A shortage of rental cars could drive up prices this summer – here’s how to avoid a rental car crisis
A shortage of rental cars will drive up prices this summer – here are four ways to avoid rental car disaster
Each week, our holiday hero Neal Simpson takes a detailed look at a brilliant holiday theme, doing all the work so you don’t have to. This week: Avoiding the rental car crisis.
Book early, rent in less obvious places, pay in advance and watch your arrival time. Here’s a four-pronged tip if you’re hiring a car this summer, especially in peak holiday destinations like Portugal’s Algarve, the Balearic Islands, Italy, Florida and California.
The big problem is that demand will exceed the supply of cars for the second summer in a row. Figures from comparison website TravelSupermarket show that car hire searches rose by around 240 per cent last month compared to January 2022. Demand in Portugal increased by a staggering 375 percent.
Rental firms that have not yet replaced all the cars they sold during the pandemic are charging premium prices for the ones they have.
Rory Sexton, boss of car hire broker Zest, is predicting significant shortages at many resorts this summer.
In the driver’s seat: There are a few simple rules you can follow to enjoy cheaper car rentals this summer
He also says big price increases are expected, with typical costs in Florida rising from £36 a day in August 2019 to £78 a day this year. This summer, the pre-pandemic average wage in Tuscany of £31 a day will now exceed £65. Early booking will surely save you money. Last year, a week’s car hire in the Algarve in August cost from £252 when booking in January. When booked in July, the same week cost £354. Experts expect a similar picture this year.
Renting in less obvious – albeit less convenient – locations can also control costs. “The highest demand and prices are at airports, particularly Malaga, Faro, Paphos and Orlando in Florida,” says Guy Hobbs, travel expert at Which?
“During one of our regular checks, we found that the cheapest rate for a weekly rental at Malaga Airport is £548. Changed the place of arrival to Malaga train station and got the car for £249.’
It is recommended to pay in full and in advance. Book-now, pay-when-you-go deals are more likely to be canceled or “lost” by unscrupulous rental firms keen to charge customers higher rates at the last minute, experts say. There is also a charge to re-confirm the booking, complete any ‘digital check-in’ forms that are sent by email as the rental period approaches.
Travel experts have revealed you could save around £100 by booking your car in the Algarve in advance (pictured)
It is important to remember that it is very important to be realistic about your arrival time. When cars were scarce last summer, several firms took advantage of the little-known fine print that allowed them to cancel reservations as “no-shows” when customers arrived at the rental location just two hours later than scheduled.
The best advice is to allow plenty of time for flight delays, queues at immigration or baggage claim, and finding a car rental counter (in America you may need to use a shuttle bus).
Having flight numbers and estimated arrival times in your booking means you are less likely to be penalized for flight delays.
When visiting Málaga (pictured), it may be cheaper to pick up your car at Málaga train station rather than the airport
Conversely, arriving at the rental office too early can also be costly. Pick up the car before the time specified in the agreement (even by a few minutes) and you may be charged an additional full day’s rental fee.
Other pitfalls include paying for unnecessary extras like GPS devices or car seats. You can take a car seat with you, as most airlines put it in the luggage compartment for free. Returning the vehicle late or without a full tank of fuel, if specified in the contract, can be equally costly.
Or you can avoid it altogether and go on vacation without renting a car. Uber works in most tourist areas (Lyft is an alternative on US holidays), Bolt and other taxi apps work in Malaga, Madeira and the Algarve, while FreeNow is popular for European airport transfers.