Car rental prices: How to get a better rate as prices soar

Hiring a car for your next holiday? Be prepared for a shock because prices are weird. Pick up from Hobart Airport and Budget will charge you $1552 for a Suzuki Swift automatic or similar for a two-week hire in September.

In Cairns, same operator, same dates, a Kia Cerato will cost you $2446, but only if you pay now. Heading offshore? A Toyota Yaris for the same mid-September dates from Budget at Rome's Fiumicino Airport will cost €1816 ($2647), but you can hire a Citroen C3 automatic for the same period from Paris' Charles de Gaulle Airport and Budget will charge you just €555 ($809).

When their business collapsed during the pandemic, car-hire operators downsized their fleets. Now that travel is back, they're looking to restock but some are struggling. Supply chain interruptions mean new vehicles are scarce, car-hire operators are being forced to pay higher prices, and in a red-hot rental market, those operators are charging higher prices – but not everywhere. Supply and demand determine the price you pay, and since they're different in different markets, prices are wildly divergent.

For the customer the rules are still the same. Book as far ahead as possible, prices will only rise with time.

It's worth starting your search by looking at a car rental comparison site such as rentalcars.com. When you find what you're looking for, check with the website of the car-hire operator and see if their deal is the same. If you pay when you book rather than at the check-in desk you might pay less. If you're hiring overseas, compare the local price with what you're being offered in Australia. It's fairly easy to find the French version of Avis for example and compare your chosen vehicle with the price of the same vehicle on the Australian Avis site, and it won't be the same. Don't forget to take your physical licence as most car hire operators won't accept a digital version on your phone.

michael.gebicki@traveller.com.au