Smooth and affordable car rental is one of the most important components of adventures abroad.
But, like with airline ticketsIt’s one of the parts of a holiday that gets more expensive as fuel costs rise across Europe. Car owners will be no stranger to the volatile price of petrol and diesel in forecourts, and it is unlikely to diminish any time soon.
Renting a car can be a tricky business at the best of times as there are often hidden costs, extra charges and many insurance extras involved. So if you’ve booked a holiday this year and are planning to hire a car as part of your trip, how can you keep costs down?
Read on for our handy guide to car rental in 2022.
Don’t wait until the last minute
It is a known fact that buying something that is time sensitive at the last minute is likely to result in increased costs. From train and plane tickets to lodging, as urgency increases, so does costs.
This is particularly pronounced in the current context, as a number of rental car companies have sold their fleets to survive the pandemic. “The production shortages coupled with an expected increase in travel will inevitably outweigh supply,” explains Rory Sexton, director of independent car rental company Zest. “We strongly recommend that our customers book early and secure their car rental.”
Some countries also have higher rental requirements. There are probably more people looking to rent a car in popular summer destinations such as Italy and Portugal, which will push up prices.
Check the car before you drive away
One of the most important things you can do is check the car before leaving the parking lot. While car rental companies will be quick to tell you there is no damage to the vehicle, make sure you take note of any existing issues so they can’t blame you once you turn it in.
Carefully inspect the car for dents, scratches and cracks – especially in common areas such as door mirrors and bumpers. Point these to the dealer and write them down on the agreement before you and they sign.
It’s also a good idea to take pictures and videos of pre-existing damage – which will be time-stamped -.
Book a car with a local company
While it can be tempting to book a car from a major global brand, small rental companies are often cheaper. As with most things, it pays to shop around, but it may also be unwise to book with a company you’ve never heard of.
Using a reliable car rental broker, such as Zest or Skyscanner, will give you peace of mind and help you compare small businesses based on a wide variety of factors.
Stay away from car rental companies at the airport
While it may be easier to get your car from an airport rental car company, the convenience will cost you. Cars are in high demand at these transport hubs, so there is a high price associated with renting a car here. Smaller companies not based at the airport are likely to be significantly cheaper, so be sure to plan ahead.
Buy liability insurance
Buying insurance directly from the car rental company is usually always more expensive and less extensive. Buy your insurance from a third party instead.
In the UK, which one? has a good guide to auto insurance companies. While many car rental companies will try to pressure you into getting their insurance if you know ahead of time that you have good coverage, their sales pitch will be easier to ignore.
Pack a map or download a navigation app
If you can live without a sat nav, your car rental costs will likely be cheaper because you can get a model without all the added technology extras.
While maps may seem a bit old-fashioned by today’s standards, it’s worth considering if you’re good at navigation and traveling in a few. By reading a map, you also get to know the area and you may discover some lesser-known beauty spots.
Alternatively, if you feel that your navigation skills are not enough, consider downloading a navigation app on your phone instead. That way you can choose a cheaper car without a navigation system.
Find out how to pay for fuel
Gasoline prices are high and likely to get higher as the year progresses, saving fuel is one of the easiest ways to lower the cost of car hire.
There are generally two ways to pay for fuel in a rental car: you can sign up for a full-to-empty policy or a full-to-full policy.
While the full-to-empty scheme may seem simpler, you’ll be paying the rental company’s fees for that full tank. While this means you don’t have to refuel the car before returning it, these prices are unlikely to be the cheapest on the market. And if you’re not using the entire tank, it’s money down the drain, too.
This makes full to full the most cost-effective option if you’re not likely to use the full tank, just top it up a bit – and you’ll be able to find the cheapest gas station around Area.
Look around for the best petrol prices
Although it may seem that fuel prices are universally high, some gas stations are still cheaper than others. As a rule, you should always avoid buying gasoline at a motorway service station, where the price for filling your tank will almost always be higher.
Get off the highway and you will likely find cheaper prices. Supermarket forecourts are usually the best option, and if you’re on a staycation, you already know which ones have the cheapest deals. Also, be sure to sign up for grocery store loyalty cards, as many of these offer points for gas schemes.
If you are traveling in the UK, the Petrol Prices app can direct you to the cheapest petrol station in your area. Many other countries also have their own version, including the German Clever Tanken app and Gas Buddy in the US.
Drive efficiently to save fuel
It may take some brain training, but driving efficiently can also help you use less gas while traveling in your rental car. Driving faster uses more fuel, so slow acceleration results in lower fuel consumption.
Driving in the highest gear possible within the speed limit is the most economical way to drive. Likewise, maintaining momentum will also keep fuel economy low. While this isn’t always possible due to traffic jams and stop signs, keep in mind that slowing down and speeding up is bad for your mileage, so try to keep this to a minimum.
If you are in a temperate country and don’t really need the AC, turn it off. Having the AC on all the time will also guzzle fuel, so always take off your sweater before reaching for the AC switch.