Hiring a motor vehicle puts you in the driver’s seat when exploring the tourist delights of NSW. But before driving off into the sunset, it makes sense to understand the terms of your hire contract. You should find out what is included under the contract – and perhaps more importantly
Hiring a motor vehicle puts you in the driver’s seat when exploring the tourist delights of NSW. But before driving off into the sunset, it makes sense to understand the terms of your hire contract. You should find out what is included under the contract – and perhaps more importantly – what’s not.
Ask yourself these questions
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?
Distances between towns and cities in Australia may be greater than those you are accustomed to. Before you drive off, allow plenty of time to reach your destination and remember to include plenty of rest breaks (it is recommended that drivers take a break every two hours). Under Australian law, all passengers are required to wear seat belts and small children should be fitted with approved child restraints. Please note that 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 may be unfamiliar with Australian conditions, which can increase the risk of having an accident. Therefore, insurance is essential. Then if you do have an accident, once you have paid the agreed amount of excess, the 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 are not comprehensively insured, you may be liable for expenses incurred in rectifying damage caused by the accident 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 may be simpler to accept repair of the vehicle by the car rental company. You should still obtain your own quotes on the damage to ensure that the cost of repairs is reasonable. 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 arrangements between the parties for settling the matter.
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 car rental company, contact the owner or customer relations manager of the hire company. If you cannot settle the problem by mutual agreement, contact the Office of Fair Trading on 13 32 20, or lodge an enquiry or complaint on our website.
If you are a visitor to NSW, you can lodge an enquiry or complaint as above or contact the Traveller Consumer Helpline. The Helpline can be reached by phoning 1300 552 001 or via email at [email protected]
Last Updated: 19 January 2010
This information must not be relied on as legal advice. For more information about this topic, refer to the appropriate legislation.
© State of New South Wales through NSW Fair Trading
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