10 things you should know before renting a car in Australia
Renting a car can sometimes feel like a chore, especially when you want to rent it for your upcoming holiday. After comparing rental costs, the price of insurance (or not having one), and even estimated costs of fuels consumed, looking beyond the airport is not the only necessary challenge ahead. Driving in Australia may be different than what you are familiar with. In our last trip to Australia, little girl and I put together a list of advice you need to read before renting a car in Australia.
#1 Get 100% and extra insurance
“Should I buy insurance” is always the ultimate car rental question and you always think that the odds of getting into the accident is slim or never; and maybe you have never got into one before. In foreign lands, it is better to be safe than sorry. Little girl and I strongly suggest you get the car insurance/extra “safety net” together with the same car rental company. And (this is another travel tip) never make that decision about the insurances AT THE COUNTER. Do not wait to make that decision when you are picking up the keys. In this way, you will want to opt in on things you know you need, and not doubt yourself over what things you can afford to opt out of in the very end.
#2 Steering wheel is on the other side
This piece of advice is for drivers who are familiar with the right-hand side of the road. Although you might be thinking that it is an easy “switch”, I suggest you be extra careful coming out of the carpark and car corners. You should drive around the carpark, and get yourself familiar and practice making your judgment with the car before heading off to the highway.
#3 Watch out for Kangaroos
As everyone said, hitting a kangaroo in Australia is common. However, when you are personally experiencing it, you will feel that the roof is tumbling down. We banged our rented car onto a small kangaroo before and know how it feels like. At night, it is really hard to see when there is no street lights and visibility is limited. While the kangaroos are not the most road-savvy animals, they are generally good at avoiding the cars during the day. At night, they are blinded by the headlights of the cars, especially in those roads that do not have any street lights.
If luck is not in your favour and you cannot avoid the kangaroo, the best way is to brake heavily in a straight line, watch the cars behind you and coming towards you, do not steer to the other lanes so that you do not endanger other drivers and hit the kangaroos with your car, hoping that the kangaroo is fine.
In the worst situation, if a kangaroo jumps out on a highway, it is best not to slow down at all and maintain your speed. You are better off hitting a kangaroo than ending up off the road having a bigger crash with other vehicles.
#4 Watch speed limits
All cars are driving at nearly 120-150 km per hour on average and I guess the seasoned drivers are used to the darkness. Australia has a number of fixed speed traps and police cars that patrol the around equipped with mobile speed detectors. Even though you are on the highway, the best to way to avoid getting a speed fine is staying within the speed limit. We have encountered one before and the fine is seriously no joke. Even though you are a tourist visiting the country, rules and laws are no exception. Every time when we drive in Australia, Little Girl will be energized to look at the speed limits on the highways. You can expect the speed limit can drop from 120km per hour to 40km per hour as we enter a small town.
#5 Top up the fuel tanks whenever possible
We are on the road most of the time and depending on the road that you are taking, especially if you are going through the mountains and alleys, check ahead where the next gas station will be. You do not want to be caught with limited gas and the next gas station is 250 miles away. Pro-tip – we plan our trip and stop by the gas station to take a break, toilet break and top up our foods, snacks, and drinks too.
#6 Add additional drivers to your car rental
Driving alone on a long journey is tiring and you may have friends who can help in this journey too. Many car rental companies provide an option to add additional drivers to your rental and sometimes, additional fee applies. We know that everybody is trying to save that extra miscellaneous costs from somewhere but I highly recommend that you add your friends as additional drivers even though they might not drive. The key point is that the registered drivers are automatically covered by the rental agreement and insurance that you have bought. You do not want to be in a situation where your friend met an accident but he is not registered and covered by insurance.
#7 Check if you have mileage limits
Some car rental companies impose mileage limits and might be really inconvenient later and can possibly bring your rental cost up. We always go for unlimited mileage car rentals as the cost difference between the two is small. Even if you have rented the car online, remember to ask and check with the staff of the car rental company before they pass you the keys.
#8 Do not stop in the middle of the road
We know that the other side of the green is always “greener”. That being said, Australia is full of beautiful landscape and scenery, tempting you to stop driving and take a photo every 100 miles or meters. As you are not familiar with the roads in the foreign countries, it is highly recommended that you do not stop the car in the middle of the road and casually opening the doors to take photos. It is very dangerous, especially on the narrow and windy roads.
#9 Be prepared for narrow roads and limited lights
In many parts of the Australia roads, the roads are windy, narrow and most of the time, the roads do not have street lamps and lights. All you depend on is the headlight of your car and other cars. If you are alone on the road, visibility is very limited and you can properly see the road 100 meters ahead only. Another pro-top: keep a distance between your car and the vehicle ahead of you and do not tailgate so that you have time to react to difficult situations and roads.
#10 Inspect and take a picture of your car in all four corners
Of course, you finally got a rented car and you are ready for the adventure. But you must always take a photo of the rented car to see if you have possible bumps and scratches. Before you drive off, you are best to ask all your friends to inspect with you and take photos of all scratches and bumps that the car rental companies might use against you and get you to pay more.
Australia is an amazingly beautiful country and if you are visiting the greeneries outside the city, it is best visited by car. There are other options to travel around too, but having a car will give you the freedom and space to enjoy the country at your own pace and time with your own planned itinerary.
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The travel blog of the Little Girl features tips and advice on how you can travel smarter, cheaper, and better time spent so you can explore the world on a budget. We caught the travel bugs as we began traveling together on a budget to nearby islands. Join and follow us on our Social Media as we travel to more beautiful destinations.