A new study of car hire prices across Europe found that booking the hire car the night before could be cheaper than booking it six weeks in advance.

iCarhireinsurance.com, a leading provider of independent car hire excess insurance, researched five holiday destinations this summer, from 21 to 28 July 2018, to book a medium, compact hire car (e.g., a Ford Focus or Renault Megane). It looked at the week’s hire price surveying six car hire companies (Avis, Hertz, Europcar, Enterprise, Sixt and Budget) on 4 June 2018, and then again on 20 July 2018, i.e., the day before travelling.

The study finds that last-minute bookers can find a bargain. It found that the three destinations of Nice, Milan and Barcelona are cheaper, on average, if booked at the last minute rather than six weeks in advance. Travellers save, on average, £146 in Milan, £97 in Nice and £62 in Barcelona.

Prices between companies do vary widely, however, so travellers need to shop around. For instance, in Nice, Hertz quotes £158 and Sixt £188 for the week’s hire, while Enterprise quotes a much higher £338.

For the destinations of Crete and Faro, savings can be made booking six weeks ahead, however there are also some good deals the night before, e.g., in Faro a week’s hire with Europcar is only £283, while Enterprise is a much higher £654.

Ernesto Suarez, founder and CEO of iCarhireinsurance.com said: “While this study has found that significant savings can be made by leaving it to the last minute, booking a hire car the night before is a risky business. Holidaymakers may find themselves having to upgrade to a bigger car or making do with a smaller car because of a lack of available cars.

“If you want to guarantee the vehicle of your choice it’s always better to book well in advance of travelling and, most importantly, shop around between companies as prices can be very different for the same destination.”

The below averages were found:

Destination Average price booking 6 weeks before travel (on 4 June 2018) Average price booking the night before travel (on 20 July 2018) Where Savings Made
Barcelona £265.03 £203.38 £61.65 cheaper if booked the night before
Crete £417.61 £515.26 £97.65 more expensive if booked the night before
Nice £318.71 £221.78 £96.93 cheaper if booked the night before
Milan £352.66 £207.13 £145.53 cheaper if booked the night before
Faro £336.73 £380.34 £43.61 more expensive if booked the night before
Disclaimer: All prices contained in this article were correct on the original date of publication. Prices may change over time, so for current prices, please get a quote.