Holidaymakers are being charged significantly more for summer car hire in popular destinations than before the coronavirus pandemic, according to new research.
Analysis by consumer group Which? found prices are an average of 77% above 2019 levels owing to high demand and depleted stocks.
It warned that rental companies with the cheapest headline prices often sting customers with hidden charges.
The research is based on the price of a week’s car hire in August in Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Malta, Portugal, Spain, the UK and the USA.
The most expensive country was found to be the USA, with an average price of £546, a rise of 92% since 2019.
The UK, Cyprus and Italy have all seen prices at least double over the same period, but overall car hire is marginally cheaper than in 2022.
The figures are based on analysis of data provided by broker Zest Car Rental covering more than 8,000 transactions.
Separately, 47% of respondents to a survey of nearly 2,700 Which? members reported being worried about being exploited by a rental company.
Rory Boland, editor of magazine Which? Travel, said: “Travellers this summer can expect to pay much higher prices for car hire than before the pandemic, with strong demand and a continuing shortage of vehicles pushing up costs.
“While there are deals out there, people should avoid the firms with the cheapest headline prices, because too often they will later be stung by hidden charges.
“Only use a reputable broker or hire firm, so you can ensure you’re getting the best possible service for your money.”
Toby Poston, director of corporate affairs at trade body the British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, said: “We are living in a different world to that seen in 2019.
“Car rental companies are battling with the same inflationary and cost pressures as everyone.
“That is on top of supply challenges when sourcing cars and parts, alongside the continued investment in bringing cleaner, greener vehicles to our roads.
“To see prices come down year on year underlines the rental sector’s commitment to keep costs as low as possible.”