Car hire on holiday gives you the freedom to explore your destination and makes getting to and from the airport hassle-free. It can also be a lot cheaper than booking tours and excursions, particularly if you’re travelling with a big group.
Our complete guide to finding reputable and cheap car hire is designed to help you find the best prices for your car rental, whether you’re hiring a Range Rover, a Ford Fiesta or anything in between. We also cover rental reviews and reputability to help reduce the chances of something going wrong. Follow our steps below and get saving!
Use a car hire comparison website
Your first step to finding a cheap car hire options is to use a comparison website such as Skyscanner or HolidayAutos. These websites compare multiple third party booking websites and official rental companies to find the best deal. Personally, we prefer Skyscanner due to their unbiased results and easy to use comparison engine.
Simply search for your pickup location and collection/drop-off dates and times. You can choose to return the car to a different location but this is more expensive and it’s recommended to pick-up and drop-off from the same location if possible.
You’ll be presented with a selection of results for different car types, starting with the cheaper and more basic models and ranging up to premium convertibles.
Use the filters on the left-hand side of the page to narrow your search to a specific car type, classes, features, transmission and various other options.
Most of the time, a standard ‘Economy’ or ‘Intermediate’ car type provides the best value. They aren’t too small and the prices are still cheap. However, feel free to upgrade to an SUV or convertible!
On-airport versus off-airport car HIRE
There are two different types of supplier for car rental:
On-airport car hire is what the name suggests; hire companies on the airport premises where you can enter the arrivals hall and pick up your car fairly quickly. The most notable on-airport brands are Enterprise, Europcar, Budget, Avis and Alamo and you’ll see these same brands in airports around the world.
On-airport rental services are generally more expensive than off-airport, however they can be more convenient and are generally a safer bet as they have due to better brand/corporate management, however this is not always the case and you should always check reviews.
Off-airport car hire companies are located just off the airport premises and can be reached via a 2 to 10-minute transfer from the terminal. On arrival at the terminal you’ll be picked up by a private driver or a shared bus transport. Being located away from the airport, off-airport car parks are almost always cheaper, however quality and reputability aren’t always up to standard and it all depends on the location.
Our advice is to pay the slightly extra cost for on-airport car hire with a reputable brand, unless you can find an off-airport location at your destination with excellent reviews, which leads us on to our next point…
Look up reviews for rental company options
When comparing rental options, always take note of the reviews. Unfortunately, the cheap car hire industry has a lot of horror stories of customers being overcharged, oversold and scammed out of their deposits and this can be minimised with proper research.
There are two sets of different reviews:
Reviews for the rental booking website:
Reviews for the car hire company themselves:
Although you’re booking through a consolidator, the company you collect the car from can be different unless you book direct.
You’ll see the supplier information next to the car hire listing:
Simply search Google for the car hire company name and ‘reviews’. You’ll find reviews on Google Maps and various other reviews websites depending on the company and location. Use these to make a judgement call on whether the company is reputable and can be trusted!
Look for a promo code or cashback deal
Once you’ve selected a car hire company and website to book it with, search online for a promo code or cashback deal to save some extra cash. Simply search Google for the name of your chosen booking company and ‘discount codes’, ‘promo codes’ or ‘cashback’. Browse the promotions until you find one that stands out.
You may find that some booking sites don’t have any discounts available whilst others do (which may have seemed more expensive at first but not after the promo code is applied). Weigh up your options at this stage to see which site gives you the cheapest price. Popular UK voucher code sites include Vouchercodes.co.uk and Vouchercloud.com, whilst Quidco and Top Cash Back are the main cashback sites.
Book your cheap car hire and the relevant add-ons
When you’re in the booking process for your chosen car, you’ll be presented with numerous add-ons. These include additional driver charges, Sat Nav rental, booster seat and various insurance options.
Insurance aside for a minute (we’ll cover this in the next point), the only extras you really need are additional drivers if more than one person will be driving and a booster seat if applicable.
To save money on navigation, use your mobile phone with Google Maps enabled if travelling in Europe and on a free European data roaming plan. Alternatively, buy a Sat Nav before you fly. You can get some very good, cheap models on Ebay that you can take on future holidays!
Buy excess insurance separately
Most car hire services offer a basic insurance package included in the standard price. However, this usually doesn’t cover scenarios such as lost keys, external car damage and if you get into an accident, there’s a hefty excess charge which can cost you upwards of £1000.
We cannot stress this enough – ALWAYS BOOK THE FULL INSURANCE PACKAGE!
However, we’d recommend that you book the insurance separately on a specialist insurance website to save money. The ‘per day’ price is a lot cheaper!
Get a quote for excess insurance on Confused.com. We’ve found this website to be the best value and we’re confident booking with the reputable brand name.
Simply select the rental dates and times to get a quote.
Having excess insurance means that you’ll be refunded for your excess charge in the unfortunate event of an accident. It’s still normal to leave a deposit with the rental company; you’ll just be refunded by the insurance company if you end up getting charged for damages.
Top tips for booking cheap car hire for your holiday
- Book in advance for the best prices
- Email in advance and ask politely for a free upgrade – it may be your lucky day
- Be nice and make small talk with the rental customer service rep for a chance of a free upgrade
- Ignore any upsells at the pick-up location. If you’ve booked your car hire correctly online, there shouldn’t be any additional costs (except a deposit, which you’ll be refunded).
- Check your home insurance and car insurance policies – you might be covered already and won’t have to buy separate insurance cover.
- Sign up to car hire company newsletters and keep an eye out for sales. You’ll often find discounts of 20% or more if you book at the right time!
- Check the fuel policy before driving off so you know whether return the car on empty or full. You don’t want to be charged extra on return.
- Check driver ager restrictions with the rental company before booking. If you’re under 25, there’s often an additional surcharge, whilst some companies apply a surcharge for those under 21 years old.
- Take pictures of the car before you leave the rental centre. This will help spot any early signs of damage and you can prove that you didn’t damage the car if blamed.
- Check mileage restrictions. Some car rentals have restricted miles within the rental contract. If you plan on doing lots of long distance driving, purchase car hire with an unlimited miles policy; otherwise you’ll get charged for additional miles driven.