If you’re travelling to the United Kingdom and planning to drive a rental car during your visit, there are a few things you may want to keep in mind, especially when it comes to traffic laws.
First, you should probably figure out what vehicle you’d like to drive whilst visiting. Smaller vehicles tend to be popular, especially in the urban areas of England, but there are plenty of standard and larger-sized cars available to rent as well. Also, since manuals are more common in the UK than automatic vehicles, make sure you request an automatic car if that is your preference.
Mini: Fiat 500 • Hyundai i10 • Peugeot 108
Economy: Ford Fiesta • Honda Jazz • Kia Rio • Vauxhall Corsa
Compact: VW Golf • Ford Focus • Honda Civic • Hyundai i30
Standard: VW Passat • Ford Mondeo • Volkswagen Passat • Skoda Octavia
Intermediate: Nissan X Trail • Mercedes B 180 • Renault Kadjar
Luxury: Mercedes E class • Audi A6 • BMW 4 series • Land Rover Discovery Sport
Full Size: VW Sharan • Nissan Pathfinder • Ford Galaxy
Premium: BMW 3 Series • Mercedes Benz C
Luxury: Mercedes E Class • BMW 6 Series
Keep in mind that different rental car providers will have different fleets and availabilities.
Generally speaking, the speed limit for cars in residential and built-up areas of towns and cities is 30mph. For single-lane carriageways, the speed limit is usually 60mph, while dual-lane carriageways and motorways are typically 70mph.
Many roads throughout the UK are equipped with speed cameras, so make sure to check the speed limit signs and keep with the flow of traffic.
Roundabouts are common in the UK. When entering a roundabout, you must give way to traffic approaching on your right—unless otherwise directed. Once on the roundabout, you should not stop to allow other cars in as this can disrupt the flow of traffic.
You should indicate when entering the roundabout depending on which exit you’ll be taking, then indicate again when exiting. Stay alert, though, because some drivers may not indicate correctly.
Pedestrian crossings are usually marked by black and white stripes on the road, akin to the stripes of a zebra. When approaching these crossings as a driver, you must stop and give way to any pedestrians waiting to cross the road. You should never use your horn or attempt to rush pedestrians as they cross, and if you fail to give way to pedestrians, you will likely be reported and fined.
Only use your horn to warn others of your presence or in emergency situations. It’s against the law to use your horn when stopped or as a way to express anger or impatience. Furthermore, honking is not allowed in built-up areas between 11:30pm and 7:00am. Fines and penalties may apply.
Drivers are permitted to execute a U-turn or a three-point-turn on any road in the UK where such manoeuvres can be safely performed. However, if there are signs prohibiting U-turns or specific vehicular actions, you must follow their directions accordingly.
Seat belts must be worn at all times by drivers and passengers. You may be fined and awarded penalty points against your licence for failing to wear your seat belt. You are also responsible for making sure that your passengers are buckled in and that anyone under the age of 14 is wearing either a seat belt or the appropriate child restraint as required by law. Click here for more details on child seat laws in the UK.
Don’t drive if you’re over the legal blood alcohol limit. In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the legal limit is 0.8%. In Scotland, the limit is at 0.5%. You may lose your licence if you’re caught driving while above the legal limit. You may also be heavily fined.
If you’re planning on driving your rental car through London, be aware of the London Congestion Charge, which is a daily charge incurred for driving in London between certain times of the day. Visit https://tfl.gov.uk/ to see what the Congestion Charge costs and how it works.