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‘Book now’ – rental cars set to be scarce and expensive in France this summer

Thinking about a French road trip this summer? You'll want to plan in advance, as hire cars are getting harder and harder to find and prices are skyrocketing.

'Book now' - rental cars set to be scarce and expensive in France this summer
People queue outside rental car offices in Ajaccio (Corsica) in 2021 (Photo by Pascal POCHARD-CASABIANCA / AFP)

With life returning to near-normal, pre-Covid conditions, tourism is booming. France is set to be a popular holiday destination this summer – but renting a vehicle could cost you a lot of money. 

Why the price hike?

The quick answer is that demand is high.

At the Bordeaux-Mérignac airport, Michel Reillat, the CEO of rental company Loca’Malin told FranceInfo that “In July and August, there is no possibility of renting cars, since they are all booked.”

He explained that “reservations began very early, from February, with 30 to 40 percent of the cars already rented for the summer.” Reillat said he ordered about fifty additional cars, but even if this will be insufficient to meet the high demand.

However, rising demand is not the only answer.

During the pandemic, several rental companies sold large portions of their stock (up to 40 percent in some cases) to compensate for the loss brought on by Covid-19. This means that many rental companies are currently operating with shortages.

Are prices high everywhere?

Prices have seen the highest increases in places like the Basque coast, the South-West, and Corsica. Biarritz, for instance, where a weekly car rental is now on average €505 per week, has seen its average rates increase by 96 percent, according to car rental comparison website Carigami. 

The website published a list ranking cities based on affordability for car rentals, and it also allows you to compare which parts of the country are the cheapest for renting cars.

Where can I get affordable prices?

Based on the Carigami list, heading North is your best bet to avoid breaking the bank. A week’s rental in Lille will cost you €292 on average, according to the site. Though this still represents an increase from last year, it’s only 12.7 percent (small in comparison to Biarritz).

Two other cities that might allow you to book a vehicle for less than €300 a week are Clermont-Ferrand and Mulhouse.

If you want to go further south, Valence is a good compromise, Aix-en-Provence, and Marseille are better options than Nice (which is averaging at €496 per week). 

Finally, the other cities listed for having “reasonable” pricing are Rennes, Brest, Lyon and Nantes. Even so these cities, Brest in particular, have still seen significant increases from years past.

The other key thing is not to leave it to the last minute, as prices will only rise.

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TRAVEL NEWS

‘Arrive early’: Passengers at European airports warned of travel disruption

Europe's airports chief told passengers to leave time for delays this summer as the air travel industry struggles to meet surging demand after the pandemic.

'Arrive early': Passengers at European airports warned of travel disruption

“The clear conjunction of a much quicker recovery with a very tight labour market is creating a lot of problems,” Olivier Jankovec, head of the Europe branch of the Airports Council International (ACI), told AFP.

He said there were issues from airports to airlines, ground handlers, police and border controls, but insisted: “The system still works”.

READ ALSO: Budget airline passengers in Europe face travel headaches as more strikes called

“It’s important for passengers that they communicate with the airlines in terms of when they should get to the airport, and prepare to come earlier than usual to make sure to have the time to go through, especially if they have to check luggage,” he said.

Strikes by low-cost pilots and cabin crew across Europe – including this weekend – are adding to the disruption.

Speaking at the ACI Europe annual congress in Rome, Jankovec said airports had taken measures to improve the situation, which would come into effect from mid-July.

“Additional staff will be coming in July, the reconfiguration of some of the facilities and infrastructure to facilitate the flows will also come into effect in July,” he said.

“I think it will be tight, there will be some disruptions, there will be longer waiting times.

READ ALSO: Airport chaos in Europe: What are your rights if flights are delayed or cancelled?

“But I think that in the vast majority of airports, the traffic will go, people will not miss their planes, and hopefully everybody will be able to reach their destination as planned.”

He also defended increases in airport charges, after criticism from the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents airlines.

Airports face “the same difficulties and inflationary pressures” as airlines, which he noted were putting their fares up, he said.

“Staff and energy is 45 percent of our operating costs, and of course inflation is also driving up the cost of materials,” he said.

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