Car rental 101

2012-06-18 08:28

Whether it be for a business trip or family vaction, hiring a car can be a bit of a schlep if not done properly. Here are a few guidelines to assist both frequent users and newbies with their car hiring experience:


- There are a two basic things you need to book a car, a credit card and a drivers license. While most car rental companies do accept cheque cards that display the Visa or Mastercard logo as well, using your credit card is a much better idea, as having a bulk amount of money subtracted from your personal account BEFORE your holiday even starts is never a nice feeling.

- If more than one person will be driving, an additional fee of about R200 will be charged.

Pick up:

- When picking up your car all drivers will have to present their drivers licenses, so ensure that you have it on you.

- Insurance policies differ from car hiring outlet to car hiring outlet. Check with your own personal insurance to see what their policy is on hiring a car. Some might even offer cheaper rates.

- Car hire outlets at airports have a little something called Airport Charge. This is an extra fee charged on kilometers travelled daily. The cheaper option would be to pick up your rental at an outlet within the city or town.

On your journey

- Car hire companies provide a variety of insurance and waivers that broaden your liability protection. Check with your personal insurance company and credit card provider on their policies regarding car hire insurance.

- If you unfortunately experience a break down along the way, don't panic. Most car hire companies offer 24hour assistance, which is usually just a phone call away.

Drop off:

- To avoid extra cost, fill up the car with petrol before taking it back.

Useful tips

- Cover your own back:

Before leaving the rental outlet, give the car a good and proper once over, making notes of any obvious scratches, dents or marks. If you have a camera or a phone with a good camera, make sure you take photos of these with a date stamp if possible. Doing this will help you prove your innocence if the company wants to charge you for damages that weren't yours afterwards.

- Less is more:

Smaller cars are more cost effective, so resist your urge to upgrade to something spectacular and stick to the offerings in the lower tiers.

- Travelling with kids?

Rather bring your own kiddies chair than renting one from the company. It's just an extra, unnecessary cost that could be avoided quite easily. The same goes for GPS devices.

- Be a little bit cynical:

Don't get swayed by a good-looking deal. Sometimes when a price looks unbelievably low, the chances are very good that it will be riddled with hidden costs once you start the booking process. Contact the company before making any final decisions to find out what the final price will be.

- Refueling:

Check what the company's policy on refueling is. If they charge a surplus for customers who bring the car back without refueling it, rather opt to refuel it yourself before return.

- Punctual returns:

Keep an eye on your time frame. Some companies offer a grace period of up to an hour for car returns, but many expect you to be perfectly punctual. In most cases returning your car later than expected could lead to a whole extra day's charge.

- Insurance:

While most car rental companies will try to convince you to buy insurance and waivers, make sure you aren't already covered by your own car insurance or credit card. The best way to do this is to call up your bank or insurance broker to get all the facts about rental insurance. If they don't cover you, the best option is to go for the basic cover offered by the rental company.

- The internet is your friend:

For a cheaper rate book online and avoid booking automatic cars. Also browse through the offerings of a variety of car rental companies online before making your final decision.

Read more on:    travel tips  |  travel international

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