Families with young children could feel the sting of 'hidden' charges and expensive optional extras when it comes to renting a car on the Continent this summer.
An investigation by the Daily Mail's Money section has found that add-on fees can almost double the price of a two-week car rental in some cases.
The news comes after many families are choosing the seemingly cheaper option of flying to a destination via budget airlines and then renting when they land, rather than shoulder the astronomical cost of fuel to drive to a European destination.
Research has found that a Ford Focus equivalent for two weeks in Alicante would cost £561.76 with Hertz, in Nice it would be £631.43 with Avis, while Europcar would charge £600.76 to hire in Malaga. Local firms may appear to be even cheaper.
But customers are advised to check the small print, because in the fight to get to the top of comparison site best-buy tables, most companies have adopted Ryanair-style pricing.
A family of four with two young children could be charged more than £400 in extras for a two-week hire in Spain. Add on satnav and the extras break the £500 mark.
And then there's insurance, as those opting for the free or standard insurance will likely be hit with a massive excess – sometimes up to £2,000 – should an accident occur.
To avoid this, customers must opt for differing levels of insurance cover, with Europcar offering to cover excesses, tyre or windscreen damage and other uncovered losses for an extra £205 for a fortnight in Alicante.
Bob Atkinson, of comparison site TravelSupermarket, told the Daily Mail that excess reduction insurance is, "relentlessly sold with scare tactics and every argument in the book being used so that many feel brow-beaten, on arrival, to pay".
AA spokesman Ian Crowder warns: "If a car hire looks cheap, you can bet there will be a whacking great insurance excess and they will get you with a huge insurance premium."
He says the AA also hears regularly from drivers who have been charged for damage they did not cause to a vehicle.
Ken McCall, managing director of Europcar UK Group, says: "The reason some costs cannot be paid for in advance is simply because they are sourced locally by our local service providers and cannot, therefore, be incorporated into the online reservation quote."
Have you been hit by 'hidden' rental car costs? Let us know in the comments section below