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The Cost of Rental Cars: How to Plan Your Road Trip Budget

Picture this: the open road stretching ahead, the wind in your hair, and the endless possibilities of a brand-new destination at your fingertips. Road trips embody a sense of adventure and freedom that few other travel experiences can match. But amidst the excitement, have you ever found yourself wondering: How much will a car rental actually cost? Will those add-ons break the bank? And is there a way to find a sweet deal without endless hours of research? kayak car rental

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The truth is, that car rental costs can be a bit of a maze. Prices fluctuate wildly depending on where you’re headed, when you’re traveling, and the type of car you need. Then there’s the question of insurance, GPS, and those tempting child seats. Before you know it, your dream road trip budget could be taking a serious detour. kayak car rental

That’s why we’ve embarked on a mission to uncover the secrets of rental car pricing. We’ve analyzed destinations around the globe, compared winter and summer rates, and scrutinized the fine print on those pesky add-ons. Get ready to arm yourself with the knowledge you need to snag the best rental car deals and embark on your next road trip with both excitement and financial peace of mind.

The rental car was popularised during the 1950s boom of the airline and automotive industries, and it remains popular – with an estimated 547 million people using rental cars this year alone.

But thanks to inflation, rising fuel costs, and the impact of the pandemic, prices reached an all-time high in the summer of 2021 and have remained challenging since. How much you can expect to pay varies wildly depending on where in the world you are and –as our research shows – also on the time of year.

To help travellers budget for their road trip, Radical Storage has analyzed the average daily rate for small cars in 46 of the world’s most famous cities and road trip destinations. They’ve used both winter and summer prices and found the price of popular add-ons like insurance, child seats, GPS, and additional drivers to make sure your next car rental experience is as smooth a ride as possible.

Key findings: kayak car rental

  • The average recommended rental price for a small car is £50.40/$64.14 a day – and car insurance is on average, £17.55/$22.39 per hire.
  • The most affordable locations in the analysis for a small car rental were Barcelona (£21.02/$26.82 per day) and Milan (£24.28/ $30.99 per day).
  • Innsbruck, Austria, and Seoul, South Korea, were the two most expensive destinations to rent a small car, costing £150.45/$192.03 and £111.03/$141.72 to rent a small car per day, respectively.
  • On average, picking up from the airport is £11.68/$14.84 more expensive, with 86% of destinations charging less for city rental compared to airport pickup.
  • A full package of add-ons (insurance, a child seat, GPS, and additional driver coverage) will cost you around £38.55/$49.17. 

The average small car rental is £50.40/$64.14 a day

The average recommended quote for a small rental car per day around the world is £50.40 a day – fluctuating between the January average cost of £44.66 ($56.84) and the July average of £56.15 ($71.46). With more of the destinations in this analysis being in the northern hemisphere, July’s average is likely to be higher as a peak tourist month.

The most and least expensive car rental destinations

Consistently expensive in both winter and summer – despite being a skiing hotspot – is Innsbruck in Austria at £150.60/$192.08, the priciest destination in the analysis.

More than five thousand miles away, a car rental in Seoul, South Korea, will set you back around £111.03/$141.72 per day. SingaporeSan Carlos de Bariloche in Argentina, and New York in the U.S. complete the rest of the top five most expensive destinations to hire a small car.

The most expensive destinations to hire a car

The map below highlights the ten most expensive destinations to hire a small car for exploring and road trips.

kayak car rental

The most affordable destinations to hire a car

If you’re looking for a road trip that won’t break the bank, then you might be surprised to know that the two large European cities of Barcelona and Milan both offer very competitive rates, averaging £21.02 ($26.82) and £24.28 ($30.99), respectively. However, the research found that cheap car rentals can get more expensive with add-ons like protection, insurance, and accessories (more on that later.)

One of South Africa’s capital cities, Cape Town, took the third spot for affordable car rentals, costing an average of £24.60 ($31.40) per day for a small car. The next most populous city in South Africa, Durban, came in fourth, followed by Istanbul.

The top ten most affordable road trip destinations are revealed in the map below.

kayak car rental

Rental cars are £11.68 ($14.84) extra per day to pick up from the airport

As a global average, it was usually £11.68 ($14.84) cheaper to pick up a car from a city branch rather than the airport. People typically expect to pay a premium when they use airport services because it is more convenient, but if hiring a car for a long period of time, this amount per day could add up quickly. kayak car rental

The data found that it was only cheaper to pick up a rental car from the airport 14% of the time, specifically in Chile’s Calama and, Innsbruck, San José (Costa Rica), and Phuket.

In Calama, it was a huge £35.36 ($44.93) cheaper per day to pick up from the airport, meaning those exploring Chile should opt to get their car rental when they land at the airport and not wait to get to the city. Concepción in Chile had the second highest airport discount at £14.17/day ($18.01), followed by Innsbruck in Austria (£9.09/$11.55).

kayak car rental

However, in 86% of cases where renting from the city is cheaper, the savings are substantial, at an average £15.09 ($19.17) per day. In Paris, choosing to pick up your rental car from the city is £67.47 ($81.82) cheaper, while visitors to London can save £42.82 ($54.41) by opting for a city pick-up compared to the airports.

kayak car rental

A package of popular add-ons is around £38.55/$49.15

We considered the price of insurance, a child seat, GPS, and additional driver coverage. In total, a full package of these add-ons will set you back around £38.55/$49.15 on top of your daily rental fee.

