Written by: Sara Rowe
Sara is an independent travel agent at Make It Travel based in Bendigo. She and loves to assist families curate and organise the best travel experience for their stage of life and adventure.
What you NEED to know about hiring a car overseas
An adventure abroad is an amazing experience, but an adventure with the flexibility of having your own wheels is something else! Hiring a car allows you to escape the well-worn tourist trails and discover a destination at your own pace.
Most families I plan holidays for shy away from hiring a car. Usually, they are turned off because of that one horror story their mate shared at a BBQ or simply the fear of the unknown. Yes, new things are daunting, so here are some facts and advice to help ease your mind.
Where to start?
You’ll need to know dates and destination! The most popular location to pick up a car is the airport you are flying into. If you have already been in a city for a few days, it may be best to pick the car up from a city location. You will also find car hire depots at popular train station.
Once dates and depots are decided, you need to choose what size car. Cheap is great when on a budget, but travelling with kids means a whole lot of luggage! So make sure you choose a car that will fit all those suitcases. You will have the option of hiring a manual or automatic car, so choose what you are most comfortable with.
One way rentals
No one has time for backtracking and car rental companies are on the ball in this department! Picking up a car in one city and dropping it off in another is no problem whatsoever. The one-way fee will usually be worked into the rate quoted and if it is not, your travel documents will say so. Sometimes this one-way fee is payable direct.
On Airport & Off Airport
Large car hire companies like Avis, Budget and Alamo have depots ‘on-site’ which means you can collect your bags, sign the necessary paperwork and walk straight to the car park. Cheaper companies like Dollar Rentals and East Coast Car Rentals are located ‘off-site’ but have a free shuttle service who you call on arrival and they will collect you. Be aware that larger airports like Los Angeles International have a dedicated area for all car hire companies so no matter who you use, you will have to call the shuttle service.
Do I need this extra insurance?
One questions I always get asked is “do I need this extra insurance they offer when picking up the car?” If you have your own travel insurance policy and the means to pay their excess, then no you don’t. There have been times where the car hire staff have been pushy and applied the hard sell making customers feel obliged or successfully instilling just enough doubt to make them say yes. Make sure you read your paperwork and highlight what excess amount is covered for so you don’t get caught.
The necessary inclusions
If there is more than one person planning to drive, make sure a free additional driver is included. If this isn’t an option, you will have to pay a daily rate to have a second driver on the rental.
You will also need unlimited kilometres, no one wants to be restricted by kilometres. Other inclusions like zero excess and no one-way fee are perks so take advantage if you can.
International Driving Permit
This is something you NEED to have organised before you leave on your holiday. Don’t leave it to the last minute because it takes a couple of weeks for the card to arrive in the mail! If you don’t have an international driving permit, you will not be covered by your travel insurance. There is also a chance that you won’t even be able to pick up the car!
You can obtain an IDP through the relevant authority in your state. Follow this link for more information.
Credit Cards and Security Bonds
Car rental companies require a security deposit ‘held’ against your credit card. The card must be in the name of the renter shown on the booking and it must have sufficient funds to cover the required excess/deposit. Usually cash and debit cards (including travel cards) are not included so make sure you have a credit card organised before you head off.
Child seats can be requested at the time of booking. There will be a daily fee payable direct which will be capped, usually at $60-$80. Although the car hire company provides the seats, the staff are not responsible for fitting it. You will have to ensure the sea is secured safely.
Hiring a GPS
GPS’s can be requested and paid for directly. Again, there is a daily fee that will be capped at a certain amount. If you have a GPS at home, plug it into your computer, download the maps for the country you are travelling to and off you go!
So now you know the facts, here are the top 3 destinations to hire a car.
Known as the Golden State, California is the ultimate destination for your first overseas road trip. From the adventurous Yosemite National Park to the magic of Disneyland California, this state has something for everyone. The Visit California website is the best resource for any destination and itinerary inspiration. They have ideas on how to conquer Highway One from San Diego to San Francisco and more adventurous itineraries which include Lake Tahoe, Mammoth Lakes and Yosemite.
This very picturesque neighbour of ours will be a kind introduction to driving abroad. Their roads are familiar and relatively uncrowded. Depending how much time you have, you can focus on the North or the South Island, with the option of combining the two with a ferry crossing. Check out 100% Pure New Zealand for some great ideas.
You won’t be short of options in England! The hardest part will be deciding where you want to go. I would suggest booking your car well in advance especially if you are chasing an Automatic SUV. Some of the most popular routes include The Cotswolds, Scotland’s North Coast 500 which skirts the coast and of course Ireland!
If you need help planning your next road trip, feel free to contact me.