If you’re travelling overseas, it’s better to pre-book any car hire before you go as it’s often cheaper and generally includes unlimited kilometres and insurance cover (ask about inclusions). You may find that if you wait until you reach your destination, you will be up for a basic rate, be charged for additional kilometres and may have to pay additional insurance. Then there’s also the problem that there may not be any cars left for you to hire, particularly during a peak season.
Things to consider when hiring:
- What’s the cancellation period – in case of unforeseen circumstances.
- What size car do you prefer – bearing in mind that larger vehicle might be better for long distance travel.
- Whether you want automatic or manual transmission.
- Do you want air conditioning.
- Do you prefer two or four door.
- Do you need GPS or SAT NAV.
- Will you require baby capsule or car seat.
- Will you need snow chains.
- Will you pick up or drop off at the airport – surcharges may apply.
- Will you be picking up in one city and dropping off in another – if so, one way fees may apply.
- Are you a member of an automobile association – you can make use of any perks.
If you’re planning on being away for a considerable length of time, you may like to consider purchasing a second hand car through dealers who offer buy back agreements.
Including the above, here are some additional things to consider if you decide to hire a motorhome or campervan:
- How many berths you’ll require – allowing for comfort.
- Decide whether you can do with a basic model or whether a toilet/shower will be useful – in New Zealand for example van with toilet/shower is required if you intend camping in the countryside.
- How many passengers will it take.
- Do you have pets you’re considering taking – you won’t be permitted to take any pets unless it’s a service dog.
- Check restrictions as to what types of roads you can drive on.
- Do you have a bicycle or will the company rent you one – very handy for getting around town.
- Allow sufficient time to see the sights
Be aware that some countries don’t allow you to park in the street to spend the night and you’ll need to book space in a caravan park.
Unfortunately, you won’t be able to take motorhomes on ferries in Australia and if you do, it will void any insurance. Kangaroo Island is an exception. Check with the hire company in other countries.
In New Zealand, there’s also an option to purchase a $45 membership where you can stay at farms, vineyards and orchards for free. Other countries may offer something similar.
Most rental companies don’t permit you to cross international borders. You’ll therefore need to drop off at a depot close to the border and then arrange another hire once you’re on the other side. If it’s permitted, you may need to give advance notice and also pay a surcharge.
ACCIDENTS, THEFT AND DAMAGE
If you have comprehensive travel insurance, it generally includes collision damage waiver (CDW), car hire excess and theft protection. Check your travel insurance policy carefully. If you’re not covered and you decide not to purchase excess insurance from the rental company, then you’ll be up for a lot of dollars if you’re involved in an accident or the car is stolen or damaged.
You generally won’t be covered if you break the law or use incorrect fuel type or drive on unsealed roads for example. I’d recommend purchasing travel insurance which includes insurance as rental companies can charge as much as 490% more.
Check what’s covered under collision damage waiver as there may be exclusions such as windscreen, wheel and tyre damage or if driven by an unauthorised driver for example, as well as damage caused by natural disasters. The waivers are also known as loss damage waiver, damage liability fees or accident damage fees.
If you’re relying on credit card travel insurance, check what type of cover they provide as sometimes it’s not comprehensive.
Should you be involved in an accident, you would usually need to pay the excess upfront and then make a claim against your travel insurance.
Some companies will freeze your credit card for a specific amount to cover the excess.
Check the policy as to whether it includes roadside assistance. Check the exclusions.
MINIMUM DRIVING AGE
In Australia for example, the minimum age to hire a car is usually 21 and a Young Driver surcharge may be charged if you’re 21-24. A valid driver’s licence is required and provisional or probationary licences aren’t acceptable.
Some companies may allow you to hire if you’re under 21. Bayswater Car Rental currently does and they have locations in Sydney and Perth. There may be other companies and you’ll need to do some research.
In the USA, the minimum age is usually 25 however some rental companies will accept 18-year-olds. Make sure you check the minimum age for the country you intend driving in.
ADDITIONAL DRIVERS AND INTERNATIONAL LICENCES
Some companies will charge you for additional drivers so if you’re planning to share the driving, check with the company. Be aware that if you don’t declare any additional drivers and they’re driving and involved in an accident, it could void your insurance.
You’ll also need to check whether an International Driver’s Licence is required in the countries you intend driving in. If you don’t have one if it’s required and if you have an accident, you could find yourself in a hole heap of trouble.
Some companies will offer a direct tolling option which is automatically debited from your credit card every time you use a toll road. Other companies may require you to purchase a toll day pass for each day a toll is used. Some vehicles may be fitted with tags. Check with the company.
When you pick up the vehicle, give it a thorough checking over and take photos of any damage or scratches, including the wheels, and ensure you time stamp photos. Also check that it has a spare tyre and jack.
Most companies will freeze your credit card for a fuel bond when you pick up the vehicle so make sure you return it with a full tank.
Before you commence your trip, and if you’re intending on doing some long-distance travel, make sure you check where the next petrol/gas/fuel station is so that you’re not caught unawares.
Always read the fine print, whether hiring or buying and ensure you check your documentation once you’ve booked. Also make sure you have the rental company’s contact details.
IMAGES – UNSPLASH
- Image 1 – Dino Reichmuth
- Image 2 – Neonbrand
- Image 4 – Mike Holford
- Image 5 – Mahir Uysal
- Image 6 – Hanson Lu
- Image 7 – Adrien Bruneau