But even if you get a good deal on a rental, there are some places where these extras might more than double the total cost. Although Durban may be one of the cheapest car rental destinations in the study, (at just £26.02/$33.18), a full package of add-ons for car rentals in the South African city will tag around £75.65/$96.49 – almost three times the rental car fee.

Paris is the next most expensive when it comes to add-ons, with the complete package costing £72.15/$92.03 and Windhoek, – the capital of Namibia – £68.13/$86.90.

The most expensive destinations for add-ons

Location Continent Insurance Child Seat GPS Additional Driver Average for all add-ons
Durban South Africa £23.07 ($29.44) £24.10 ($30.76) £5.48 ($6.99) £23.00 ($29.34) £75.65 ($96.55)
Paris France £26.91 ($34.34) £20.26 ($25.86) £13.57 ($17.31) £11.38 ($14.52) £72.12 ($92.04)
Windhoek Namibia £20.14 ($25.70) £19.61 ($25.03) £7.00 ($8.93) £21.38 ($27.29) £68.13 ($86.95)
Cape Town South Africa £14.67 ($18.72) £22.50 ($28.72) £6.50 ($8.29) £22.50 ($28.72) £66.17 ($84.45)
London United Kingdom £21.64 ($27.62) £14.34 ($18.30) £11.84 ($15.11) £15.34 ($19.58) £63.16 ($80.61)
Denpasar Indonesia £24.87 ($31.74) N/A N/A £37.93 ($48.41) £62.80 ($80.15)
Darwin Australia £25.37 ($32.38) £10.98 ($14.01) £9.92 ($12.66) £4.86 ($6.20) £51.13 ($65.25)
Berlin Germany £14.45 ($18.44) £13.25 ($16.91) £11.56 ($14.75) £10.31 ($13.16) £49.57 ($63.26)
Gold Coast Australia £11.12 ($14.19) £10.77 ($13.75) £16.71 ($21.32) £10.77 ($13.74) £49.37 ($63.00)
Dubai United Arab Emirates £20.93 ($26.72) £7.47 ($9.53) £8.40 £11.97 £48.77
Global Average £17.55 ($22.40) £9.12 ($11.64) £8.03 ($10.25) £8.51 ($10.86) £38.55 ($49.21)

Don’t be gentle, it’s a rental: Insurance costs on average £17.55/$22.38

Unlike rental fees, which vary wildly around the globe, the cost of add-ons was fairly consistent – particularly the cost of insurance, which only varied by a couple of pounds across the continents.

The most expensive continent for add-ons is Africa (with an average of £53.20/$67.86), something to consider when looking at their more inexpensive rental fees. Asia is the cheapest place for add-ons, but check that they have what you need before planning your road trip as this was also the continent where add-ons were most likely to be unavailable – most notably in India.

Location Insurance Child Seat GPS Additional Driver Average for all add-ons
Africa £17.80 ($22.72) £17.84 ($22.76) £6.50 ($8.29) £19.93 ($25.43) £53.21($67.88)
Asia £17.82 ($22.75) £5.71 ($7.29) £5.91($7.54) £6.81($8.69) £27.92 ($35.62)
Australia and Oceania £18.54 ($23.67) £9.09 ($11.60) £8.37 ($10.68) £6.06 ($7.73) £41.12 ($52.46)
Europe £15.73 ($20.08) £11.03 ($14.07) £10.81 ($13.79) £10.50 ($13.40) £48.08 ($61.34)
North America £18.16 ($23.18) £7.87 ($10.04) £11.26 ($14.37) £7.79 ($9.94) £45.08 ($57.51)
South America £17.89 ($22.84) £7.45 ($9.51) £7.90 ($10.08) £5.48 ($6.99) £34.88 ($44.50)
Global Average £17.55 ($22.40) £9.12 ($11.64) £8.03 ($10.24) £8.51($10.86) £38.55 ($49.18)

Whether you are planning a huge road trip with friends, or simply need a car to transport your family around on holiday, our research shows that you need to book ahead to secure the lower-priced cars before they’re snapped up. In most cities, when looking at car rentals at the last minute, you can expect to pay hundreds when you may have only paid $30 if you booked in advance.

Think ahead as much as you can: does the car rental service offer child seats? Does the pick-up truck you bought come with a cover for the back? And would buying insurance separately save you some money? Wherever you go, it’s worth doing your research into local rental prices before landing.

Methodology kayak car rental

To compile this study, Radical Storage chose 46 destinations, combining some of the most visited cities in the world and the most popular road trip destinations in the world; some towns were replaced with the nearest city in the seed list. They then used Kayak, assuming the driver was aged between 25 and 65 and looking for a small car, to find the top recommended quotes for these popular dates:

  • January 27th – 28th 2024
  • July 27th to 28th 2024

Radical Storage scraped the first 30 recommended’ small car rental prices from Kayak per city, with and without airport pickup, and took the mean average of these daily costs. No deals or discount codes were used.

For car rental add-ons, Radical Storage took the “recommended car” and checked their prices for GPS, child seats, additional drivers, and insurance. If the price for a certain add-on was not available, we went to the next recommended car.

All the data is correct as of January 2024.

About Radical Storage kayak car rental

Radical Storage provides travellers with luggage storage solutions so they can enjoy their holiday to the fullest, allowing them to eliminate problems with early arrivals or late departures from the home/hotel. Service operates in over 70 countries and 500 cities, with more than 5000 storage points. Luggage storage network. Customers can book storage for their luggage online at various vendors in more than 500 cities. Each piece of luggage is covered up to 3000 €/$/£.

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