How much does it cost to hire a car?

Carlton Boyce / 31 October 2019

We've looked at the cost of hiring a car from London Heathrow, Leeds Bradford Airport, and Glasgow International Airport from three of the United Kingdom’s biggest car hire companies Hertz, Enterprise, and Avis.

How much does it cost to hire a car?

The cost of renting a car will vary depending on a wide range of factors including how long you want to hire the vehicle for, whereabouts in the country you want to hire it, and the class of vehicle you would like to hire, with the smallest cars generally being much cheaper to hire than a more expensive, top-of-the-range model.

While it is impossible to give an accurate figure as your individual circumstances will vary so much, we have looked at the cost of hiring a car from London Heathrow, Leeds Bradford Airport, and Glasgow International Airport from three of the United Kingdom’s biggest car hire companies Hertz, Enterprise, and Avis.

All prices quoted are from midday to midday, and are for the cheapest possible way of getting a car from them, which was invariably the smallest car that each rental car company they had on its fleet. While some car rental companies will offer an upgrade to the next class if they have one available, you shouldn’t rely on it doing so if size is important to you.

This is especially important if you have a lot of luggage; while all the small cars I have quoted for here will seat four adults, there is no way you will fit four suitcases in the boot of any of them, so the cheapest option might not be a viable option for you, no matter how tempting the price.

And besides, as you’re about to see, at some locations Enterprise only charges around £10 to upgrade from a small car like a Toyota Aygo to a big one like a Vauxhall Insignia; if you’re going to be doing a lot of driving, that extra £10 a day might be the best investment of your trip.

We’ve also included a quote from a car hire comparison site Travel Supermarket for a two-day car hire to see if it is worth using an online price comparison tool.

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Cost of car rental at London Heathrow

Enterprise

Cost to hire for two days: £21.26 a day for a two-day total of £42.52

Mileage charges: unlimited mileage included

Taxes: included

Damage waiver: included

Total cost: £42.52

Types of vehicle available:

A Class A Mini vehicle like a Toyota Aygo costs £21.26 a day.

A Standard Car like a Vauxhall Insignia costs £27.89 a day.

A Large SUV like a Volvo XC60 would cost £78.18 per day.

Age restrictions: prices quoted are for drivers aged 30+. Drivers aged between 25 and 30 cannot hire anything more powerful or expensive than a Standard Car or a Mini MPV.

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Hertz

Cost to hire for two days: £22.55 a day for a two-day total of £45.10

Mileage charges: included

Taxes: included

Damage waiver: included

Total cost: £45.10 (cheapest rate available booked and paid online. It will cost you £51.86 if you book online and then pay for it on collection)

Types of vehicle available:

A Small Saloon/Hatch like a Vauxhall Corsa costs £36.97 a day (if paid in advance and £42.52 if booked and then paid for on collection).

A Large Saloon/Hatch like a Mercedes C-Class costs £65.00 a day (if paid in advance and £74.75 if booked and then paid for on collection).

A Large SUV like a Land Rover Discovery Sport will cost £163.97 per day (if paid in advance and £187.97 if booked and then paid for on collection).

Age restrictions: those aged 23-24 are subject to additional charges. For example, a Vauxhall Corsa would cost £74.47 a day (if paid in advance and £80.02 if booked and then paid for on collection).

The largest vehicle available for a quote online was a Vauxhall Astra or similar. A car in this class would cost £78.48 a day (if paid in advance and £84.64 if booked and then paid for on collection).

Hertz does offer to match any price and then beat it by 10%. Details here.

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Avis

Cost to hire for two days: £26.45 a day for a two-day total of £52.89

Mileage charges: included

Taxes: included

Damage waiver: included

Total cost: £52.89 (the cheapest rate available is when you pay when you collect the car; it costs £66.98 if you pay online in advance)

Types of vehicle available:

A small car like a Fiat 500 costs £45.28 a day if you pay on collection and £72.42 if you pay online.

A mid-size car like a Volkswagen Passat costs £68.58 a day if you pay on collection and £80.37 if you pay online.

