Why is car hire so expensive? How to tackle it

By , 21 February 2024

5 mins read

Why is car hire so expensive? How to tackle it

The prospect of jetting off to sun yourself on a Greek island or cruising along the famoute Route 66 should be an exciting one, but it can be dampened by the ever-rising cost of hiring a car.

Since the coronavirus pandemic, car hire prices have continued to rise, with UK holiday makers seeing an increase of up to 77% when travelling to popular destinations.

This can be an added stress when you factor it alongside what you have already paid for, such as your flights, transport, and family essentials.

However, there are a number of ways you can reduce the cost of your rental car.

Why are rental cars so expensive?

This is a perfectly valid question, and one you will not be alone in asking.

There are a number of factors that can cause rental cars to be so expensive; these include:

Continue reading to find out our nine handy tips you can use to save on both money and worry when hiring a car...

Book as early as you can

Booking at the last minute can be beneficial for hotel stays or show tickets, but not when it comes to hiring a car.

By booking sooner, you can reap the benefits of enjoying a wider selection of cars to choose from, avoid last-minute price hikes, and secure any early booking deals the rental company may be running.

Shop around for the best deals

Before committing to hiring a rental car, it is always worth doing your research and finding the best car hire company that can offer you fantastic deals.

In addition to getting the best deals, shopping around can help you find the perfect hire car for you, secure the best discounts and promotions, read various customer reviews, and make an informed decision.

Choose the right size car for you

While this may seem obvious, you can be easily caught out when you’ve brought an extra suitcase or a pushchair that won’t fit into your chosen hire car.

Plan ahead and consider what size car is going to work best for you and your travel plans.

For example, if you’re a family of four going on holiday, it would be pointless to hire a two-seater sports car.

Similarly, if you are travelling solo, do you really need a five-seater car?

Considering these points will help you avoid unnecessary costs and upgrade fees for the wrong car.

Don’t accept their extras

After a long journey, it can be tempting to accept any extras that are offered, such as a child seat or GPS system, but these can often come at extortionate prices.

Much like finding your ideal rental car company, it is worth doing your research ahead of time.

For example, the majority of airlines will allow you to take your own child car seat as a checked piece of baggage free of charge.

As for your GPS needs, there are a variety of reputable and free apps that can operate without using data. So, make sure you download one ahead of time and avoid having to spend money needlessly.

Alternatively, if you own a detachable Satnav, you can upgrade its maps to match your travel destination.

Other extras you may be offered include roadside assistance, additional driver fees, and insurance.

Top tip: remember that if you have insurance and road assistance cover, you do not need to purchase it again!

Ask for upgrades at the desk

As with anything in life, if you do not ask, you do not get, and upgrades to your hire car are no exception.

It is always worth asking for an upgrade, whether you would prefer a bigger car or a style that has particular features.

Try asking for a free upgrade initially, but if that is not available, then ask how much the cheapest upgrade is.

If it is a busy period for them, then they may be more inclined to give you a premium car so that they do not use up all their cheaper, more popular models. Never be afraid to haggle with them.

Consider the full-to-full tank option

Car hire companies often try to make you take the full-to-empty option by suggesting it is a hassle finding a petrol station close by before you return your car; this is rarely the case.

It is likely they will charge you far more than a petrol station for the fuel, and you may not even use all of it.

There may even be admin fees, so it is well worth spending some time locating the nearest petrol station to your drop-off point and exploring other fuel options.

Carry out a damage check

A very simple and easy way to fall victim to unexpected charges is by not checking the vehicle thoroughly before leaving the car rental premises.

This is Money reported that only half of car hirers thoroughly check a vehicle for damage, while 57% do not report any damage not listed on the handover documentation to a member of staff at pick up.

Avoid paying out a hefty sum for damage you have not caused by checking both the inside and outside of the car, as well as taking pictures and videos of any chips, cracks, and scratches that you do notice.

Once you have noted all the damage, GOV.UK advises noting it down on the pre-rental inspection form and keeping a copy for your own reference.

For further information on what checks you should carry out, read our guide on how you can avoid car hire excess charges.

Read the small print and the terms and conditions

We’re all guilty of not reading the terms and conditions, eager to move along to the next step.

However, it is very important that you pay close attention to both the small print and the terms and conditions in your car rental agreement.

These will usually outline your mileage allowance, how much fuel the car should have upon return, and what the insurance excess will be.

If you are unsure about anything that is included in your car rental agreement, never be afraid to ask questions and get clarification.

Otherwise, you may find expected charges on your card like 16% of other car hirers.

Pay with a credit card

Using a credit card to pay for the car hire will allow you extra protection under what is called ‘Section 75’ of the Consumer Credit Act.

Essentially, this means that if anything were to go wrong, the credit card and the car hire company are equally liable for any breach of contract or misrepresentation.

Plan ahead and get covered

We understand that car hire can be expensive and that you want to do everything possible to keep those costs down.

It is important to remember that, just like the added extras, care hire companies will try to persuade you to take out their excess waiver, which is often charged daily.

This is where you can say ‘thanks but no thanks’ and take out a standalone excess insurance policy, which usually works out much cheaper.

Our excess insurance for hire cars will cover any accidental damage caused to your hire car from just £2.57 a day, and our annual cover prices start from just £45.06.

Final thoughts

When asking yourself why car hire is so expensive, you should also be asking yourself what you can do to avoid any unnecessary costs.

By understanding the factors that contribute to rising costs, such as hidden fees and those additional extras you most likely do not need, as well as how you can find the best deals, you can ensure you have a stress-free and affordable car rental experience.