How renting a car on holiday in Europe has soared by 500% since 2019

Car hire costs in European holiday hotspots soared by more than 500% since before pandemic, research reveals amid fears rocketing prices are making family getaways unaffordable

  • Brits bound for tourist hotspots warned to brace for huge rise in car rental costs
  • Hiring a car in Ireland has soared from £104 in 2019 to well over £650 in 2022 
  • Portugal recorded the second highest rise on record, up to £339 from £100 

Holidaymakers heading to popular hotspots across Europe and North America were warned to brace for a staggering rise in the cost of hiring a car while abroad.

Experts say Brits bound for a summer of sun on the continent must be vigilant to the hidden costs of car rental, with some destinations seeing price hikes of over 500%.

The cost of hiring a car in Ireland this summer has risen from £104 (in 2019) to £679 – an increase of 551 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Portugal recorded the second highest rise in car hire costs, with renting a small car now costing £339 – soaring 239 per cent compared to 2019 (£100).

And among the 10 most-searched for countries in June, the cost of car hire has more than doubled in three years, according to comparison website Ice Travel Group.

Holidaymakers heading to popular tourist hotspots across Europe and North America were warned to brace for a staggering rise in the cost of hiring a car while abroad

The developments come as a fresh blow to sun-seeking Brits, who have already endured a summer of travel hell with more expensive flights and airports cancelling thousands of trips at the last minute.

Ed Sharp, of Ice Travel Group, told the Telegraph the most important factor behind the rise in car hire costs was a global shortage of microchips, which has in turn led to a downturn in the number of cars being produced.

Mr Sharp encourages holidaymakers to target deals in ‘mass market destinations’, where pricing is expected to be more competitive.

Other recommendations include avoiding island destinations where rental companies face the logistical challenge of moving their fleets over water.

Consumer campaigner Frank Brehany said: ‘If people book flights and think they can take a chance on car hire they will be badly surprised. 

‘Travel won’t be back to normal until 2023 or 2024. Book at the earliest possible time, because I suspect the prices now will be the best you will get.’  

Estonia offered the cheapest car hire in Europe, with the average booking costing £112.

It comes as families face being hammered by punishing price rises as travel firms cash in on high demand for summer holidays after the Covid crisis.

The average cost of a week’s all-inclusive break for four across Europe’s top ten destinations has risen 17 per cent to £1,000 a head since June 2019, a study found.

(Stock Image) Sunny summer holidays abroad are being pushed further out of reach as prices soar for Brits

(Stock image) The price of flights, car hire and more are continuing to increase this summer amid high demand 

Car hire rocketed from an average £220 to almost £500, while the cost of single-trip travel insurance is up 40.5 per cent from £37.02 to £52.02.

Research by the travel comparison site Ice Travel Group paints a bleak picture, not least because a fall in the pound makes everything from tapas to an ice cream more expensive.

Industry experts say that the holiday industry is cashing in on the fact that taking a summer holiday is a priority for families who have suffered during the Covid crisis.

Chris Webber, head of holidays at Ice Travel, said getting away remains a ‘priority expense’ and demand is ‘directly impacting’ price rises. 

He added: ‘Holiday prices are being hit by a number of factors – increased energy and fuel costs, increased demand and also by businesses, such as hotels, trying to recoup some of the money lost in the pandemic.’

Revealed: The best ways to dodge a holiday car hire nightmare, from joining loyalty schemes to the trusted brands to book with 

By Neil Simpson for the Mail on Sunday

Book now and box clever to avoid a car hire crisis this summer. That’s the message from travel experts who fear rental costs will soar and availability will slump as summer approaches.

‘Rocketing car rental prices are set to hit holiday budgets hard wherever you go this year,’ says Rory Boland, editor of the Which? Travel guide. In the worst cases, he says some areas may run out of cars completely.

Today’s cost and availability crisis began in 2020 when the travel industry shut down and rental firms began selling cars to survive. Industry estimates say American rental firms sold a third of their cars in the first year of the pandemic, while European firms cut fleets by more than half.

But while demand from holidaymakers has recovered, rental firms are a long way from rebuilding their fleets (they say it’s due to supply-chain issues). They are also charging eye-watering prices for car hire.

A two-week summertime rental from Palma airport on Majorca that cost about £200 pre-pandemic is now on offer for more than £700, for example. A ten-day rental from Los Angeles Airport, perfect to drive the Pacific Coast Highway to San Francisco and back, has risen from under £500 in August 2019 to more than £1,250 this year.

Prices are equally high from Faro to Florida, and they’re expected to keep rising until at least the end of the summer. Booking early can take some sting out of the situation, as even today’s prices may look like bargains by the time the school holidays arrive.

Another tip is to pay in full when you book. That’s because rental firms may be taking bookings now for cars they hope to have delivered over the next few months. If the vehicles don’t materialise and some rentals have to be cancelled, customers who pre-paid in full should get priority over those with ‘pay on collection’ contracts.

Members of rental firms’ loyalty schemes should also get priority. Signing up is free and with Avis Preferred and others, you earn money-off vouchers for future rentals. This can normally be done even if the booking is through a travel agent.

If cars are scarce this summer, it’s also worth responding to any ‘digital check-in’ or ‘pre-register for a speedy getaway’ emails from your rental firm.

Recent holidaymakers say pre-registration takes time, as you may need to repeat the flight, driving licence, passport and other details you gave at the booking stage. But the more you do to ensure rental firms know you’re coming, the more likely you are to get a car.

Some say booking direct with a car hire firm makes sense this year as you won’t have to deal with middle-men if there’s a problem.

Others like having a trusted UK-based brand in their corner. Firms such as Trailfinders, Travel Counsellors, Hays Travel, Jet2 Holidays, British Airways Holidays and Kuoni score well in the latest Which? report on package holiday service standards for flights, hotels and hire cars.

However you book, check for flexible terms so that it can be cancelled for free if you are unable to travel.

And don’t expect that new-car smell, especially in popular American destinations like Las Vegas and Orlando. Rental firms that once sold cars before they had 50,000 miles on the clock are now keeping them twice as long.

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