A large car like a Mercedes C-Class costs £116.91 a day if you pay on collection and £111.47 if you pay online.

Age restrictions: no surcharge is payable for a small car like a Fiat 500, and the minimum age to hire it is 23.

Travel Supermarket

Cost to hire for two days: £9.40 day for a two-day total of £18.79 from Argus Car Hire

Mileage charges: included up to 100 miles and 31p a mile after that

Taxes: included

Damage waiver: £18 per day with a £500 excess

Total cost: £54.79

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Cost of car rental at Leeds Bradford Airport

Enterprise

Cost to hire for two days: £39.99 a day for a two-day total of £79.98

Mileage charges: unlimited mileage included

Taxes: included

Damage waiver: included

Total cost: £79.98

Types of vehicle available: A Class A Mini vehicle like a Toyota Aygo costs £39.99 a day, while a Standard Car like a Vauxhall Insignia costs £49.99 a day. A Large SUV like a Volvo XC60 will cost £89.99 per day.

Age restrictions: prices quoted are for drivers aged 30+. Drivers aged between 25 and 30 cannot hire anything more powerful or expensive than a Standard Car or a Mini MPV.

Hertz

Cost to hire for two days: would not provide an online quote

Mileage charges: not available online

Taxes: not available online

Damage waiver: not available online

Total cost: not available online

Types of vehicle available: not available online

Age restrictions: not available online

Hertz does offer to match any price and then beat it by 10%. Details here.

Avis

Cost to hire for two days: £35.66 a day for a two-day total of £71.32

Mileage charges: included

Taxes: included

Damage waiver: included

Total cost: £71.32 (the cheapest rate available is if you pay in advance online; it costs £82.02 if you book online and then pay for it when you collect the car)

Types of vehicle available: A small car like a Fiat 500 costs £77.25 a day if you pay on collection and £67.17 if you pay online.

A mid-size car like a Volkswagen Passat costs 99.02 a day if you pay on collection and £86.10 if you pay online.

A large car like a Mercedes C-Class costs £305.42 a day if you pay on collection and £265.56 if you pay online.

Age restrictions: no surcharge is payable for a small car like a Fiat 500, and the minimum age to hire it is 23.

Travel Supermarket

Cost to hire for two days: £20.40 a day for a two-day total of £40.79 from Easirent

Mileage charges: included

Taxes: included

Damage waiver: included

Total cost: £40.79

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Cost of car rental at Glasgow International Airport

Enterprise

Cost to hire for two days: £64.00 a day for a two-day total of £128.00*

Mileage charges: unlimited mileage included

Taxes: included

Damage waiver: included

Total cost: 128.00

Types of vehicle available: A Class A Mini vehicle like a Toyota Aygo costs £64.00 a day, while a Standard Car like a Vauxhall Insignia costs £103.99 a day. A Large SUV like a Volvo XC60 will cost £135.19 per day.

Age restrictions: prices quoted are for drivers aged 30+. Drivers aged between 25 and 30 cannot hire anything more powerful or expensive than a Standard Car or a Mini MPV.

* While quotes were selected for the next working day, from Monday through to Wednesday, no cars were available at this location for the dates selected, so the same days were selected for the following week. This shows the importance of advance booking at some locations.

Hertz

Cost to hire for two days: £30.97 a day for a two-day total of  £61.94

Mileage charges: included

Taxes: included

Damage waiver: included

Total cost:  £61.94* (the cheapest rate available is when you book and pay for it online; it costs £71.23 if booked and paid for on collection)

Types of vehicle available: A Small Saloon/Hatch like a Vauxhall Corsa costs £47.62 a day (if paid in advance and £54.74 if booked and then paid for on collection).

A Large Saloon/Hatch like a Mercedes C-Class costs £131.42 a day.

A Large SUV like a Land Rover Discovery Sport could not be quoted for online.

Age restrictions: those aged 23-24 are subject to additional charges. For example, a Vauxhall Corsa would cost £85.12 a day (if paid in advance and £92.24 if booked and then paid for on collection).

