Car hire firms cash in on families desperate to reunite over Christmas

Car rental firms cash in on families desperate to reunite over Christmas by hiking prices as high as £1,230

  • Cheapest at Avis’s London Victoria branch from December 23 to 27 is £1,230
  • Hertz and Avis extremely limited availability in capital and at other UK locations 
  • Sixt car hire appear to have run out of cars in London during five days over Christmas

Car hire companies are cashing in on families desperate to reunite over Christmas by increasing their prices seven-fold.

With socially distanced rail services close to selling out, many travellers without cars have resorted to hiring vehicles so they can see their loved ones.

Such is the demand over the five days of Christmas when up to three households can meet, many rental firms appear to have run out of vehicles. And the few cars that are available are listed at sky-high prices.

Car hire companies are cashing in travellers without cars over the Christmas period by increasing their prices seven-fold. (Stock image)

The cheapest option available at Avis’s London Victoria branch from December 23 to 27 is £1,230.

The cheapest car over the same period a week earlier, December 16 to 20, is £165 – a seventh of the price.

Sixt car hire appear to have run out of vehicles in London during the crucial five days over Christmas. The closest branch with available cars is at Southampton Airport.

Hertz and Avis also have extremely limited availability in the capital and at locations across the UK. Many branches are closed.

Europcar’s prices are 91 to 400 per cent more expensive over December 23 to 27 than they are the week before.

The firm’s Bristol South branch is charging £417 for a car over Christmas, compared to £93 a week earlier.

At Manchester Airport, Christmas rates begin at £304 – an increase of 163 per cent on the cheapest cars available a week before at £115.

And the cost of a car from Sixt’s Reading and Newcastle branches more than doubles over Christmas.

Martyn James, of complaints site Resolver, accused rental firms of ‘profiteering’ during the pandemic. 

He said: ‘Train companies are doing a fairly good job of keeping their prices relatively fair and balanced so people can see their loved ones.

The cheapest option available at Avis’s London Victoria branch from December 23 to 27 is £1,230. (Stock image)

‘But the high prices charged by rental companies leave a very unpleasant taste in the mouth. 

‘There is no excuse for this level of profiteering, particularly given the pandemic.’

Under travel restrictions, trains are only able to carry around 45 per cent of their usual passenger numbers to allow for social distancing.

The Department for Transport has agreed to run more trains on Christmas Eve while rail operators have promised to lengthen carriages. 

Meanwhile Highways England will clear 778 miles of restrictions on motorways and A-roads across England to free up traffic.

Councils are also being urged to lift roadworks after the AA warned of the potential for local snarl-ups.

An Avis spokesman said it had reduced its fleet due to lower demand for car rental this year.

Europcar said high-peak periods such as Christmas and Easter ‘are likely to see prices rise nearer to the date of the booking’. 

Sixt was approached for comment.

…as insurers cash in with rip-off monthly payments

Motorists whose finances have been hit by Covid are being penalised with rip-off car insurance charges.

An extra three million drivers are now paying monthly for their car cover because they cannot pay the premium in one lump sum.

But many do not realise that this is the most expensive way to pay as insurers charge an interest rate.

The difference between the average cost of a policy paid annually and monthly has more than doubled to £312 since January.

Younger drivers who typically pay higher premiums and those on tight budgets are among those most likely to be caught out.

Martyn James, of complaints dispute service Resolver, said: ‘The insurance industry has saved a huge amount of money this year in claims as we have been confined to our homes. Yet there is little sign of these savings being passed on to their customers.’

The number of drivers paying monthly for car insurance has increased by 9 per cent to almost half of all motorists.

With 31.6million cars on the road, this suggests 14.9million drivers paid monthly, up from 12million at the start of the year.

In January the average premium for those paying monthly was £997 and £854 for an annual fee, with a difference of £143.

But by October the average premiums were £1,095 and £783 respectively – an extra £312.

Trade body the Association of British Insurers said anyone struggling to pay for car cover should speak to their insurer. 

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