanks to the local bus network without any problems. Large urban areas often have a well-developed transport network as well (such as Manchester and its “Metrolink” tramway).
On the other hand, if you plan to move a little further away from the city centers, renting a car can quickly become essential. Some areas, such as Cornwall or the heart of Sussex, are poorly served by public transport, with areas of forest or countryside without any stations on the horizon.
Nature lovers who want to visit places like the Winkworth Arboretum or the Forest of Dean will avoid real transportation problems with a car.
The many small villages in the beautiful Cotswolds region are also difficult to visit without a vehicle. Similarly, the tourist site of Stonehenge, for example, is 2 miles (more than 3 km) from the nearest bus stop and 9.5 miles (more than 15 km) from the nearest station.
In short, you will have understood that the need to rent a car in England depends above all on the planning of your stay, the city where you are going and your travel tastes (very “urban” stay or exploration of more remote places).
How to rent a car in England?
The easiest way is to make your reservation in advance on the Internet. You can either go directly to an international car rental agency (Europcar, Sixt, Avis, Hertz, etc.), or use a price comparison to find the best rate, you can find them on many sites such as Expédia, Liligo, Holiday Autos or LastMinute.com.
When you make your quote, don’t just look at car rental prices and vehicle type.