Hiring a motor vehicle puts you in the driver’s seat when exploring the tourist sights of NSW. But before driving off, you should understand the terms of your hire contract.
Before signing the contract
Before hiring a vehicle and signing the contract, ask yourself:
- What does the insurance on the vehicle cover if you have an accident?
- Is comprehensive insurance a separate payment or included in the rental amount?
- Is the excess (the amount you will have to pay) reasonable?
- Does the insurance cover damage to the hire vehicle, damage to other vehicles and any personal injuries?
- Can you get a replacement vehicle quickly if you breakdown?
- Is there a convenient way of arranging for minor repairs while on the road?
- If you have to pay the cost of repairs, how do you get your money back? You should not have to pay for items that are ‘fair wear and tear’. But you may be responsible if problems develop as a result of your negligence, misuse or abuse.
- Can you take the vehicle off-road or to the snow? Many contracts prohibit hirers from taking the vehicle off-road or above the snow-line. You may be responsible for any damage that occurs as a result. If you want to get off the beaten track, make sure your contract allows you to do so.
- Can you return the vehicle to a convenient place?
- Will you have access to the return depot at a time that suits you?
- Do you have to pay penalties for the late return of the vehicle, or for not returning it to the agreed depot?
- Are you required to fill the fuel tank before returning the vehicle? And if you don’t fill the tank, what will the car rental firm charge you per litre?
Before you drive away
Take the time to run through this quick checklist before you drive away. It’s particularly important if you are hiring an older vehicle.
- Are the tyres, lights, indicators, windscreen wipers and washers working properly?
- Is there any damage to the vehicle that should be noted on the documentation?
- Is the windscreen chipped?
- Are there any visible oil leaks?
- Do the brakes feel acceptable?
- Is there a spare tyre, jack and wheel brace?
- Are you aware of the road-rules?
- If you are going to the snow, do you have the required chains?
- Do you understand the controls to the car (lights, gears, indicators etc)?
- Are there any signs of water leakage into the vehicle, particularly in the sleeping quarters of campervans?
- Does the vehicle have all the features you have paid for, eg. air conditioning, CD player, or fittings in campervans?
- Do you have maps to get out of the city and to take you onto the open road?
Allow plenty of time to reach your destination and remember to include rest breaks. It’s recommended that drivers take a break every 2 hours.
All passengers are required to wear seat belts and small children should be fitted with approved child restraints. Speeding and drink driving are offences but more importantly, can be fatal.
If you have an accident
Most disputes involving hire vehicles relate to accidents. Overseas drivers can be unfamiliar with Australian conditions, which can increase the risk of having an accident. Therefore, insurance is essential. If you do have an accident, you should pay the agreed amount of excess and then insurance company will usually look after the rest.
If you have an accident, as a general rule you should:
- not accept any liability
- advise the car rental company as soon as practicable of the accident
- consider legal advice to find out your legal position
- comply with state laws and report the accident to the police.
Where the accident is your fault and you’re not comprehensively insured, you may be liable for expenses and could be sued for compensation. If this happens, you should seek legal advice immediately.
If damage to a vehicle is minor and it costs less to repair the car than the insurance excess, it might be easier to just repair the vehicle. You should still obtain your own quotes on the damage. If this is not possible, photograph or video the damage in case there is dispute about the cost. A written agreement should be drawn up between you and the rental company detailing the agreement.
If you are booked by the police
You are responsible if you are booked by the police for a parking or traffic infringement. If you get a parking infringement, you should notify the car rental firm and make arrangements for payment.
In the event of a dispute
If you have a dispute with a car rental company, contact the owner or customer relations manager at the company. If you cannot settle the problem by mutual agreement, contact NSW Fair Trading on 13 32 20, or <lodge an enquiry or complaint> on our website.