Hiring a car is like buying a flight with a no-frills operator, according to a new study into the cost of car hire, as the headline price can quickly spiral upwards with extra costs.

For instance, this May half term, a hire car from Budget in Tenerife costs just £54 for the week, but once extra costs are added, including an extra driver (£60), a sat nav (£90), and excess waiver policies (i.e., £84 for a super damage waiver, £66 for a super theft waiver and £30 for a tyre and windscreen waiver) to protect hirers from the £1,557 excess, the final bill of £384 is six times more than the original headline rental price.

On average, it costs around £200 to hire a car this May half term in five European destinations studied by iCarhireinsurance.com, a leading supplier of standalone car hire excess insurance. The car hire companies of Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Sixt and Enterprise were surveyed in Tenerife, Nice, Faro, Larnaca and Barcelona for a week’s hire (25 May to 1 June 2019) of a medium-sized compact car.

The largest dent in most car hirers’ pockets is the excess waiver policies that car hire companies sell, usually at the rental desk, and which alone can often cost more than the car’s rental price. Avis in Larnaca sells a super damage waiver for £149 and a tyre and windscreen waiver for £30, totaling £179, which is more than the week’s hire price of £155. Similarly, in Faro, Sixt charge £155 for a super damage waiver and £51 for a tyre and windscreen waiver totaling £206, when the week’s rental is only £181.

The study also finds that the starting excess figure can be as high as £1,700 in some locations, which is the amount a driver may have to pay if the car is damaged or stolen even if it isn’t the hirer’s fault. The highest excess is in Faro where Budget and Avis both charge a £1,792 excess.

An excess policy from a specialist insurance provider, like iCarhireinsurance.com, covers damage, theft and tyre and windscreen cover, and starts from £3.49 a day for a European policy or £47.99 for an annual policy, meaning that drivers could save, on average, as much as £195 in Faro, £139 in Barcelona, £111 in Tenerife, £137 in Nice, and £77 in Larnaca if they shop around for excess insurance this half term.

Other extras, often paid for at the rental desk, include a child’s car seat, costing on average £55, but costing as much as £80 from Avis in Barcelona.

Ernesto Suarez, CEO and founder of iCarhireinsurance.com said: Hiring a car is no different from booking a no-frills airline. You get the headline price and very quickly you’re forced into adding additional costs on. To keep costs low, more and more savvy travellers know that it’s possible to buy independent excess insurance in advance of travelling, which protects you from paying for these waivers from the rental company. Other tips to keep costs down include bringing your own child’s car seat (most airlines will put them in the hold), and a sat nav or use your mobile phone for directions and try to keep extra drivers to a minimum.

Table 1 shows the average costs in the five European locations using data from six car hire companies (Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz, Sixt and Enterprise) for a week’s car hire from 25 May -1 June 2019 to hire a medium, compact-sized car e.g., a Ford Focus.

  Car Rental Rate Super Damage Waiver Super Theft Waiver T&W Excess Starting Excess Damage Extra Driver Sat Nav Young Driver Car Seat
Barcelona £175 £120 £13 £34 £982 £70 £82 £119 £68
Faro £203 £154 £38 £31 £1,493 £51 £78 £52 £67
Larnaca £145 £74 £0 £31 £606 £28 £56 £49 £35
Nice £351 £121 £0 £44 £1,188 £56 £89 £200 £54
Tenerife £122 £84 £16 £39 £1,074 £63 £62 £107 £52
AVERAGE £199 £111 £14 £36 £1,069 £53 £73 £106 £55
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.