Holidaymakers booking hire cars for the Easter holidays are facing price rises comparable to pre-pandemic figures, analysis has found.
The price of rental cars at popular holiday destinations has increased by an average of 72 per cent according to Which?, the consumer watchdog.
The typical cost of a seven-day rental is now more than £100 above 2019 prices in seven out of nine holiday destinations analysed.
The US has had the largest price rise, from £239 to £537. Holidaymakers renting cars in Spain’s Balearic Islands were hit with weekly costs that have increased from £134 to £310. In Cyprus prices have gone up from £131 to £248 and Italy from £11 to £362.
Rental outfits are grappling with a chronic shortage of vehicles, having sold vast amounts of stock during the pandemic.
A global shortage of semiconductors also limited the production of new cars, rendering hire companies unable to replenish their stocks.
The outlook for travellers is bleak with shortages expected to persist into the summer. The worst shortages are in the Canaries, Balearic and Greek islands.
Companies are also facing increased staffing and insurance costs, while the cars themselves are also becoming more expensive.
Jo Rhodes, the deputy travel editor at Which?, said: “High demand combined with a shortage of rental vehicles means prices across Europe and the US are still incredibly high compared with before the pandemic.
“Shop around and book in advance to lock in the most competitive rates, especially during peak periods.
“Use recommended companies endorsed by a trusted broker, and always be wary of ‘too good to be true’ prices.”
Zest Car Rental, which provided the data, said that demand for hire cars is soaring as Britons scramble to book holidays. Bookings for this year are more than double the number they were at the same point in 2022, the firm said.
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Last summer, holidaymakers told The Times they were being abandoned by car rental companies, which blamed administration errors or flight delays.
A repeat of the situation is expected this summer after airlines, tour operators and travel agents reported their best start to a year yet, surpassing even pre-pandemic records.
Last month Ryanair reported its busiest weekend, with more than two million seats sold between January 7 and 8. The airline said that average fares between October and December were 14 per cent above 2019 levels.
Holiday companies have noted an increase in the number of people booking all-inclusive holidays, which typically experience a resurgence at times of economic uncertainty.
Antonio Fellino, the managing director of Travel Republic, said: “With so much economic anxiety, the increase we’ve seen for all-inclusive holidays is unsurprising, with families wanting to be secure in knowing exactly what they’ll be spending when they go away. It’s certainly the case that people are trying to insulate themselves from unforeseen costs when abroad.”