Car hire hits bump in the road

July 20, 2017

From Thelma and Louise to ‘The Trip’ with Coogan and Brydon in, road trips are loved by many as a good way to get off the beaten track in search of new adventures. But it seems that the rising cost of holidays is driving consumers away from car hire. Indeed, Mintel’s Holiday Car Hire UK 2017 Report reveals the proportion of holidaymakers who say they have hired a car during their holidays in the past three years has fallen from two in five (39%) in 2016 to just one in three (33%) in 2017. Furthermore, the proportion of those aged 18-24 who have hired a car on their holiday has declined from 43% to 30% in the same time period.

And while the number of Brits hiring a car abroad is stalling, it seems that many are put off by past rental experiences. Two in five (41%) of those who have hired a holiday car abroad say they have been charged more than they expected after dropping a car off during a holiday, while 39% say they have had a bad experience with a car rental company when renting out a car during a holiday. What’s more, over one in three (35%) say they will avoid renting out a car during a holiday.

Mintel research finds that while the overall holiday car hire market continues to grow, it seems that the sector is losing speed. Mintel estimates that 3.5 million cars will be hired by Brits abroad in 2017, up from 3.4 million in 2016, marking a 3% rise, in comparison to 6% growth which was posted in 2015.

Fergal McGivney, Technology and Travel Analyst at Mintel, said:

“While consumers still want to travel overseas, they are looking at ways to curb their spending. This means that many have been cutting back on extra expenses such as car hire, in favour of a leaner holiday product that is comprised of just flights and accommodation. Our research shows that car hire brands need to be more transparent about their charges and work towards building trust as these worries are putting consumers off. At a time when holidaymakers will be cutting back on extra expenses, holiday car rentals will be near the top of their list of things to drop.”

However, while many holidaymakers are indicating that they are turning away from car hire, it seems that the allure of a road trip holiday is still strong. Four in five (81%) of those who have hired a car abroad say they like the idea of renting a car for a road trip with friends or family, rising to 88% of those with a household income over £50,000.

What’s more, it seems that the majority are prepared to turn their car choice up a gear in order to travel in style. Indeed, over half (53%) of Brits who have hired a holiday car abroad say that a non-standard rental vehicle, such as a sports car, would appeal to them, rising to two in three (65%) of those with a household income over £50,000.

Despite this, practicality is the main influencing factor on choice of hire cars. Over three in five (62%) of those who have hired a holiday car abroad say that they go for the cheapest holiday car they can find, while 56% say that hiring a car that meets the needs of a family is the main factor in choosing a holiday rental car.

“Practicality and price are the main influencing factors on car choice. Despite this, many holidaymakers are interested in renting something a bit more special. As well as focusing on practicality and transparency, car rental brands could also benefit from focusing on the more emotive aspects associated with holiday car rentals. They could also highlight how renting a car can open the door for a range of holiday experiences, like combining city breaks and rural getaways in one trip.” Fergal adds.

When looking at where to find Brits abroad, Mintel research shows that 63% have been on an overseas holiday in the last three years, with one in four (27%) saying they’ve been to Spain, followed by France (16%) and the US or Canada (15%).

Overall, Mintel forecasts that 46 million overseas trips will be taken by UK holidaymakers this year, up from an estimated 45 million trips in 2016. Many consumers, however, do have concerns over the price tag on travel, as 35% of Brits say that they are concerned about the rising cost of holidays and 37% of Brits say that as a result of Brexit they will favour cheaper destinations.

“When it comes to car rentals, savvy consumers will be on the lookout for early deals and consumers will broadly favour cheaper destinations like Spain and Portugal to make their pound go further.” Fergal concludes.

Press review copies of Mintel’s Holiday Car Hire UK 2017 Report and interviews with Fergal McGivney, Technology and Travel Analyst at Mintel, are available on request from the press office.

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