BEFORE YOU GET BEHIND THE WHEEL
Don’t get taken for a ride when hiring a car overseas. Read on to learn about insurance and cost-saving strategies and to discover why photographing your ride is essential (no, it’s not for Instagram).
CHECK YOU ARE INSURED
Car hire insurance inclusions vary significantly overseas. European hire includes Collision Damage Waiver (CDW), which means you only pay the excess (this is the same as Australia).
However, in the United States insurance such as CDW is not included.
This means you could be liable for the cost of the entire vehicle in the event of an accident. Australian car hire agencies such as DriveAway Holidays usually include standard insurance such as CDW.
THINK TWICE BEFORE PAYING EXTRA TO LOWER YOUR EXCESS
When you arrive to collect your car, the person at the counter will almost certainly offer the option to pay an additional daily charge to lower the (eyewatering) excess. This charge reduces the amount you pay in the event of an accident. Your travel insurance and/or some credit cards may already cover this so don’t simply assume you should say “yes”.
Check if you are already covered before you leave home, it could save you hundreds.
DO YOU REALLY NEED THAT INTERNATIONAL DRIVER’S PERMIT?
Some countries require an International Driving Permit (IDP) in addition to your regular Australian driver’s licence. It is unlikely a car hire company will ask to see it but if you get pulled over in Italy, for example, you could get fined by police if you don’t have an IDP. Check your state’s Australian Automobile Association (AAA) website for which countries require an IDP. If you need one, it can be obtained for between $25 and $50 from your AAA.
JOIN THE CLUB
It costs extra for some services when hiring a
car overseas. One way hiring a to avoid these charges is to check if they are covered by the company’s loyalty scheme. For example, Hertz waive the additional driver fee for loyalty program members. These cost nothing to join and include benefits such as 10 per cent off standard rates and complimentary upgrades.
TAKE PHOTOS AT PICK-UP AND DROP-OFF
Even if your hire car isn’t Insta-worthy, you should take photos at pick-up and drop-off. These can be used to verify existing damage so you don’t get charged for repairing things that weren’t your fault. Scratches and dings will be marked on a paper form showing a drawing of a car. Take the time to go through this carefully. Add any damage which may have been missed by the car rental agent to avoid problems at drop-off.
GET HELP WITH DIRECTIONS
Hiring a GPS can cost upwards of $20 a day. It can be more economical to buy a cheap unit at your destination (these can be programmed for English). GPS smartphone apps which work online and offline are also available. Many of these are free to download. Paper road maps can be purchased at service stations and, unlike a smartphone or GPS, don’t require a satellite connection. Consider buying one as a backup, and you’ll be glad you did.