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Is online car hire comparison really worth it?

Photo of Chelsea DickensonPhoto of Chelsea Dickenson
By Chelsea Dickenson

21 July 20234 min read

Aerial view of a single four-wheel-drive on a road that runs alongside a body of water dotted with tree-covered islands

Hiring a car for you next holiday? Book the right way and you can save hundreds of pounds on your rental.

In this deep dive, we put booking direct head-to-head with online travel comparison to find out where you’ll get more bang for your buck on car hire and excess insurance in the UK and abroad.

Car hire in the UK

Let’s look at how much hiring the cheapest possible car for seven days at the end of July would cost here in the UK.

For dates, I kept it fairly last-minute with a week’s rental from July 23 to July 31, picking and dropping off at midday in the area of Kings Cross in London. As well as car hire, I also asked for the price of excess insurance cover.

In-person quote

For my in-person quote, I checked the Sixt car hire branch beneath London St Pancras railway station. I must admit, it did feel a little odd to be asking to book a car in advance in person – and it was for good reason, as the staff told me they only processed in person requests if I was hiring that same day.

My dates were a couple of weeks out, so they told me to go online to book instead for both the car hire and the excess insurance.

Online quote

The Sixt website was easy to use and the cheapest option on offer was a manual 5-seater VW Polo (or similar) with 1200 miles included.

The cost came in at £50.42 a day, which is £352.93 for a full week’s rental. As for the excess insurance, this would put me back £33.55 a day, meaning £234.85 for the full week.

But would using a travel comparison site bring this price down?

TravelSupermarket quote

Entering in the exact same details for pick up, dates and times, this was the cheapest possible option on TravelSupermarket:

  • Kia Picanto or similar
  • 4-seater
  • Manual
  • Unlimited miles included.

At just £32.01 a day (£224.07 for the week), it meant that I would save a whopping £128.89 across a whole week compared to the deal I’d found by going direct.

I also used TravelSupermarket to search for third party excess insurance which worked out at £4.74 a day. For the full week, this was only £33.15, which saved a massive £201.70 versus booking direct with the car hire provider.

The numbers

The numbers do the talking here. If I book car hire and excess insurance for a week’s car hire directly, it would cost me £587.78. Instead, if I book car hire and excess insurance through TravelSupermarket for the same dates and duration, it will cost me £257.22 – that’s a saving of £330.56!

Car hire abroad

But, are the results replicable abroad? This time, I’m looking at Malta, which is well known for cheap car hire prices.

As with the UK car hire, I’ll be looking at the cheapest week-long rental from July 23 to July 31, with pick-up and drop-off at midday.

In-person quote

Sadly, I didn’t use this as an excuse to do a quick trip to Malta, so instead I picked up the phone and spoke to someone from Enterprise since they have a car hire rental firm out there.

The cheapest possible car was a manual 4-seater Toyota Aygo (or similar) with unlimited miles included. It was quoted at €22.82 (£19.66) a day for the car hire and an extra €25 (£21.38) a day for the excess insurance.

Online quote

The prices online were exactly the same as discussed over the phone, so no surprises on that front!

TravelSupermarket quote

After plugging in all the same details, here’s what I found for the cheapest possible car on TravelSupermarket:

  • Fiat Panda or similar
  • 4-seater
  • Manual
  • Unlimited miles included

The cost was £10.34 a day, meaning just £72.41 for the entire week’s rental. That’s a saving of £65.25 versus booking direct.

As for the excess insurance, that came in at £33.15 for the entire week in Malta.

The numbers

As car hire prices in Malta are often low, I wondered if this would level out the playing field a little but with booking direct costing £287.28 versus the £105.56 of going via TravelSupermarket, I think it’s clear to say that it didn’t.

In fact, even though the numbers are lower, you’ll save more on this deal. That’s because booking with a comparison site on the UK test was 228% cheaper than booking direct compared to a 287% saving in Malta – amazing!

The verdict

The numbers really speak for themselves here – and I’m so glad they do. My advice is always to shop around and compare prices before booking anything holiday related, and it’s great to see that stand up in this test. And if you’re getting ready to hit the road on your next holiday, start your car hire comparison here.

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