Car hire: book your vehicle rental early this year

Holidaymakers looking to book hire cars for the busy Easter and summer holidays are being advised to book their car hire early.

The warning comes from the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association (BVRLA), which expects the car hire shortages experienced last year to be repeated again this year.

Last year saw car hire shortages during the busy holiday seasons particularly in tourist hotspots and at airports – car hire companies have reduced vehicle numbers since the start of the recession. An alternative to car hire is motorhome hire. Motorhomes help reduce the cost of hotels and are a good option considering the shortages of cars for hire.

“Rental companies always try to look ahead and estimate demand for peak periods, but with finance in short supply and new vehicle prices rising, they can ill afford to have cars sitting around idle,” said John Lewis, chief executive of the BVRLA.

“This means that there will be periods when demand outstrips supply. You wouldn’t go to an airport and expect to buy a ticket on the day you want to travel, and the same should apply to renting a car.”

“Cars are expensive assets and you can’t turn the supply on and off like an ice-cream machine or printing presses.”

So, the message seems clear from the BVRLA: ‘book your car hire early to avoid disappointment’ as rental vehicles can’t be shipped in overnight to cater for demand. But, before you book your car hire, shop around to compare contracts and prices. You may find this previous post about checking car hire terms and conditions useful.

Car hire: take care to check terms and conditions when you book

Watch out when you book car hire online. That’s the warning from Which? Holiday that found some companies are using potentially unfair terms in their contracts while others are providing little or no information about their terms and conditions on their website.

Which? Holiday went through the online car hire booking process for eight major UK car hire companies to hire a car at London Heathrow Airport and Paris Charles De Gaulle, checking if the full terms and conditions were available prior to booking. It also checked to see if customers were informed of all the waivers and additional insurance policies available so that they could compare the car hire cost of different companies.

On three car hire websites Which? Holiday found a clause that could be viewed as potentially unfair – stating that if customers could not produce the keys in the event of the car being stolen then they would be liable for the full value of the vehicle. This means that even if the keys were stolen at the same time, or the vehicle was involved in a car-jacking, the customer would still be liable for the full cost of the car.

Which? Holiday also found that two car hire companies had no information about the terms and conditions of hire on their websites prior to booking.

Rochelle Turner, Head of Research for Which? Holiday, says: “Hiring a car for your holiday may seem like a great idea, but our rigorous research shows that it can be a minefield.

“Trying to work out the real price you’ll pay, the insurance you need and what is or isn’t included can be so confusing that most of us just sign the contract, pay for the car and hope for the best.

“But it is really important that you read and understand everything before you sign on the dotted line. Failing to do so could leave you with a hefty excess, or seriously out of pocket if the car is stolen.”