The cost of hiring a car this winter has gone up on average 37% since the same time last year with the average rental rate now £299 for a family car for a week, compared with £218 in December 2012, with some companies charging £546 for a week.

The cost of the added extras offered at the rental desk has also rocketed. Excess starting rates (the amount that a customer has to pay if the car is damaged or stolen) have gone up on average 24% to £1078, with the maximum being £1839. The excess insurance offered to protect customers from being liable for this have gone up 16% to an average of £104 with some charging £171 for the week.

iCarhireinsurance, a leading supplier of stand alone car hire excess insurance, compared the cost of hiring a family car and the added extras from four leading rental companies in Barcelona, Nice and Milan (for a week’s holiday from 27th Dec 2011– 3rd Jan 2012 compared with 27th Dec 2012 – 3rd Jan 2014).

The study found that three quarters of car rental desks have increased their prices. Car rental rates vary between £199 for a week’s hire with Sixt in Barcelona to £546 Budget in Nice. The largest price rise was Budget in Barcelona who increased their rate 127% to £242.

Half of the rental desks have increased their starting excess rates, which now vary between £504 and £1839. Avis in Milan’s rate has gone up by more than 137% bringing its excess to £1628 and Budget also in Milan has increased their rate by 88% to £1839 making it the highest starting excess rate in the study.

The increase in starting excess rates makes the importance of excess insurance even more critical, and as half of the rental desks have also raised the cost of their excess insurance by on average 16% meaning that cover can now cost up to £171 for a week, it makes it more important than ever for consumers to purchase this cover in advance.

iCarhireinsurance charges just £2.99 for a daily policy (from £39.99 for an annual policy) and includes tyres and windscreen cover as standard. This is a 88% saving for a week’s cover compared with £171 with Hertz in Milan, and an 79% saving on the average cost of rental desk excess cover.

“These price increases are shocking, especially the increase to the starting excess rates. Often rental companies hold this balance on the customer’s credit card for security in case there is any damage. It is really important that holidaymakers ensure that they have enough credit on their card to cover them for this, whilst still having enough money to enjoy their holiday,” said Ernesto Suarez, founder and CEO of iCarhireinsurance.

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.