Tourism is paying a hefty price thanks to rising car rental costs

Car rental costs at home and abroad have soared - which is off putting to tourists, so says Trevor Laffan
Tourism is paying a hefty price thanks to rising car rental costs

We want tourists to come to Ireland - but costs can be outrageous, says Trevor Laffan, especially when it comes to car rental.

Did you know that Ireland is considered a good value for money destination? Well, according to Failte Ireland, it is but they are concerned that rising car rental prices are undermining that reputation. They also worry that those who cannot secure a car booking may decide not to come to Ireland.

20% of all overseas tourists to Ireland rent a car and those who do, spend more time and money and are far more likely to visit rural Ireland. Car hire plays an important role in facilitating tourism but the cost of renting a car here is high compared to the European average.

According to the Irish Examiner, some visitors to Ireland are cancelling their holidays altogether because of the rising cost of renting a car. Visitors here face being stung for far higher costs than those in a number of other top European holiday destinations.

A reporter tried to book a car for the two-week period from eight different airports around Europe and the results showed Dublin was the most expensive. 

The cheapest option there was a VW Golf at €211.72 per day or €2,964.06 for the fortnight. The only cheaper option was a VW Mini Up at €,2024 or €144.57 a day.

I know a little about this subject because over the years I have spent a fair bit of money on car rentals abroad, particularly in Cyprus. Costs are rising there too, not nearly as much as Ireland, but enough to make me consider my options and I think my renting days are coming to an end.

Not so long ago, I was able to pick up a car in Paphos airport and hold onto it for a few weeks for a couple of hundred Euro. There were days when it was just parked up without moving, especially when I was on my own, but at that price, it didn’t matter. I was more likely to use it when my wife joined me or if we had visitors.

That’s changed now because the cost of car rental has gone through the roof. I noticed it first about twelve months ago when there was a significant jump in price but this year it’s even worse. I was looking at prices for next September/October and the best price I can come up with is about eighteen hundred Euro. Granted that’s for an extended stay but it’s still too expensive for something just a bit larger than a wheelbarrow and I can’t justify it.

I’ve now decided that the next time I travel to Larnaca, I’m going to try public transport. I have never used it before, so I have no idea how efficient or punctual the buses are but there is only one way to find out and that’s to jump on. If I need a car for any reason for a day or two, I’ll hire one.

It will be different but I’m looking forward to the challenge. Apart from the cost of renting a car, minding it comes with responsibility and I’ll be happy to have that monkey off my back. In Cyprus, when you hire a car you either pay excess insurance, which is an additional daily cost and can be expensive for long stays, or else you pre-authorise a payment on your credit card to cover the cost of any damage caused to it.

That sum varies but it’s usually about €800 or €900. If you return the car without a scratch, that preauthorisation is marked void and there’s no problem. But if you return the car with a mark above the size of a €2 coin, the rental company takes the cost of the repair from that sum. It’s a bit hit and miss though.

Last April, my rental was parked on the side of the street when someone reversed into the driver’s door and drove off. A local guy witnessed it and said the driver was a little old lady. When she was later questioned by the police, she denied hitting my car. It’s possible she didn’t even realise it because the damage was minor, but it was still going to cost me.

The police investigation went nowhere, and I was left to pay for the damage. When I returned the car to the company, they sent a photograph of the damaged door to the maintenance people who estimated the cost of repair at €350. That amount was then charged to my credit card.

To counteract that, I take out an annual insurance policy, around €50, to cover that excess insurance, so I can claim those costs when I return home. It’s a little tedious and time consuming but it’s worth it in the end. Still, it’s not what you want to be dealing with when you’re on holidays.

I’ve been involved in several incidents out there over the years so I’m constantly on my guard and not only when I’m out on the road either. I even worry about the car when it’s in the designated parking space so not having that responsibility next time will be a relief. If I’m thinking that way, you can be sure visitors to Ireland will be thinking similarly and that’s not the only problem for Failte Ireland.

The hospitality industry is crying out for support. Hotels constantly remind us about their struggles during Covid and how badly they need business. They want the tourists to come. They would also like the rest of us to holiday at home, but while they deny price gouging, the costs are still outrageous.

Expensive hotel accommodation, the cost of eating out, and our unpredictable weather are already serious considerations for any would-be tourist. Add the exorbitant cost of car hire to the pot as well and Failte Ireland have every reason to be concerned.

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