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Car Hire Guide: 7 Valuable Things to Know When Hiring a Car

With all the hidden costs, industry jargon and tedious contracts, it’s easy to become disillusioned when searching for cheap car hire deals. Fear not, Skyscanner Australia has your back! Here’s our Car Hire Guide with tips and tricks to find the cheapest car hire prices, avoid hidden fees and nasty surprises at the rental car check in counter.

1. Shop around on the insurance

Car hire inclusions can vary significantly by provider and the country you are travelling to. Most countries require the base rental rate to be inclusive of Collision Damage Waiver (CDW). Not to be confused with full insurance, CDW is a basic protection that limits the excess amount, i.e. the maximum you are liable for in case of an incident. The standard excess rate by major car hire providers in Australia is about $4000-$5000.

When picking up your car, the sales agent will likely offer the option to waive or reduce your excess with insurance cover. Before you take him up on the offer, check your travel insurance and credit card benefits to see if car rentals are already covered.

If not, consider purchasing third-party insurance from a car hire broker instead. In the event of damage, the supplier will charge you the excess amount first, which you can then claim back from your insurer. It might take a little while, but could save you as much as half the price of purchasing insurance from the desk. Do note that car hire brokers usually charge diminishing fees for insurance whereas car hire providers charge a flat rate.

Compare Car Hire Insurance Products

The prices below were found on 2nd July 2018 for car hire reservations at Perth Airport. All prices are exclusive of taxes.

Book through Insurance Options Price
Avis Excess Reduction (reduces liability) $27/day
Hertz Accident Excess Insurance (reduces liability for damage, theft, or loss of vehicle to $770) $24/day
Hertz Maximum Cover (waives full liability for damage, theft, or loss of vehicle) $34/day
Holiday Autos (car hire broker) 3rd Party Excess Insurance with Allianz (2 days), reduces up to $4000 $22.11/day
Holiday Autos  3rd Party Excess Insurance with Allianz (7 days), reduces up to $4000 $16.33/day
Tripcover (stand-alone insurance) 3rd Party Insurance with Allianz, Plan A (2 days), reduces up to $4000 $13.60/day
Tripcover 3rd Party Insurance with Allianz, Plan A (7 days), reduces up to $4000 $10.19/day

2. Choose a full-to-full fuel policy

In Australia, it’s usual for the rental car to come with a full tank of fuel with an expectation that drivers return it with the fuel topped up. If you return the car with less than a full tank, you will likely be charged a premium per litre. It’s definitely worth finding a petrol station on your way to dropping off the car. Overseas policies may vary, and we recommend to filter for full-to-full when using Skyscanner to avoid paying inflated rates.

Skyscanner Car Hire Fuel Filters
Compare Cheap Car Hire deals

3. Be flexible in pick-up location

Price points in major cities can vary considerably from depot to depot. Quite often, it is cheaper to hire a car just off the airport vs. at the terminal. In the city, prices can differ widely even for pick-up locations in the same area, as shown below. 

Perth Car Hire Map
Prices above shown on 28 June for a car hire search in Perth from 4-5 August 2018

If you need a rental car upon arrival, most off-airport operators provide free shuttle bus service from the terminal and are located just 5-10 minutes away. It’s worthwhile to use our car hire pick-up filters to find the best deal. For example, we searched car rentals at Perth Airport from 4-5 August 2018 and found that the cheapest off-airport rate was with Atlas from $22.87 compared to $65.53 at the airport terminal with Firefly. 

Skyscanner Car Hire Pick Up Filters

4. Keep drivers to a minimum

Even if all your mates can drive, keep a lid on the number of drivers for the hire car. Any additional drivers could cost up to an extra $27.50 for your trip. If you’re headed on a long road trip, it’s worth checking the T&Cs for deals which include free additional drivers.

5. Beware of additional surcharges

Car hire companies have cornered the market in sneaky little surcharges, often using confusing jargon to baffle us into submission. Some of the additional charges that might be added to your rental agreement include:

Young driver surcharge – drivers under 25 may be slugged with an extra charge.

One way surcharge – you might pay more if you pick up and drop off the car at different locations. This includes even different airports or downtown locations in the same city.

Optional extras – fees are usually charged for extras such as GPS map viewers, and child seats. If you’re hiring a camper van, extra costs might be incurred for outdoor tables & chairs, crockery, and bed linen.

For a comprehensive list of surcharges, check out our guide to hidden car hire charges

6. Check that unlimited mileage is provided

Burning rubber on a road trip? Keep a look out – every company has a different policy when it comes to mileage limitations.

Always select car rental deals with unlimited miles if available. Those rentals often come at the same price and will reduce a ton of stress. How to find these deals? We got you covered – simply select the filter shown below when using Skyscanner.

7. Book before you fly

While car hire prices don’t fluctuate as much as flights, its heavily based on seasonal demand. Most companies offer free cancellation till 48 hours before pick-up, so there’s no harm in booking in advance. This gives you plenty of time to look out for flash deals and compare car hire T&Cs.

Skyscanner provides independent car hire comparison with a comprehensive range of options in 175 countries across 30,000 locations. Search for a car that suits your budget and get all the information to avoid nasty surprises at the check in counter. 

Plan your next holiday with Skyscanner Australia to get the best deals on airfares, hotels and car hire – there’s no booking fees!