portals in test: how to find the cheapest rental car

Young couple in a convertible

V irtual vacationers have long since become accustomed to being their own travel agent. You organize yourself a cheap flight, the right hotel and a rental car. Online offers make it possible, the travel market is more transparent than ever before. You just have to keep the overview.

But in many cases, additional costs put a spanner in the works of bargain hunting: with some low-cost airlines, for example, luggage fees make the total price more expensive, and there are also a number of things to consider when it comes to vacation cars.

Especially, if you need a rental car abroad, you can save a lot of money. A comparison test of the magazine “Travel& Prices” of 15 rented car offerers at 12 popular European vacation destinations leads price differences of up to 60 per cent to days.

For example, a small car picked up at Lisbon airport during the summer vacations costs 400 euros per week with the most expensive provider, and only 167 euros with the cheapest one. In mid-June, the most expensive rental car in the test on Mallorca costs 227 euros per week, the cheapest only 126 euros. A price advantage of 45 percent.

This was tested

In addition to the price, criteria such as transparency, additional costs as well as presentation and functionality of the website were also included in the test result.

Traditional rental car companies such as Avis, Hertz, Sixt and Europcar were tested, as well as so-called rental car brokers such as Holiday Autos, Auto Europe and Sunny Cars – these do not maintain their own vehicle fleets, but broker vehicles from international and regional rental companies.

Third group in the test were price comparison portals such as Billiger-Mietwagen, Mietwagenmarkt and MietwagenCheck24, which evaluate the offer of up to 20 providers via a single rental car query per destination. The latter also usually found the best prices, while fleet operators were above average often found at the upper end of the price scale.

The test winners

With a few exceptions, the cheapest prices were found by the meta-search engines of the price comparators. Price winner is Mietwagen-Check24 , which had the cheapest offer in 14 out of 24 cases, followed by Billiger-Mietwagen.de and rental car market (eight times each the cheapest).

However, the results cannot be generalized, because with a different target selection at a different time, another price comparator might come out on top.

Overall winner was Billiger-Mietwagen.de , which also scored top marks in the areas of functionality and transparency.

The cost traps

But it was not only about finding the cheapest rental cars, but also to uncover the pitfalls in the small print. How to travel& Prices” reported, for example, it is indispensable to study carefully the fuel regime before booking: If the car is handed over with a full tank and is to be returned empty at the end of the rental period, it says watch out: The credit card account is usually charged in this case with an excessive gasoline flat rate, warn the travel testers.

Furthermore, the provider benefits from the fact that the tank usually still contains quite a few liters of gasoline when returning the car. Loss for the customer: 20 to 50 euros.

We also make money on accessories. Those who own a mobile navigation device should take it with them, because rental car companies charge up to 18 euros per day for rental devices! Money is made also with child seats: Depending on the provider, up to 13 euros per day are charged, for short-term rentals even up to 40 euros. In addition, the seats are often in poor condition.

Finally, the insurance coverage is usually sufficient in all car rental offers in Europe today. However, if you want to exclude the usual deductibles for comprehensive and theft insurance, you’ll need to purchase additional insurance for about six euros per day. It is annoying that some rental companies still impose additional insurances on the customer, which are actually already included.

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