Sunday, 16 August 2009

Where have all the car hire rentals gone?

We are now in mid August 2009 at the height of the summer season and for the second week in the row The Independent has featured this story, not only as a news report but also in the editorial. It appear that holidaymakers are finding a severe shortage of rental cars in countries like Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and other destinations.

Small cars are particulary in short supply and on the blog in early July I reported the story under “ Book your car hire early this summer - you might not get one at the last minute” of propblems of some people I knew who tried to rent a car at Nice at the last minute and could not find anything apart from an Audi TT that was rather expensive for the week. In the end the person looking after the villa they were renting was able to arrange a rental from a vehicle body repair company that provides courtesy cars.

Car rental companies say they have not been able to buy enough vehicles because of a fall in manufacturing and tighter lending conditions. Normally there would be a large choice of small Citroens, Fiats, Fords, Peugots, Seats and VWs. According to the Independent report “Lease Europe” the industry body for car hire companies was saying that firms had been unable to get the finance needed to expand their fleets and the rules restricting the movement of vehicles across borders to meet demand had compounded the problem. are Holiday Autos agents and their Managing Director Stuart Nassos told The Independent that the shortage was blamed on shortages in the recession as car manufactuers have cut the number of cars being built, therefore fewer are available and also there is a lack of credit. The two combine to create a perfect storm.

Stuart Nassos advised holidaymakers not to rely on an airport booking which may be cancelled at short notice, but to book a car from a city location.

Holidaymakers and business travellers should book in advance and make sure they take out car hire excess insurance which is usually much cheaper than buying it from the car rental company when you collect the car. acts as introducer agents for well known providers like insurance4carhire and questor insurance.

The recession plus the unsettled weather in northern Europe has also been another contributory factor to the shortage. People have suddenly decided to take a last minute holiday in warmer countries like Italy, Portugal and Spain, in fact at we had an email from an agent in the Algarve ten days ago saying she was so busy arranging last minute self catering villa holidays.

The Independent article quoted Michael Taride, President of Hertz Europe telling the BBC that there is a seasonal shortage of rental cars every summer, but it seems to be more acute this year because car makers have cut production due to uncertain economy. There has been a big increase in domestic and US inbound travel and holidaymakers are deciding to go away at the last minute.

An obvious solution is to use older cars in the busy season, however it looks like most hire companies don’t keep car for too long. The Independent’s editorial is of a similar opintion on the 15th August with a headline “ Bring on the old bangers”.

It was a different situation in Ireland when I checked on Friday to rent a car in Dublin for a long weekend commencing 27th August. Both holiday autos and Irishcarrentals had an excellent supply of small cars. Unfortunately the weather won’t be as hot there as in the Algarve.

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