Everything You Need to Know About Car Rentals
First time renting a car? There are a few horror stories floating around the web of high rental fees, mountains of paperwork and hidden costs. What if you have an accident in your rental car!?! But just like any transaction, it’s not as scary or expensive as you might think. As long as you follow a few simple guidelines and do your research, your car rental experience should be smooth sailing (or driving).
In Australia we tend to rent a vehicle when we’re travelling by air and need some wheels at our destination, or if we’re moving and need a larger mode of transport. You might choose to rent a car in the city rather than take crowded and unreliable public transport.
Whatever your reason for renting a car here’s what you need to consider:
It’s easy to get excited about the TYPE of car you’d like to take for a spin; but there are a lot of other factors that will determine that, long before you get to decide on the make or model.
- How long do you need the vehicle for, and what is your daily budget? Ask your hire company about extra fees such as down payments and deposits, charges for fueling the car for the duration of your rental, as well as if you return it empty. Most companies will expect the car to be returned clean inside and out – discuss their expectations and possible cleaning charges.
- Where are you going? How far is your destination from your starting point? It’s quite common to have to pay for mileage of a trip. You want to make sure you don’t exceed the mileage as you may be required to pay a fee – sometimes this can be costly.
- How many occupants? The more people you have, the more space you need. Bigger cars will cost more – depending on the company – so consider how close you’re wanting to get with your friends. Nothing like a crammed, steamy roadtrip to bring friendships together!
- Do you need particulars? If you’re travelling with an infant or small child, you’ll need to arrange a car capsule or booster seat.
- Nominated drivers, who will be driving the car? Make sure that anyone that could potentially drive is listed as a nominated driver for insurance reasons.
- Do you need insurance cover? Sometimes your personal or business insurance provider will cover the cost of car rentals – check with your insurance company. When discussing insurance with the rental company, talk about excess payable in the event of an accident and what happens if you or another driver is at fault.
- Time. It might sound easy, drop in and pick up the keys and you’re on your way – but there’s quite a bit of paperwork to complete. You should also check the vehicle thoroughly and note any damage or marks on their paperwork, so you’re not blamed for it upon its return.
Popular Australian Car Rental Companies
Much of your decision will be based around what vehicles are available for hire to suit your requirements.
This is a car hire comparison company that can help you book a vehicle from all major and regional airports in Australia. They help you compare and choose the best deals from top companies such as Avis, Budget, Hertz, Thrifty and Europcar. There’s even a free App, AND they can help you find a camper or motorhome rental in Brisbane, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney.
Hertz supplies over 18,000 vehicles at 220 different locations – they’re everywhere! From hatchbacks to sedans, 4WD’s and vans, or have some fun in a prestige or adrenaline vehicle. Hertz are an international global leader – some might say a little higher in price to some of the other companies at times; but look out for great deals!
Another well known global company, Avis is known for their great service and have cemented their reputation as a premium car rental brand. With that might come some premium prices – but like Hertz, Avis has regular discounts and promotions; and sometimes it’s worth the extra for quality and peace of mind.
Europcar service all major cities and airports as well as many regional areas, which is handy to check when you have different pickup/drop off locations. They have a lovely young fleet of vehicles, averaging only 8 months old. So if you’re looking that nice new car feeling, whether ultra-economical, luxury or anything in between, Europcar might be your go to.
Now, when you think of a company called ‘budget’ and picture a rental car, does a rickety old cheap vehicle come to mind? That couldn’t be further from the truth. Budget purchase brand new cars every year – so you’ll always find yourself with a current model vehicle. They’re well liked for their level of customer service and are competitively priced!
So you’ve chosen your vehicle what now?!
As tempting as it is to just jump in and drive, check the vehicle thoroughly for any damages inside and out and be sure to note any issues on the paperwork. To cover yourself even further, take photos of these damages also – even a minor scratch.
Once you’re on your way – your camera is your best friend in looking after your rental car (and damage coverage). Take photos of your car and surrounds if you have to park in a ‘dodgy’ area.
Be careful about driving through international borders – your contract and insurance cover may be null and void!
Try to avoid getting your car too dusty or muddy on dirt roads. You are expected to keep the vehicle in a reasonable condition and although hire companies give the vehicle a more thorough clean between hire, you could be charged additional fees if it is deemed unreasonably dirty. So treat your hire car with care as if it were your own vehicle.
Driving in adverse weather conditions:
Driving in snowy or icy conditions? Check with your rental company first – only some companies allow their vehicles to be taken to the snow. And even then you might need to purchase additional insurance cover.
Tips for driving in snow or ice:
- Slow right down
- Avoid hazards by braking gently and gradually
- Avoid turning your wheel to sharply or suddenly
- Ask for snow chains on the wheels – required in Australian alpine regions
- Use your headlights and keep your windscreen clear
- Never remove ice or fog from the windscreen with hot water – it could crack!
Tips for driving in extreme heat:
- Park in the shade where possible
- Use a windscreen sun protector and avoid direct sunlight on your windscreen glass – it could crack under the extreme heat and expanding pressure
- Don’t blast the aircon too much, too soon; again it might cause a hot windscreen to crack. Instead, let hot air escape and cool the car gradually.
- Don’t leave food scraps in the car
- Check tyre pressure
- Keep and eye on vehicle Fluids. Especially when distance driving in the heat.
How to deal with damage to your rental car:
- Take photos to try and demonstrate what happened
- Phone the hire company, police and ambulance if required straight away
- Consumers are held liable for any damage that occurs outside of the company’s control
- Insurance will cover damage minor and major damage including windscreen cracks, flat tyres, broken headlights, small dents. However, you will usually be required to pay an excess for any further damage – you should be informed of the insurance policy’s excess payable by you.
Depending on your business or personal insurance policy, you may be liable for:
- Damage to the rental car
- Damage to other vehicles belonging to other parties
- Personal injuries sustained by other parties.
- You may have to pay a higher excess if you breach your contractual agreements
If it comes down to a dispute, you have rights:
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commision (ACCC) has policies to regulate fair trade across the car rental industry.
- Car must be of acceptable quality
- Car must be reasonably fit for the purpose the consumer has specified
- Car must match description and demonstration model
- Cars must satisfy extra promises – extra warranty
- Car must be safe and durable
- Consumer must be alerted to defects if car contains any
- Consumer rights depend on whether failures are minor or major – depending on this, the consumer can claim compensation
- Contracts provided by car rental businesses must comply with national unfair contract terms law – these protect consumers from:
- Contract reasonably unnecessary from protecting the business
- Contracts that would cause detriment (financial or other) to the consumer
- Damage cover must be supplied within the cost or within an extra cost of car hire – liability to damages must be completely transparent
Is the future of vehicle rentals in shared transportation?
Is this the Uber equivalent of car rentals? Lime is a well known and widely popular bicycle and scooter ‘share hire’ company in the US. They have a large fleet of bikes and scooters dotted all over Seattle and available for share-hire. Simply pay to unlock and motorise, scoot or ride to your destination, then leave at your destination. Citizens earn a small fee to return scooter and bikes to their original home.
Late last year Lime rolled out 50 cars as part of its new “LimePod” service. User’s pay $1 to unlock the vehicle and 40c per minute of use to drive it around. They’re looking to expand the service throughout the US in 2019 – perhaps this will be the new simpler way to get around!