Avoid car hire headaches

With more of us holidaying at home this year due to ongoing travel restrictions, hiring a rental vehicle can be a great way to explore our vast state.

Unfortunately things don’t always go to plan, with new figures showing we received 183 complaints and 251 enquiries from consumers about the vehicle hire industry in the last two years – mostly to do with disputes over refunds and payment.

Consumer Protection recently learned of a couple of holidaymakers whose rental cars had been stolen and were being pursued for the full cost to replace the vehicles by the hire company, which claimed they had failed to adequately secure the keys.

While we investigate this matter, it’s important for consumers know their rights and understand their obligations when hiring a vehicle.

Our advice is to shop around and read the hire contract carefully before you sign. The contract outlines rental, insurance and extra costs, and may have limits on your use of the vehicle and in-house insurance.

Rather than paying for a car rental company’s excess reduction, a cheaper option may be to buy extra insurance from your own insurer or travel insurance provider. If there’s loss or damage, then you would pay the excess to the car rental company and claim reimbursement from the insurer.

Some vehicle hire contracts may include you agreeing for unlimited charges being made to your credit card, so it’s important to find out in what circumstances and amounts this might occur.

Before signing a contract, it is important to check for damage both inside and outside of the vehicle. Take photos of any damage and ensure it is recorded in the contract and counter-signed by the company representative.

Ensure there is a full tank of petrol before you drive away and find out whether you need to bring the vehicle back with a full tank and what the charge is per litre if you don’t.

Upon returning the car, it is smart to ask for a written statement from the company noting that the car was returned undamaged. If damage did occur during the rental period, then make sure a written statement is made with the company about costs and procedures for repairs before leaving the premises.

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