Ireland’s sky-high airport car hire prices risk damaging tourism

Visitors to Ireland face being stung for far higher car rental costs than those in a number of other top European holiday destinations, prompting fears the fees could damage tourism.

The Irish Examiner  tried to book a car for the two-week period from June 12 to June 26 from eight different airports around Europe. The results showed Dublin was the most expensive by a considerable margin.

Using the websites of four major international car rental firms, and seeking the cheapest option for a five-passenger vehicle, Dublin was also found to have less choice as one provider was booked out already.

With Hertz, the cheapest five-seater option in Dublin was a VW Golf at €211.72 per day or €2,964.06 for the fortnight in question. The only cheaper option is a four-passenger VW Mini Up at €,2024 or €144.57 a day. 

Paddy Comyn of the AA said there are ‘logical reasons’ why the cost of renting a car would be more expensive here, primarily due to the overall size of the Irish car market and a global microchip shortage.

At the other end of the scale, renting a Seat Arona car for five passengers at Thessoloniki Airport in Greece costs €72.87 a day (total €1,020) and a Renault Clio from Faro Airport with the same provider costs €63.24 a day.

With Europcar a Ford Focus with room for five passengers costs €213.22 a day from Dublin Airport, versus €94.68 for a Fiat Panda from Rome, €75.81 for a Renault Clio 5P in Faro, and just €48.38 for a Fiat Panda in Thessoloniki.

Enterprise Rent-a-car did not have cars available for the dates in question in Dublin, while the least-expensive option with car rental firm Sixt from Dublin Airport was a Ford Fiesta for five passengers for €155.49 a day — well over the €108,87 a day for the cheapest equivalent from London Heathrow and multiples of the daily cost of renting a similar vehicle in Faro (€57.43 a day), Munich (€41.50 a day), or Thessaloniki (€60.97 a day).

All other city locations offered cheaper rentals than Dublin, regardless of provider, with Munich in Germany the least expensive, with hires in and around €50 a day.

Paddy Comyn of the AA said there are “logical reasons” why the cost of renting a car would be more expensive here, primarily due to the overall size of the Irish car market and a global microchip shortage.

Industry figures have speculated that the shortage of microchips could last into next year, with the problem linked to the partial closure of the semiconductor industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Paul Redmond of the Car Rental Council said the fleet in 2022 is approximately half of what it was in March 2020 at the onset of the pandemic, with a sharp rise in demand coming at a time of lower vehicle supply. 

He said the situation is unlikely to change in the short term until supply increases, with much of the current demand driven by ‘VFRs’ — people “visiting friends and relatives”. He said one option open to Government to assist into the future is to review tax relief on VRT.

Last week RTÉ radio highlighted claims from  Loop Head Tourism that some people were cancelling planned holidays in Ireland due to soaring car rental costs, with the organisation’s chair Luke Aston stating: “The whole island is losing out on the business.”

Eoghan O’Mara Walsh of the Irish Tourism Industry Confederation said:

Ireland needs to stay competitive and needs to stay value for money — they are key requirements if the tourism industry is to recover lost ground.