I had a frustrating experience booking a car in the Algarve for a week amid dire warnings of skyrocketing prices due to Covid, Brexit and microchip shortages causing supply chain delays. That’s before you dump outrageously expensive fuel into it.
It’s a family affair, and a big seven-seater was the order of the day. But I needed a stiff gin after scrolling through what was on offer (for well over €1,000 for a week), so it turned out that renting two small cars was a better solution for us. Luckily we have enough drivers in our group and a few Fiesta sized cars cost around €650. Still, it’s part of our vacation budget and about double what we would have paid in 2019.
I spoke to a few industry insiders about the issue and everyone agrees it’s a nightmare. So if you’re looking forward to packing that sunscreen and getting to the airport on time, here’s what you need to know:
Companies that buy new fleets typically keep them for less than a year before selling them to the used market.
Covid saw entire fleets idle, some companies went bust and others scramble to regroup after selling shares. The rental car market in Europe is dominated by just five companies – Avis/Budget Group, Enterprise Holdings, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt. The market is valued at more than 12 billion euros and projected project growth of 11 percent per year until 2026.
Italy, France, Spain and the UK remain the busiest countries for car rentals, but the world is missing up to four million vehicles. As a result, prices have risen sharply; sometimes up to three times. Add to that a new car manufacturing constraint, transportation delays, and fuel shortages, and it’s a recipe for taking the bus.
UK consumer group Which? claims that the situation is so bad that this year in some places there will be no car hire at all during the peak holiday periods.
Book as early as practical. Eoghan Corry from Air & Travel Magazine told me cars should be booked in front of the property so is the demand. It’s usually a product that’s maintained until the last minute, but that won’t launch this year, he says. Pay in advance rather than when you arrive. It locks the booking (there are plenty of stories about undeliverable bookings that mysteriously disappear when companies whip them out to last-minute customers and pay significantly more).
Don’t be tempted to buy coverage you don’t need. Upselling at rental car counters is common practice and employees receive bonuses. Corresponding Which? This is an insurer “moneymaker” that is sold on a commission basis through the car rental staff. This can occasionally lead to scaremongering among the less unscrupulous that you don’t have enough or the right kind of insurance.
Of particular concern is the “surplus”. This is the amount you must first pay before a claim will be accepted. While it’s typically around €250 with our own domestic car insurance policies, it can be ten times that with a foreign rental car. Taking out car insurance with a deductible before you leave will save you money. It costs from €3 per day or €50 for an annual policy.
There is a daily fee for navigation devices, baby car seats and booster seats. Most airlines carry the latter for free, and you can download the former before going to Google Maps or the free Navmii app. With EU roam-like-at-home, your data shouldn’t cost you anything extra with a bill payment package.
If you are planning to have two drivers, book this from the start. It will be treated as an “extra” at reception and will be charged accordingly.
Most companies have a full tank policy and if you return the car with an empty tank they will charge you a premium on top of the fuel prices to have one of their employees do it. This is the most common complaint from motorists. On the return journey, it can be difficult to find a garage within 10 km of an airport. Fuel prices tend to increase closer to the airport as anxious passengers leave until the last minute.
Consider an electric car if your accommodation has charging facilities. If you find one, it’s cheaper.
Pick up/drop off
Rental car companies pay a premium for an airport counter and parking garage. Renting in the nearest town (often with a free shuttle from the airport) can be considerably cheaper if you can bear to lug everything around.
Do you even need a car? With proper planning, public transport, which is so much better in tourist areas than at home, may be sufficient.
Buying passports that come with tourist or family discounts before you leave home may be cheaper, especially if it’s not a “touring” holiday. There is little point in spending a fortune to have your car parked in the hotel parking lot.
Most of the horror stories I hear about customers being ripped off for fictional scratches or fictional tolls and top-up charges are for smaller, lesser-known companies.
So use a travel agent or a trusted broker or provider that will save in the long run.
Compare rental car prices
Browsing through rental car websites can be a confusing distraction. The product itself is straightforward: choose four wheels, size, type and location and off you go. In reality, however, there are countless more choices to make and ways to get ripped off.
I looked at compact cars (e.g. a VW Golf) at three locations for a week starting July 1st, with airport drop off/pick up and full tank policy.
While the national driving age is 18, you are unlikely to be allowed to hire a car under the age of 25. A credit card (instead of a debit card) is mandatory. As a standard practice, a “holding fee” is imposed on him. This can be high, so you may need to inform your bank or increase your limits. €657-949 from Malaga with a hybrid price of €652-1,284.
Lisbon and Porto have excellent public transport. Many businesses are closed at weekends, so check opening hours. Children under the age of 12 or less than 1.35 m must use a booster seat. The Algarve has a long tourist season for golfers, so cars are expensive all year round. €743 – €1,537 from Faro. Hybrid Toyota Yaris €1,053.
You need a car to explore Tuscany and the islands. Children under 12 and 1.5m must use a booster. Italy hasn’t
quite the same deficiency as elsewhere. €625-881 from Rome. Auris Hybrid €695.
https://www.independent.ie/business/personal-finance/take-the-headache-out-of-hiring-a-car-for-your-holidays-this-summer-41623608.html Take the headache out of renting a car for your vacation this summer