Drivers could save up to 91% on their rental car this half term by booking in advance

Those hiring a car abroad could fork out nearly 12 times more for a vehicle rented at the airport on arrival as opposed to booking the same car type in advance online, data has revealed.

Drivers save an average of 59 per cent booking ahead online, according to holiday comparison website, TravelSupermarket.

Meanwhile, separate research has unearthed the potential extra expense of hiring a car in cold countries which require a motor to have gone through ‘winterisation.’ 

This includes having snow chains and super damage waivers.  

Savings: Families could save hundreds of pounds by booking their car rental in advance online

Don’t leave it until the last minute 

Motorists could save up to 91 per cent when booking ahead for their trip to Malaga over the February half term, with a compact car able for the week for just £17.12 – equivalent to only £2.14 a day.

The same car type would cost £198.31 – equivalent to £24.78 per day – if purchased at the airport on arrival, giving a huge potential saving of £191.19.

TravelSupermarket looked at ten of the most popular destinations for a getaway this February half term. 

It then compared prices for renting a car for the week when at the airport to booking a rental car in advance for the same period. 

It found that drivers could save 87 per cent on their rental car bill in Alicante when booking in advance.

Hiring a people carrier for pick up at the Spanish airport is available for just £16.98 – £2.12 per day – when booked in advance.

However, the walk-up price for the same car type, when purchased on arrival at the airport, is £133.16 –  equivalent to £16.64 per day – meaning there is a significant saving of £116.18 from booking online.

Airport and car type TravelSupermarket Best
Price (per day)
Airport walk up price
(per day)
Saving Difference 
Malaga (Compact) £17.12 (£2.14 per day) £198.31 (£24.78) £181.19 91%
Alicante (People carrier) £16.98 (£2.12 per day) £133.16 (£16.64) £116.18 87%
Malta (Economy) £8.57 (£1.07 per day) £58.51 (£7.31) £49.94 85%
Dublin (Compact) £28.26 (£3.53 per day) £123.19 (£15.39) £94.93 77%
Paphos (Compact) £28.38 (£3.54 per day) £92.58 (£11.57) £64.20 69%
Faro (Intermediate) £65.70 (£8.21 per day) £164.66 (£21.08) £98.96 60%
Tenerife (Compact) £89.32 (£11.16 per day) £136.47 (£17.05) £47.15 35%
Lanzarote (Compact) £89.50 (£11.18 per day) £136.47 (£17.05) £46.97 34%
Orlando (Intermediate) £127.41 (£15.92 per day) £185.91 (£23.23) £58.50 31%
Geneva (Compact) £363.00 (£45.37 per day) £455.25 (£56.90) £92.25 20%
Source: Travel Supermarket       

Similarly, travellers in Malta could save 85 per cent on their booking by planning ahead.

The area has the lowest price car rental out of all the locations analysed with families able to hire an economy car for just £8.57 for the week – equivalent to only £1.07 per day.

However, if drivers looked to rent a vehicle at the airport on the day, they would be paying £58.51 – or £7.31 a day – a difference of £49.94.  

Meanwhile, Geneva, a gateway to several ski resorts in both France and Switzerland, is the most popular car hire pick up location this half term via TravelSupermarket.

But it was found to offer the smallest percentage saving of the destinations researched at just 20 per cent.

It had the highest walk up price, at £455.25, and TravelSupermarket’s best prices, at £363, although this still gives a huge difference of £92.25.  

Those heading further abroad could still benefit from booking in advance as there are savings of £58.50 for families travelling to Orlando.

An intermediate rental car is available to hire for £127.41 for the week when booking in advance but this rises to £185.91 when hiring at the airport. 

Families heading to Malaga could save the most amount of money by booking a hire car online

Families heading to Malaga could save the most amount of money by booking a hire car online

Who would book at the airport? 

Some people leave booking a car to the last minute because it was a spontaneous decision or simply, they forgot to book. 

However, the downsides of leaving it late include the fact there are a limited choice of vehicles available, which is not ideal if people are travelling as a family with multiple suitcases and car seats, for example.

It also means customers need to spend more time at the airport desk filling out forms and paying for their vehicle – again, this is not ideal if children are waiting to get going.

The main problem, as above, is that it significantly cheaper for customers to book ahead. 

Holidaymakers are a captive market at the airport – it is much easier to use an online comparison website to find the best deal before departure.

Emma Grimster, spokeswoman at TravelSupermarket, said: ‘In all the destinations we researched we found it was significantly cheaper to book ahead versus turning up at the airport. 

‘However, booking in advance not only saves you money, but also ensures you secure the car type you want or need for your trip.

‘By getting organised ahead of your departure, reviewing your options and working out exactly what size and specifications you need from your hire car, you will also save time at your arrival destination when you are ready to get on with your holiday.’ 

Some drivers will be lumbered with winterisation costs including the cost of winter tyres

Some drivers will be lumbered with winterisation costs including the cost of winter tyres

What about winter vehicles?

For those travelling to winter destinations, perhaps to ski in the mountains, they will find themselves lumbered with extra charges that can add €100 or more to the total cost, according to research by Zest, a car rental firm. 

Some car hire firms will include the cost of winter tyres or snow chains in the original price, providing help to those driving in hazardous wintery conditions. 

However, where it is not included, customers could have to pay for the extras needed to drive in the snow, something that is known as the ‘winterisation’ fee. 

This cost is usually payable to the vehicle provider upon vehicle collection and you may be completely unaware of it before you travel. 

Rory Sexton, managing director of Zest, said: ‘It is important that your hire car is properly equipped for the driving conditions and this winter season for many areas that means having snow tyres and snow chains.  

‘Sometimes the extra cost of the winter tyres is included in the headline cost of the hire car, but often the customer must pay extra upon collection. Our research has shown that policies differ widely from company to company.’ 

Separate research from has revealed that the cost of hiring a car for a week whilst on a ski holiday during February half term can cost over £900 once extras at the rental desk are paid for. 

How to get the best price

TravelSupermarket and This is Money has put together a list of tips on how to get the price when booking a rental car. 

1. Book early to secure the car type you want as some car types already have limited availability in some locations.

2. As the research has shown, buying ahead is always cheaper than walking up. 

Plus, by comparing prices online in advance, you may find you can afford a larger vehicle than you originally had in mind.

3. Economy cars can be sometimes cheaper than mini economy so search all car types, not just the smallest, in order to get the best price.

4. Don’t forget to maximise your saving by buying car hire excess insurance in advance to save even more money. 

You will also get better protection than policy reductions offered when you pick your car up. 

5. Don’t jump for the first deal that you see via your holiday or flight provider – use a comparison website to search the market for the widest range of options.

6. When making your booking, make sure you read the terms and conditions so you know what is included within the price, and of anything you may need to pay extra for.

7. It may be worth considering getting a quote from your flight provider, especially if it is with a budget airline as they often offer good deals for rental cars. 

However, don’t automatically assume it is the best deal just because it is linked to your airline booking. 

8. Make sure that whoever you book with is a reputable firm. If in doubt, go for a well known car rental firm, even if it is slightly more expensive.



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