Renting a Car in Australia and New Zealand

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American terminology is getting into the Australian and New Zealand hire car industry, so yes, you can rent a car from a car rental or rent-a-car company. Mostly we Down Under people say we hire a car instead of renting one.

If you're in need of a vehicle for land travel in Australia or New Zealand, you can hire almost anything on wheels — from limousines, station wagons, buses, 4WDs, beach buggies and just plain sedans to, yes, motorcycles, bicycles, scooters, inline skates, even horse-drawn carriages.

Should You Hire a Car?

If you want the convenience of having a vehicle anytime you want one, yes, you should hire a car.

Should You Book a Car on the Internet?

There are Internet sites that will give you car hire options — and costs — where you plan to travel.

You can find real bargains on the Internet, but be sure to read the fine print, so you're not suddenly faced with unexpected charges.

Generally, it's best to stick with the better-known car hire agencies, such as Hertz, Avis, and Thrifty, or a company someone you know has used and was happy with.

Should You Have a Car Waiting for You at the Airport?

You can have a car waiting for you at the airport, but take note of the following:

  • Whether you booked beforehand on the Internet or get a hire car at the airport on your arrival, just be sure you're confident of driving on the left-hand side of the road (particularly if you're used to driving on the right side) in an area you may not be familiar with.
  • If you get a car on your arrival at the airport, know that you will usually be charged regular car hire rates instead of discounted rates you might have found on the Internet or after you've arrived at your hotel and have had time to check with several car hire companies.

Should You Pay by Credit Card?

Normally you'd be asked for your credit card details, just in case there are extra charges incurred.

The most common extra charge is for petrol (gasoline) to top up the fuel tank if you didn't do this before returning the vehicle. You usually receive your hire car with a full tank of petrol and are expected to return it likewise.

Note that if you're charged for fuel, they charge you the cost of petrol (or whatever fuel is used) at their own estimated rate plus a service fee.

Another extra charge is for damage to the vehicle while it is in your possession if you have not paid the surcharge for full insurance coverage. The normal car insurance for hire cars includes an excess, which you must pay before coverage kicks in.

You could also be up for traffic violation fines and toll road charges if not paid at the time, particularly true of electronic toll systems if your vehicle is not equipped to pay tolls electronically.

Can You Travel Anywhere in a Hire Car?

Check your car hire contract. Some car hire companies limit you to, say, a 100-kilometre radius from where you obtained your vehicle.

Traveling on unsealed dirt roads and on beaches may also be prohibited.

If you want to hire a car at one point and return it at another, this may not be possible with smaller car hire companies which are not part of a larger chain.

Check with your car hire company.

Can You use Your own Driving Licence?

Your current, valid driver's licence — in English and with your photograph and signature — should generally be sufficient for you to hire a vehicle in Australia and New Zealand.

An international driver's licence is always helpful. It is essential to have if your current driver's licence is in a language other than English.

Edited and updated by Sarah Megginson.