Guide to low-risk car rental

Car rental contracts operate in favour of the rental companies, but you can reduce your risks.
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  • Updated:21 Apr 2008

05.Handy hints

Car rental tips

Shop around well in advance for quotes. To avoid headaches, ask the rental companies the following questions:

  • What’s the age and model of your car?
  • What’s the excess in the event of an accident? Are there different excesses depending on the event, such as a higher one for a single-vehicle accident? Is it possible to lower the excess, and what’s the charge per day? (Compare the alternatives — see Reduce the excess).
  • What is the bond/security deposit? Will it be charged to your credit card, and if so, when will you get a refund?
  • Are unlimited kilometres included? If not, what’s the extra charge per kilometre?
  • If you return the vehicle early, will you get a refund?
  • Who can drive the car? Are there any age limitations (usually 21 to 75 years)? Is there a charge for additional drivers?

Get a copy of the contract, including the full terms and conditions, before making a booking - if the company doesn’t provide it, go elsewhere. Thoroughly read it and ask questions if you don’t understand. Check you’re covered for single-vehicle accidents and any other situations you think are reasonable (see Exclusions).

At pick-up

Check the vehicle in the presence of a representative before you sign the contract. If they won’t oblige, check it thoroughly yourself, not forgetting the roof, interior and boot. Also, make sure all the specified features are present and working.

Note any damage, and immediately report it to the office. Don’t sign the contract until the damage has been noted. Take photos of any damage.

Ask for information about what to do in the event of a breakdown or accident. Also, find out whether you need to bring the vehicle back with a full tank and what is the charge per litre if you don’t.

During and after rental

  • Contact police if you think the vehicle is unroadworthy.
  • If the vehicle breaks down during rental, follow the company’s breakdown procedures. Don’t have it repaired without approval.
  • If possible, return your car during business hours. Insist on an inspection in your presence. If you have to drop the car after hours or at a location other than the office (a hotel, say), you must be prepared to take the risk that you could be charged for causing damage you were unaware of (and that may have occurred after you left the car, for example).
  • Work out any disputes for damages on the spot.
  • If you have a complaint, contact your local fair trading/consumers affairs office for advice.

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