Holidaymakers hiring a car abroad could be paying nearly 12 times more for a vehicle rented at the airport upon arrival in comparison with booking online in advance.

According to research from TravelSupermarket, those that booked their car hire online before they travel save an average of 59 per cent, with some saving over 90 per cent.

In an example for those heading to the beach in southern Spain this February half-term, Malaga car hire could be as little as £2.14 per day for a small compact if booked in advance, but as much as £24.78 per day if purchased on arrival. Those that shop around online could get a week’s car hire for less than a single day’s hire booked last minute at the airport.

The situation is not limited to Spain, with holidaymakers heading to Malta able to save up to 85 per cent by planning ahead. The cheapest a car can be found for online works out at £1.07 per day (£8.57 per week) compared to an eye-watering £7.31 per day (£58.51 per week) for those deciding to book at the airport.

Planning ahead will save you money almost everywhere you could travel, but the differences are smaller in colder locations like Geneva, but booking ahead in Switzerland will still save you a significant 20 per cent for a week.

People choose to hire cars at the airport for a vast array of reasons, sometimes it is the flexibility of choosing the car in person and at other times hiring a car could be a spontaneous decision. However, booking in advance brings with it some other major benefits beyond the significant savings we have already outlined.

When booking in advance you are more likely to have a wider choice of cars available, which ay not be an issue if you are travelling as a couple, but if you have a family then trying to squeeze four of you and your luggage into a compact European car is guaranteed to cause at least one argument.

Emma Grimster, spokeswoman at TravelSupermarket, said: “In all the destinations we researched we found it was significantly cheaper to book ahead versus turning up at the airport.

“However, booking in advance not only saves you money, but also ensures you secure the car type you want or need for your trip.

“By getting organised ahead of your departure, reviewing your options and working out exactly what size and specifications you need from your hire car, you will also save time at your arrival destination when you are ready to get on with your holiday.”

Meanwhile, booking other parts of your holiday in advance could also save you money, with flights, hotels, and even travel insurance all available for less when booked well in advance.

Flight comparison engine Skyscanner says that seven weeks in advance is the cheapest time to book a short haul flight to France or Spain or around 18 weeks in advance for long haul trips. And you can generally find the best prices for hotel rooms around four weeks before your desired travel date.

Travel insurance is slightly different as annual cover is generally the cheapest way to buy if you are going away more than once over the year and so the date of purchase is less important. However, for those that are buying single-trip insurance the best time to buy the insurance is as soon as you have paid for your flights, as the insurance covers cancellations and other issues that could arise before you ever get to the airport.

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