The largest vehicle available for a quote online was a Vauxhall Astra or similar. A car in this class would cost £91.11 a day (if paid in advance and £98.00 if booked and then paid for on collection).

Hertz does offer to match any price and then beat it by 10%. Details here.

* While quotes were selected for the next working day, from Monday through to Wednesday, no cars were available at this location for the dates selected, so the same days were selected for the following week. This shows the importance of advance booking at some locations.

Avis

Cost to hire for two days: £67.49 a day for a two-day total of  £134.98

Mileage charges: included

Taxes: included

Damage waiver: included

Total cost: £134.98 (the cheapest rate available is if you pay in advance online; it costs £155.22 if you pay when you collect the car)

Types of vehicle available:

A small car like a Fiat 500 costs £91.98 a day if you pay on collection and £80.00 if you pay online.

A mid-size car like a Volkswagen Passat costs £137.88 a day if you pay on collection and £119.90 if you pay online.

A large car like a Mercedes C-Class costs £186.30 a day if you pay on collection and £162.00 if you pay online.

Age restrictions: no surcharge is payable for a small car like a Fiat 500, and the minimum age to hire it is 23.

Travel Supermarket

Cost to hire for two days: £36.87 a day for a two-day total of £73.74 from Argus Car Hire

Mileage charges: included

Taxes: included

Damage waiver: included

Total cost: £73.74

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What can we learn from this?

I think the main learning from this exercise is how pig-headed and anti-consumer some of these car hire companies are; two of them have policies that vary so widely as to make direct comparisons very difficult.

Take Avis, for example. It charges more if you want to pay online and in advance for some of its cars, while you can make big savings on others by doing the complete reverse. This cannot be an accident, surely.

Hertz, on the other hand, wouldn’t even quote online for the dates in question at Leeds Bradford Airport, and when it was able to provide a quote it was generally expensive, although it does offer to beat any like-for-like quote by 10%. It also has by far the slowest, least responsive website, while Enterprise’s was a joy to use. Avis’s website fell someway between the two in terms of user satisfaction.

Enterprise not only had the nicest website, it also appeared to be upfront and willing to quote online for every date and in a consistent manner. It also seems to have a very reasonable price structure, although it, along with Avis, does charge around three time more for a small car at Glasgow International Airport as it does at London Heathrow.

Which brings me to my second surprise: competition seems to be the biggest factor in how much you will pay to hire a car. Real estate and wages are lower in both Glasgow and Leeds, but the keenest prices are to be found in London, one of the most expensive cities in the world…

Finally, using a comparison website was something of a disappointment. The results were inconsistent, and while they were generally a bit cheaper than going to one of the Big Three, some of the policies, insurance excess and other charges were sometimes less than clear.

Costs to consider when hiring a car

Is it cheaper to rent a car by the day or the week?

Renting a car by the week is inevitably cheaper per day than renting it one day at a time. However, the differences might not be as great as you might think. For a small car, for example, Avis charges £45.28 per day on a daily rate, and £24.49 per day pro rata if you book it for the whole week.

Hertz, by way of comparison, charges £36.97 and £19.49 pro rata for a week, while Enterprise charges £21.26 a day and £17.38 pro rata for a week. (All prices quoted are for the smallest car collected and delivered from London Heathrow Airport.)

In summary

As ever, the key to saving money is to phone around and play one company off against another. This is, of course, a colossal waste of your time but the lack of transparency among some car hire companies makes it inevitable.

It’s not even as if I can give you some intuitive advice like “always book and pay in advance” because even that isn’t true.

However, there are three tips I can give you: The first is to book in advance, simply because some of the smaller outlets didn’t have cars available on the dates I was looking for.

The second is to reserve them online to guarantee availability, although you will still need to check to see if it is cheaper to pay for them in advance or on the day.

The third one is to check locations in the surrounding area of the one you really want. If, for example, you need a car from the London area then try a few different locations because, as we’ve seen, places like Heathrow Airport, which you might think would be expensive, might actually prove to be a bit of a bargain.




The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.