Fears that ‘price gouging’ by rental firms could kill tourist trade
A car rental company in Northern Ireland has witnessed a 550pc increase in inquiries in the last year, largely driven by tourists looking to save on car hire costs south of the border.
One woman who saved nearly €1,500 on a three-month car rental by hiring the vehicle in Northern Ireland and having it delivered to Dublin has said “price gouging” by operators in the republic will kill the tourism industry here.
Cora Creed moved from Kerry to the US more than 30 years ago but now she and her husband Thomas are in the process of moving back after buying a house in Kenmare.
The couple have been returning regularly to it to renovate it and are hoping to move here permanently next year.
“This time I needed a car for three months from the end of May to the start of September, and I was quoted close to €6,500 for an automatic Ford Focus or Opel Astra-sized car south of the border,” Ms Creed said.
“But then I saw on the Irish Abroad website that someone had recommended a dealership in the North so I contacted them.
“They quoted me €5,000 for a new automatic hybrid car, a Kia Nero, with just 6,000km on it.
“They even dropped it to the Clayton Hotel near Dublin Airport, and all I had to do was get a shuttle bus from the airport to collect it.
“I had noticed prices were creeping up over my last few visits. I got a car from December 11 to January 11 and it cost €52 a day.
“Then at Easter a car from the same company for six-days cost €130 a day.
“I had thought about buying a car here, but I don’t have an Irish licence yet so I could not get my own insurance, so I’ll have to wait until I’m fully resident here again before I can do that.
“I definitely think there is price gouging in the rental market, and it will kill the tourism industry.
“Flights are dear enough as it is and people planning to visit Ireland are changing their mind because the cost of car rental is so high.
“A friend of mine is coming to visit from Minnesota next month and will be here for 13 days.
“Her car rental at Dublin Airport is costing her €2,212, or €170 a day, for a manual economy class car.”
Ronan Marshall, group marketing manager of Shelbourne Motors in Newry, who supplied Ms Creed with her car, said they had noticed a huge increase in inquiries.
“It’s mainly from people traveling from the US, Australia and Dubai,” he said.
“A lot of them would be Irish expats who have heard of us through word of mouth from our existing customers and online inquiries.
“We’re practically booked out for July and August now, and we’re already getting inquiries about Christmas time.”
Mr Marshall said he believes vehicle supply issues south of the border are driving up car rental costs.
“It seems to be a big topic of conversation,” he said.
An investigation by the Irish Independent has found people hiring a car for holidays in Ireland this summer could save a lot of money by looking north for a vehicle.
Hiring a Ford Focus for a week from July 2-July 9 would cost €1,621 in Dublin, but in Belfast with the same hire company (Europcar) the cost would be €1,040, a saving of €581.
Using a car hire price comparison website, a Ford Focus for the same dates could be found in Belfast for €691, a saving of €930.
The Car Rental Council of Ireland is the trade organisation for car hire here.
Its chief executive Paul Redmond said he can understand people’s frustrations regarding the cost of car rental.
Asked if he thought the price difference between North and South could damage the tourism industry he said it remains to be seen.
“There is a question mark on whether it could cause reputational damage,” he said.
“I don’t have data but I think there must be more cars up the North but down here the market forces are different.
“Our council does not decide prices, the market forces determine the price of different operators.”