News Fly-drive vs Ferry-drive: what’s the cheapest option?

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Fly-drive vs Ferry-drive: what’s the cheapest option?

For the first time this summer, I shall not be driving to the Alps but will be flying and hiring a car instead

For the first time this summer, I shall not be driving to the Alps but will be flying and hiring a car instead. Last year, we calculated the transport cost for the two of us was about £550 including ferries and motorway tolls and this year it’s just £350 for the same thing – minus French lorry drivers on strike, horrible road side toilets and a hot, thirteen hour journey. Given speed limits don’t apply when you’re on holiday, we do tend to drive down French motorways like drunken joy-riders doing 9 mpg, but even if we slowed down, we wouldn’t save £200 – especially at the moment.

Petrol perils
I try and avoid driving if I can and prefer cycling whenever possible – it’s partly a green thing but often it’s just quicker. As such, I last filled up my car several months ago and since petrol stories on the news are boring, I was aware of price hikes, but had not paid attention to specifics. This has now changed. I have drunk perfectly acceptable wine in France that is cheaper per litre than petrol is currently. From now on, both my car and I, will run on rosé during the summer months.

It’s the same everywhere
And you can also stop thinking that filling up as soon as you cross the Channel or North Sea will save you money because it won’t. Petrol in France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands is either comparable or more expensive than fuel here. You have to drive a long way to get cheap petrol in Europe – like Latvia for instance, where it’s 88p a litre and that’s 1300 miles away from Calais.

Some serious maths
Given my European drive and ferry experiences, I wondered (actually Eilidh from Skyscanner wondered), if generally it was cheaper to fly and hire a car than get to Calais and drive the rest. I picked a few European destinations and sat down with an abacus and my GCSE maths to work out the costs. Things like motorway tolls (and driving at all in Switzerland) can really add to the bill so a useful site I found was which works out your route including the cost of fuel, tolls and taxes.

Their calculations are based on a Ford Fiesta sized car, so after some extensive mathematical wrangling, I converted their fuel consumption bills to that of a Renault Espace which I figured was an appropriate vehicle for a family holiday. All costs below are for a family of four and are based on return travel from Dover or London airports. Since I’m feeling all European and cosmopolitan with my holiday coming up, the prices are in something called Euros.

Destination Rtn. Flight Price (€) Car Hire Price (€) Total Fly/Drive (€)* Total Ferry/Drive (€) Spend for family of 4 (€) Spend for a couple (€)**
Bordeaux 387.35 327.43 714.78 563.00 151.78 cheaper by ferry/car 41.90 cheaper to fly/drive
Nice 498.15 335.41 833.56 754.20 79.36 cheaper by ferry/car 169.72 cheaper to fly/drive
Malaga 367.25 246.22 613.47 900.20 286.73 cheaper to fly/drive 470.36 cheaper to fly/drive
Geneva 324.14 386.74 710.88 600.24 110.64 cheaper by ferry/car 51.43 cheaper to fly/drive
Freiburg 237.16 368.45 605.61 528.54 77.07 cheaper by ferry/car 41.51 cheaper to fly/drive
Porto 362.36 322.08 684.44 849.14 164.70 cheaper to fly/drive 345.88 cheaper to fly/drive

* Figures include fuel for a vehicle doing an average 35 mpg and include all tolls and road taxes
** Figures calculated by removing the cost of children’s tickets

What have we found?
Clearly, as a couple, the driving option makes no financial sense at all and even the family of four were only making really big savings with two of the trips. In fact the couple’s price could be made even cheaper since these figures were based on a medium family sized car which they probably wouldn’t need.

It is also worth adding that I simply used prices for the car hire and since many airlines have affiliate relationships with, or indeed own, car rental companies, I would expect to be able to get these car hire prices down.

On a final note, it was gratifying and I might add, surprising, that although I picked the last two weeks of this summer’s school holidays (in England at least), the flight prices were not the exorbitant rip-offs they often are at this time of year – even five weeks in advance of travel. For once, some of the airlines at least, are not making us pay whilst the sun shines.

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