Travellers will pay double for car hire in some holiday hotspots this Easter compared with pre-pandemic, Which? research finds

The cost of renting a car on holiday this Easter is 72 per cent more expensive on average than the same period in 2019, according to new Which? research.

Which? examined data supplied by car hire broker Zest Car Rental for over 5,000 rentals in nine popular holiday destinations including Spain, France and the US, and found that seven out of nine destinations the consumer champion examined have seen weekly increases of over £100.

Cyprus has seen the most dramatic price rises, with the average daily rental rate more than doubling this year when compared with before the pandemic. A seven-day rental would now set holidaymakers back £248, up 112 per cent on pre-pandemic rates. Portugal and Greece were not far behind, with increases of 99 and 97 per cent respectively.

The USA was by far the most expensive country, with holidaymakers shelling out £537 per week on average, adding £239 onto the cost of a holiday compared with 2019.

Despite seeing the smallest price increases overall, at 25 per cent, France nonetheless emerged as one of the pricier regions to rent a car, with a week’s rental costing £364 on average.

In the face of widespread vehicle shortages, the cost of car hire rose hugely last year. While companies have now had an opportunity to begin restocking fleets that were sold off during the height of the pandemic, rates have not dropped as much as might have been anticipated, instead settling far higher than travellers were accustomed to pre-pandemic. 

Demand remains extremely high this year, contributing to increased costs. Zest Car Rental reports that advance bookings are up 132 per cent compared to the same point last year. 

Rental firms are also facing increased staffing and insurance costs, while cars themselves are also becoming more expensive – estimates by Zest suggest that the cost of purchasing a Fiat Panda, one of the smallest typical cars in a rental fleet, now costs around £5,000 more on average than in 2019.

Jo Rhodes, Deputy Editor of Which? Travel, 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, or small local firms endorsed by a trusted broker, and always be wary of ‘too good to be true’ prices.  

“Paying in advance, if you can, often works out cheaper overall and helps secure your booking. We also recommend taking out third-party insurance before you travel; in the past, we’ve found hire companies selling inferior policies at the desk at marked up prices.”  




Notes to editors:

How to secure the best deal

-Wherever possible, book your car hire as early as you can – ideally at the same time you book your holiday. This is especially true if you plan to travel during peak periods or in a high-demand country.

-When you book online, opting to pay upfront will generally prove cheaper overall, with average savings of between £20 and £50 for a week. Paying in advance also helps guard against unscrupulous companies cancelling your booking in order to take a more valuable one as rates rise.

-If a rate looks too good to be true it usually is, so be wary of anything that doesn’t look quite right. Less reputable companies will sometimes offer a low rate which is then ‘topped up’ with sneaky hidden charges. In a recent Which? survey, 13% of people told us they were charged more than they had been quoted, and the average additional charge was £101. The most common disputed or unexpected charges were for damage to the car and refuelling, but others included admin fees, an over-70s surcharge, extra mileage, and late drop-off.

-Which? has previously found that insurance policies offered by car hire companies are often overpriced and poor quality when compared with the policies offered by third parties, so purchase cover in advance to avoid being ripped off at the rental desk. Be aware that if you purchase standalone insurance, your hire company will insist that you leave a hefty (refundable) deposit, and you’ll have to pay an excess if you have an accident. But you can claim it back from your insurance later.

– Avoid paying for extras like satnavs and car seats. Instead, download a free navigation app like Navmii to your mobile, which can access maps offline without eating into your data allowance. Some airlines will let you bring a car seat free or charge; alternatively, you can sometimes rent them from airports for a fraction of the price quoteds by car hire firms.

Our research

Broker Zest Car Rentals supplied the average daily rate across all car categories in Easter holidays in 2019, 2022 and 2023 in nine destinations: Spain, Balearics, Portugal, France, Italy, Greece, Cyprus, Madeira and the US. Prices are average rates based on over 5000 rentals, including all car types.

2019 prices are based on rentals booked up to a month before pick-up; 2023 figures are based on advance bookings made by mid-January 2023.


Price of a 7-day rental in 2019 Price of a 7-day rental in 2023 Price difference  % difference
Spain (mainland) £187 £277 £90 48%
Portugal (mainland) £111 £221 £110 99%
Balearic islands £176 £310 £134 76%
France £291 £364 £73 25%
Greece £105 £207 £102 97%
Italy £243 £362 £119 49%
Cyprus £117 £248 £131 112%
Madeira £207 £340 £133 64%
US £298 £537 £239 80%


About Which?

Which? is the UK’s consumer champion, here to make life simpler, fairer and safer for everyone. Our research gets to the heart of consumer issues, our advice is impartial, and our rigorous product tests lead to expert recommendations. We’re the independent consumer voice that influences politicians and lawmakers, investigates, holds businesses to account and makes change happen. As an organisation we’re not for profit and all for making consumers more powerful.

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