Economy Car Hire says that the economic situation which led to an availability crisis in 2009 has not eased, with shortages predicted in 2010 throughout Spain, in Portugal (especially at Faro), Italy, Croatia, Greece and even Cyprus.
The company is pointing to the way prices rose steadily during 2009, with cars booked in August costing over twice what they would have been if they had been booked in January. For example, car hire in Spain on a Ford Ka booked in January 2009 for a week in August cost £117; the same car booked within a month of departure cost £240. Economy Car Hire predicts that there will be similar financial penalties for leaving booking to the last minute in 2010.
"The message is clear for 2010," says Rory Sexton, managing director of Economy Car Hire. "Those who book their hire car early will have a fuller choice of vehicle and will pay a lower price. Those who leave it late will certainly pay more, and may find there is nothing available.
"Many European countries are still suffering economically, and as a result hire companies are finding it difficult to raise finance to equip their fleets. At the same time, car makers have progressively run their stocks down and cut back on production, so there are few surplus new cars around which might otherwise have been hived off into the hire fleet.
Economy Car Hire is also advising holidaymakers to pay in advance, as this is the only way of guaranteeing that a car will be available when they arrive at their destination. Anecdotal evidence suggests that during 2009 some holidaymakers found that their pre-booked – but not pre-paid – hire car did not materialize when they arrived. They point out that pre-payment also removes any exchange rate uncertainty which is inherent on pay-on-arrival.
"The situation is going to be very tight throughout 2010, and especially in peak times – we are already starting to have to work hard to find availability for Easter. Our advice is that once you know where you are going on holiday, don’t delay in booking your hire car."