One of the key things that people don’t appreciate when moving to Australia is just how big it is. Whether you are living in the coastal areas or in regional areas you are likely to require a car or transport of your own at some point for your day to day activities. It will also give you access to a number of weekend break destinations, once again depending on where you choose to live.

Once you arrive in Australia, there may be times when you need to hire a car before you arrange to purchase. The car rental process may be a little different to what you are accustomed to in your home country. So, this short guide will give you a grasp of the basic elements of renting a car in Australia.

There are a wide range of car rental companies in Australia, all offering a variety of vehicles to suit your needs. Some of the most common rental companies include Avis, Budget, Hertz, Thrift and Europcar. Each company will have slightly different terms and conditions but as a broad rule of thumb you can expect the following:

  • All of the above companies have hire depots in capital cities, airports and major regional centres.

  • You should explore your car rental options as soon as you know it will be required. The earlier you book, the more likely you are to obtain discounted rates. If you are a member of a frequent flyer program you should research what discounts you may be eligible for as a part of your membership.
  • If there will be more than one driver you will most likely have to pay a fee for an additional driver and provide the appropriate documentation for that driver.
  • Be sure to check on the availability of items that you may require – GPS and baby seats for example may not always be standard issue but should be available for a small fee.
  • Renters must have a full licence and generally be at least 21 years of age. Many drivers under 25 may have to pay a daily underage surcharge.
  • Car rental prices will vary dependent upon the type of vehicle, the age of driver, extras and other potential factors such as where you rent the car from and where you intend to drop it off.
  • Most car rental agreements include what is known as an excess amount. This refers to the amount of money that you are liable for should there be any damage to the vehicle. Usually you can choose between different amounts of excess cover and the daily rental payment will be adjusted accordingly. This is often a bit of a “cash cow” for car hire companies so check the extent of any other cover you have from your travel insurance, your credit card or from your employer (if you are hiring a car as a part of your occupation).
  • Most car rental companies will accept drivers who have full drivers licences from English speaking countries. You can also purchase an international drivers licence and transfer your overseas licence using the relevant state authority. Of course once you do this, your licence will be subject to the driving laws of Australia and you will lose points from your licence for any infringements.
  • You will be liable for any traffic infringements that occur while you are in charge of the vehicle. Red light and speed cameras operate throughout Australia. Any road toll infringement notices issued to the rental company will be charged to your credit card in due course.
  • Check the terms and conditions of your car rental agreement carefully. Some companies will not permit the car to be driven on dirt or gravel roads. You should also make sure you leave the car with a full tank of fuel otherwise you will be charged a premium for the company to do it themselves.

Travelling through Australia by car is an enjoyable and rewarding experience. The roads are by and large well maintained, but the distances can catch you off guard.  Before hiring your car be sure to plan your trip out well in advance to ensure that you have plenty of time to travel to and from your destination.

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