By Humphrey Carter PALMA

THROUGH this newspaper's “letters to the editor” the debate over the rise in car hire rental prices has been raging all winter with some regular visitors claiming that they are not prepared to pay the price this year and are going elsewhere on holiday.

This week, experts at travelsupermarket.com, the travel comparison site, are urging holiday makers wanting car hire for popular European resorts over the Easter holidays to book now to avoid rising costs and disappointment.

Since the beginning of February, researchers at travelsupermarket.com have been tracking car hire costs over the Easter holiday period for several destinations. The message is clear - book early to avoid price hikes and potential disappointment from lack of supply.

Researchers have discovered that Easter car hire prices here in Palma have risen by more than 100 percent with prices having “rocketed” further in Majorca since the beginning of February. Earlier this week, the Bulletin reported that car hire fleets have shrunk with rental agencies trying to ease operating costs and travelsupermarket.com researchers are also warning that smaller cars could turn out to be more expensive than larger vehicles as supply dries up. Travel expert Bob Atkinson from travelsupermarket.com said: “Last year we noted several price spikes and periods of car shortages in Spain as renters looked to raise prices after years of bargains. A huge drop off in UK arrivals and problems in companies securing credit for car fleet renewals also put pressure on the supply of holiday vehicle rentals.

“This year we are seeing car hire prices driven up as demand increases, particularly across Spain and France. Year on year there has been a significant increase in prices over the Easter period for advanced bookings. Last year a number of car hire companies actually ran out of stock in key destinations. “My advice is to book now for Easter and then book as far in advance as possible for the summer season, especially for the school holidays in May, July and August. Don't leave it too late as there will either be no availability for the car type of your choice or your rental will cost you a lot more money. Booking early will secure the vehicle of your choice and get you a better price for your holiday car hire.”