Everything you need to know before you rent a car to make it as affordable and stress-free as possible.
If you’re renting a car for your next holiday, there are several important things you should know before you book. The simple tips below can help you save money and also ensure that your hire car holiday runs as smoothly as possible.
Our #1 tip? Car rental excess insurance.
1. Look out for hidden fees
Have you ever reserved a hire car online for an attractive price, only to turn up at the rental counter to pick up the vehicle and find out that it’s going to cost a whole lot more than expected? Unexpected fees and charges are one of the biggest bugbears for Australian car renters, and they can have a significant impact on the total cost of your holiday.
For example, does the rental company you choose charge extra for picking the car up from an airport? Is there an additional one-way fee if you drop the car off in a different city from where you picked it up? If you want a GPS, DVD player or child car seat for your journey, will you need to fork out even more money?
It’s essential that you read the fine print of any rental agreement before signing. Reputable rental companies and online comparison websites should clearly outline all charges that apply to your booking before you make a reservation, so make sure you take the time to check all the finer details.
2. Exorbitant excess kilometre charges
Is there a limit on the distance you’re permitted to drive your rental car, for example 500 kilometres? If so, make sure you check the rental agreement to find out what will happen if you exceed that limit.
For example, let’s say you discover one more winery you just have to visit, or one more national park you should really see while you have the chance. Before you know it, you’re 50 kilometres or more over the specified limit.
Before you rent a car, check how much the rental company will charge you for exceeding your allotted mileage. While some companies only impose reasonable additional fees, others can tack on hefty charges to your bill.
To avoid the problem altogether, look for a car hire company that offers free unlimited kilometres.
3. Keep drivers to a minimum
If you’re travelling with a group of friends and everyone wants to spend a bit of time behind the wheel, you might be considering adding everyone to the rental agreement as an authorised driver. However, try to avoid doing this if you want to keep costs down.
The more drivers you add to the rental agreement, the more your hire car will cost. Keeping it to a maximum of two drivers will ensure that you don’t have to fork out any more than is necessary.
Now all you have to do is decide who gets to drive and who gets to be a backseat driver.
4. Don’t forget about fuel
One factor many people forget to consider when renting a car is a vehicle’s fuel efficiency. However, while you may get an attractive rate for a particular type of vehicle, it could actually end up costing you more in the long run if that car is particularly thirsty on fuel.
With this in mind, check car rental websites for details of a vehicle’s fuel consumption figures. If Car A only uses 7L/100km while Car B uses 12L/100km, you’ll get much better mileage (and therefore cheaper fuel costs) out of the car that sips its fuel rather than guzzles it.
While we’re on the topic of fuel, remember to fill the tank up with petrol before you return your car. If you return the car without a full tank, expect to be charged a premium price to get it back to maximum capacity.
5. Size matters
As a general rule, the smaller a car is, the cheaper it is to rent (sports and luxury vehicles excepted). If you’re trying to save as much money as possible when booking a car, it’s tempting to simply book the smallest possible vehicle for the cheapest possible rate.
If there’s only one or two of you and you’re travelling light, this will be simple. However, space can become a real issue if you’re travelling with kids, other family members or friends. Things can get even more cramped if you’re travelling with a surfboard, golf clubs, or anyone who doesn’t understand the meaning of packing light.
Trying to squeeze the whole family and all their luggage into a tiny car for a long journey simply doesn’t make for a relaxing holiday, so make sure any vehicle you choose is big enough for your needs.