Business Travel: Find a better deal on wheels

Do high car rental charges drive you away? Rhiannon Batten discovers a surprising difference between the rates on offer from hire companies

THE DIFFERENCE in car rental rates is extraordinary. Big corporations can negotiate excellent deals with a single supplier, but for smaller businesses or self-employed people it pays to call several different agents. To find out the differences, we took three sample bookings: a one-way, one-day rental in a group A car from Cardiff to Manchester; a week's use of a mid-range saloon (a Mondeo or equivalent) based in Edinburgh; and a Tuesday-to-Thursday 48-hour hire of a classy Mercedes or similar.

For the first sample booking, the best deal was pounds 44.50 from Avis, on a fully inclusive basis. Europcar could offer AA members a rate of pounds 44.80 but non-members would have to cough up pounds 56. Through Holiday Autos you'd pay pounds 45 - if you could put up with the heavy background noise and distracted staff on the phone line - and with Alamo pounds 48. After that the rates rise at a very steep gradient. Budget would charge pounds 59, Hertz pounds 62 (plus pounds 6.50 for theft protection) and National Car Rental pounds 73.38 (although this rate be a more reasonable pounds 54.66 if you dropped the car off at the airport rather than in the centre of town). Apparently, Thrifty doesn't do one- way rentals.

For the second sample booking, hiring a mid-range saloon for a week in Edinburgh, your best offer would be from Budget, living up to its name with a rate of pounds 148.50. Alamo would charge pounds 160, Europcar pounds 167.99, Thrifty pounds 170, Sixt Sense pounds 174 and National Car Rental pounds 178.98. After that it's a hurtful pounds 196 with Hertz and pounds 215 with Holiday Autos. Most complicated of all - you have to answer a whole series of questions over the phone before they'll tell you the rate - is Avis. It charges pounds 200 for the week (or pounds 225 if you want to pick up your car in town rather than at the airport) plus pounds 1.12 per day in tax.

On the last lap of our Grand Prix of sample bookings, booking a Mercedes - or a set of similarly snazzy wheels - for 48 hours between Tuesday and Thursday, the best rates were quoted by Alamo (pounds 122.22) and National Car Rental (pounds 125.99). Sadly, neither would actually get you a Mercedes, since neither company has any - you'd have to make do with a Vauxhall Omega.

For a chance of driving away with the real thing (though none of the companies could guarantee a Mercedes), the best deals were Budget (pounds 144) and Avis (pounds 148). Sixt Sense quoted pounds 171, Europcar pounds 186 and Hertz pounds 228 (plus pounds 6.50 for theft protection). Holiday Autos couldn't say whether or not the company hired out Mercedes, and Thrifty couldn't offer anything even vaguely similar.

Before you pick up the phone and start your journey into the world of car hire, you should also bear in mind that the differences don't stop with the price. Before you can hire a car, each company has various regulations about what age you must be, how long you've had your licence and whether you hold a personal credit card. If it's price that drives you, be flexible about times, dates and pick-up points, and check whether there are any special promotions before you book.

To book call: Alamo (0181-759 6200); Avis (0870 606 0100); Budget (0541 565 656); Holiday Autos (0990 300 453); Europcar (0870 607 5000); Hertz (0870 844 8844); National Car Rental (0870 400 4502); Sixt Sense (0845 600 6660) or Thrifty (01494 751 600)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Guru Careers: Management Accountant

£27 - 35k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Management Accountant is needed ...

Guru Careers: Project Manager / Business Analyst

£40-50k + Benefits.: Guru Careers: A Project Manager / Business Analyst is nee...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: ‘We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon’, says Ed Balls

'We will not sit down with Nicola Sturgeon'

In an exclusive interview, Ed Balls says he won't negotiate his first Budget with SNP MPs - even if Labour need their votes to secure its passage
VE Day 70th anniversary: How ordinary Britons celebrated the end of war in Europe

How ordinary Britons celebrated VE Day

Our perception of VE Day usually involves crowds of giddy Britons casting off the shackles of war with gay abandon. The truth was more nuanced
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age

Typefaces still matter in the digital age

A new typeface once took years to create, now thousands are available at the click of a drop-down menu. So why do most of us still rely on the old classics, asks Meg Carter?
Discovery of 'missing link' between the two main life-forms on Earth could explain evolution of animals, say scientists

'Missing link' between Earth's two life-forms found

New microbial species tells us something about our dark past, say scientists
The Pan Am Experience is a 'flight' back to the 1970s that never takes off - at least, not literally

Pan Am Experience: A 'flight' back to the 70s

Tim Walker checks in and checks out a four-hour journey with a difference
Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics - it's everywhere in the animal world

Humans aren't alone in indulging in politics

Voting, mutual back-scratching, coups and charismatic leaders - it's everywhere in the animal world
Crisp sales are in decline - but this tasty trivia might tempt back the turncoats

Crisp sales are in decline

As a nation we're filling up on popcorn and pitta chips and forsaking their potato-based predecessors
Ronald McDonald the muse? Why Banksy, Ron English and Keith Coventry are lovin' Maccy D's

Ronald McDonald the muse

A new wave of artists is taking inspiration from the fast food chain
13 best picnic blankets

13 best picnic blankets

Dine al fresco without the grass stains and damp bottoms with something from our pick of picnic rugs
Barcelona 3 Bayern Munich 0 player ratings: Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?

Barcelona vs Bayern Munich player ratings

Lionel Messi scores twice - but does he score highest in our ratings?
Martin Guptill: Explosive New Zealand batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Explosive batsman who sets the range for Kiwis' big guns

Martin Guptill has smashed early runs for Derbyshire and tells Richard Edwards to expect more from the 'freakish' Brendon McCullum and his buoyant team during their tour of England
General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'