If you’re renting a car, motorhome or campervan, you’ll probably only be given a few minutes to check out the vehicle and make sure everything is in order. Rental agents sometimes can’t find the time to go over the equipment with their customers. Some customers are also in a hurry to get going and so just put their trust in the rental company. However it is always a good idea to inspect your rental vehicle before you head off – you never want to find yourself broken down in the middle of the Outback, or billed for something that wasn’t your fault! In this article, we give you tips on what to check a rental vehicle for and how to deal with unpleasant surprises.
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Why should I check my rental car or campervan?
The number one reason you should always inspect your rental car, motorhome or campervan before you drive off is that if you discover something is wrong with the vehicle during your trip, you’ll have difficulty proving that you aren’t to blame. Keep in mind that you must pay the rental agency a deposit, which they can keep to cover the damage.
It’s always easier to solve a problem when you’re still in the garage rather than contacting them later. In Australia and New Zealand in particular, distances between different rental locations are usually long. If you discover there is a problem with the fridge in your van, for example, the rental company will generally ask you to go to their closest rental location to have the problem solved. This could potentially result in you having to take a big detour, and delaying your trip by several days.
It’s never fun to have to pause your road trip because your vehicle doesn’t work properly. So make sure you take your time to carry out an inspection before hitting the road!
What should I check on the vehicle?
As with any car rental company, you inspect the vehicle with the rental agent, who takes notes of any damage to the bodywork, windshield, etc. In general, they act in good faith, but you should also keep your eyes peeled.
Remember to check the roof and the windshield, which are usually not covered by the rental company’s insurance.
Also look at the condition of the tyres. Especially for motorhomes and campervans – they must always be in good condition as they are heavier than a car.
You won’t always get the opportunity to test-drive a vehicle before departure, but there are a few important things you should check anyway, including the headlights and indicators. It’s possible that the customers before you didn’t drive at night and the rental agent didn’t check the lights, so they wouldn’t be aware of any issues.
Interior inspection checklist
Inside the vehicle there are a more few elements to check. Again, rental agents tend to go over them quickly.
Check your dashboard lights and rear view camera (very important for manoeuvring a large camper in tight spaces). Turn on the ignition and spend a few minutes making such everything is working.
- Condition (and smell) of bed linen, pillows, and towels
- Toilet, if there is one
- If there are benches (bottom or top), make sure they’re not too dusty. Also look out for marks and holes
Obviously, don’t mind a bit of dust, remember that you are doing a road trip in a motorhome not in a 4-star hotel! However, don’t hesitate to inform the rental agent if anything is broken or the linen smells bad.
Always check the equipments of the vehicle!
Benches and beds
In motorhomes, most benches convert into beds. Test them to see if everything works. If you find out the first night that your bed doesn’t fit properly, you won’t be very happy. If you have a bunk bed and are travelling with children, you should also check the safety net.
The main features to check in the kitchen are:
- The lights
- The gas ignition (gas is usually not a problem, but the ignition can be)
- The water pump
- The board usually covers the sink. Look for cracks or damages. These boards are quite expensive.
- The condition of the crockery and cutlery (plates, cups, and other kitchen utensils)
In motorhomes, there is a side door allowing you to access the inside of the vehicle without having to go through the cockpit. Remember to check that this door opens and especially that the bar to keep the door open is in good condition. People often break this bar by accident. Also test the small step that unfolds at the door. And don’t forget to close it before heading back!
Check the gas bottles. Normally you will be given one big or two small bottles of gas before your departure. If this is not the case, let the rental agent know immediately. Otherwise you will have to fill them up at your expense!
Shower and toilet
Look at the general state of the bathroom and check the joints around the toilet. If they are too battered and tight, you won’t be able to use the toilet. Also make sure that the water drain works well because the cabin is small and can quickly overflow.
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Check that the cupboard doors close properly. If they don’t, you will find your groceries all over the floor every time you go around a corner! The same goes for the fridge door.
You won’t be able to check these features when picking up the vehicle, because it will have to be plugged in. It’s best to test them on your first night though, when you’re not too far away from the rental agency if you need to go back.
- Fridge: There’s nothing worse than ending up with a refrigerator that doesn’t work. So make sure that during your first drive, the fridge starts to get cold.
- Lights: Turn on the lights inside the vehicle. Not everyone travels with a torch, and your phone’s battery will be like gold dust on your road trip!
- TV / DVD: Some motorhomes are equipped with a TV and a DVD player. So if these are important to you, test these devices as soon as possible.
- Microwave: A microwave is always handy for heating up and cooking food on a road trip. It only works when you are connected to main power.
- CD / USB / MP3 player: If you want to recharge your devices or listen to your favourite playlist, don’t forget to check this!
Depending on your vehicle and its features, have a close look at:
- Camping table and chairs
- Electric or gas heating
- Car seats for children
Read more: Motorhome rentals Australia
How to make a complaint about a rental vehicle?
If you haven’t yet left the rental agency and you spot a problem with your vehicle, you are obviously in the best position as you can show them on the spot what the issue is. But keep in mind that they don’t necessarily have to replace or repair it! Rental agents generally do their best to meet your expectations, but sometimes there are limitations. First of all, they often won’t have another vehicle available. Secondly, some things may take too long to repair. In some cases, they will suggest you wait for a few days (at their expense) until the repairs are done.
During your stay
If you notice a problem during your trip, you must inform the rental company immediately. Never take the initiative to fix things yourself or have your vehicle repaired somewhere without authorisation. Over the phone, a rental agent will be able to guide you to try to rectify the problem. If this is not possible, they will refer you to a mechanic or send you to a store. If the issue is with the vehicle’s equipment, they will usually ask you to drive to the nearest rental depot. So it’s up to you to decide if it’s really worth it.
When returning the vehicle
Obviously, you should avoid waiting until you are returning the vehicle to report a technical problem or defect. If you do this, it’s hard for the rental agent to know if the problem is your fault or not. Then again, it is quite common to notice wear and tear and dysfunctions that won’t be held against you. So don’t worry if you notice that a seal is leaking or a cupboard doesn’t close properly!