UK motorists face ‘incredibly high’ costs when driving in Europe

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The cost of renting a car on holiday this Easter is 72 percent more expensive on average than in the same period in 2019, according to new research. Which? found that seven of nine popular holiday destinations had seen car weekly increases of over £100 for car hire.

The consumer champion examined data supplied by car hire broker Zest Car Rental for over 5,000 rentals in tourist hotspots including Spain, France and the USA.

Cyprus has seen the most dramatic price rises, with the average daily rental rate more than doubling this year compared to before the pandemic. 

A seven-day rental would now set holidaymakers back £248, up 112 percent on pre-pandemic rates. 

Portugal and Greece were not far behind, with increases of 99 and 97 percent respectively.

The USA was by far the most expensive country, with holidaymakers shelling out £537 per week on average, adding £239 onto the cost of a holiday compared with 2019.

Despite seeing the smallest price increases overall, at 25 percent, France nonetheless emerged as one of the pricier regions to rent a car, with a week’s rental costing £364 on average.

In the face of widespread vehicle shortages, the cost of car hire rose hugely last year. 

While companies have now had an opportunity to begin restocking fleets that were sold off during the height of the pandemic, rates have not dropped as much as might have been anticipated, instead settling far higher than travellers were accustomed to pre-pandemic. 

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Demand remains extremely high this year, contributing to increased costs. Zest Car Rental reports that advance bookings are up 132 percent compared to the same point last year. 

Jo Rhodes, Deputy Editor of Which? Travel, warned drivers of the expensive fees they could potentially face this half term.

They said: “High demand combined with a shortage of rental vehicles means prices across Europe and the US are still incredibly high compared with before the pandemic. 

“Shop around and book in advance to lock in the most competitive rates, especially during peak periods. 

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“Use recommended companies, or small local firms endorsed by a trusted broker, and always be wary of ‘too good to be true’ prices.  

“Paying in advance, if you can, often works out cheaper overall and helps secure your booking. 

“We also recommend taking out third-party insurance before you travel; in the past, we’ve found hire companies selling inferior policies at the desk at marked up prices.”  

Rental firms are also facing increased staffing and insurance costs, while cars themselves are also becoming more expensive.

Estimates by Zest suggest that the cost of purchasing a Fiat Panda, one of the smallest typical cars in a rental fleet, now costs around £5,000 more on average than in 2019.

Which? also urged drivers to ensure they are getting the best deal, advising them to book car hire as early as they can, ideally at the same time as when they book the holiday.

This is especially true if they plan to travel during peak periods or in an in-demand country.

When booking online, opting to pay upfront will generally prove cheaper overall, with average savings of between £20 and £50 for a week.

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