Sexton’s theory is that big business suffers the most. Small local operators at airports on the European mainland can “bend down and dive”, he says, and buy in small batches, but there simply aren’t enough large-scale deliveries available. He believes this is the root of the problem in North America, where the market is dominated by big brands.
It has reached the situation in Canada where a leading tour operator – Audley Travel – is no longer taking new bookings for this country between June and September this year and strongly recommends booking now for 2023 to be sure of availability at that time -the. According to a company spokesperson: “Demand is already very high for the boutique accommodations we offer in Canada, but there is also extremely low availability on rental cars and more restrictions on routes to one-way and vehicle types.”
While high prices are a new phenomenon, the longstanding problems that have plagued car rental for so many years – pressure sales of overpriced insurance at the pick-up counter, expensive extras, unexpected charges for damage, etc – continues to be a problem.
Complaints about sitter rentals remain one of the most common issues we hear about from readers. Two of the most recent which have been resolved by our consumer champion, Gill Charlton, involved readers Rory McGrath, who faced a charge of £884 for an alleged scratch above the wheel arch, made by Avis in Lyon (removed after Gill’s intervention), and Heather Williams, who was charged £277 for towing costs when her hire car from Bologna broke down and had to be collected (this was also eventually removed).
Will the problems subside now that base rental prices are so much higher? Rory Sexton is skeptical. There are still too many dodgy practices out there, he says.
How to avoid exorbitant car rental prices
Travel outside high season
Boring advice for those stuck with school holidays, I know, but travel in May, June or September and you’ll probably pay a third of the price for the July/August peak.
Compare the prices
As our table shows, prices for the same car can vary enormously. But be sure to compare like-for-like and have included all the extras.
This is the most important way to get a reasonable price. Usually people only book a few weeks in advance. For peak hour trips, you really need to plan six months in advance, as cars will likely be scarce next year as well. Maybe even consider booking now for 2023.