HIRING a car can be twice as expensive here as in other European holiday destinations, a survey by the Irish Independent has found.
Car rental is a major expense for holidaymakers, and substantial differences exist between costs in Ireland and popular destinations on the Continent.
The costs of renting a small car for a week during the peak holiday season can range from €136 in Italy to €299 at Dublin Airport -- a difference of 120pc.
Huge price variations were found between prices charged by global rental companies Hertz and Avis for similar car models here and abroad.
Comparing prices offered by these firms in different countries for the week leading up to the August bank holiday weekend, we found it was more expensive to rent a small motor at Dublin Airport than in Nice in the south of France, Malaga in Spain, Athens in Greece or Verona in Italy.
For a medium-sized car, the costs range from €209 for a Ford Focus at Verona Airport in Italy to €360 for the same model in Dublin.
Car rental in Spain was mostly significantly cheaper than Ireland, while prices in France varied, but also generally came in lower.
For people carriers, prices were harder to compare, because of limited availability of comparable models.
The price of an Opel Zafira varied enormously, even at Dublin Airport, with Hertz quoting €619 and Avis quoting €936, whereas at Malaga Airport you could get one for €430.
Asked why their prices varied by up to 118pc in different locations, Avis said that it was impossible to compare rates between countries.
"The cost base is completely different and supply versus demand will vary hugely also," a spokesperson said.
The Car Rental Council of Ireland, which represents hire companies, said that while prices here may have come out higher they also fluctuated hugely from day to day.
Unlike other European countries, the industry here is hampered by a very small market to sell ex-rental cars to recoup their costs, said its chief executive Paul Redmond.
Ireland has a much shorter peak rental season than other countries like Spain, which had more year-round demand, he said.
As a result, companies here needed almost twice as many cars between June and August as the rest of the year, Mr Redmond said.
The council had lobbied for years for a VRT export refund scheme that would help them sell off these used cars abroad to make the business here more economic.
However, the scheme introduced in the Finance Act 2012 included an "outrageous" €500 administration charge that would claw back 30pc to 60pc of the refund.
"When added to inspection, selling and transport costs the refund due after a deduction of a €500 administration charge would in many cases invalidate an export transaction," Mr Redmond said.
The number of new rental cars in the Irish market had plunged from a high of 22,000 during the boom to 6,600 in 2009 and 10,500 last year.
But it was expected rentals will increase by 4 to 5pc this year as tourist numbers grow.
Failte Ireland said it had received some complaints about car rental prices, but insisted prices were lower than in previous years.
"Value for money ratings for Ireland are the highest they've been for years," a spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, UK consumer group Which? has warned motorists to beware of hidden fuel charges when renting cars this summer.
It found that fuel policy was usually very unclear when booking, and consumers could be particularly stung by companies that required them to pay for a full tank of petrol when taking the car, sometimes at exorbitant rates such as €1.98 a litre.