Getting a vehicle rental in Australia can be very convenient if you want to explore a town or go on a road trip. Purchasing a vehicle is often constraining, but getting around in Australia without a vehicle is nearly impossible (unless you hitchhike)! So you want to hire a vehicle, but you’re not sure what kind suits best your situation?
Table of Contents
Requirements to hire a vehicle in Australia
First of all, these are the requirements any rental company in Australia asks for:
- A valid driver’s licence (non-probationary). Either Australian or international licence
- Being over 21 years old (very few companies would allow younger drivers)
- A credit card (for the bond and payent)
Rent a motorhome
Renting a motorhome is the most popular way for tourists who want to discover Australia independently. The country is designed for this kind of traveling. You find plenty of places to spend the night (for free or a small fee) and the amenities are well maintained. Driving in Australia is particularly easy, the roads are few, relatively wide and the traffic is fluid.
Rental companies usually offer a wide ranges of motorhomes and services. Prices vary depending on the type of vehicle, the season, and availability. To compare prices or to make an online booking, the easiest way is to use a price comparison website such as Motorhome Republic (market leader).
More information: Motorhome rental Australia
Renting a van allows you to travel with almost as much freedom as with a motorhome. The main difference is the level of comfort and equipment. Vans don’t come with a shower or toilet. But for a short trip or budget travellers, renting a van is a good alternative. The rental companies are basically the same as for motorhomes. To compare models and prices, use Motorhome Republic.
More information: Campervan Rental Australia
Renting a car in Australia is popular in the following scenarios:
- Visiting a city and its surroundings, or if you would rather avoid public transport
- Going on a short road trip and you like to overnight in hotels
- If you are happy to sleep in a tent, or if you are on a tight budget
Overall, renting a car in Australia works as the same as in most other countries. The minimum age is often 21 and you have to leave a deposit if you don’t want to get comprehensive insurance. Rental prices start at around $30/day, but vary primarily with the type of vehicle. To compare prices, use the comparison tool below.
More information: Car Rental Australia
Renting a 4WD in Australia can be useful if you want to travel to inaccessible areas. For example, if you want to visit the Kimberley, a 4WD will be necessary. However, the main places to see in Australia are accessible via sealed roads. Many visitors assume that a 4WD is essential for a road trip, but it really depends on where you are going. Of the popular sites, here are those that will only be accessible with a 4WD (or highly recommended):
- Purnululu National Park
- Karrijini National Park (parts of the park only)
- Kakadu National Park (parts of the park only)
- Fraser Island
- Top End (Daintree to Cape York)
- Mereenie Loop
- Simpson Desert
To hire a 4WD, you’ll usually go to the same rental companies offering vans or campervans. Some rental companies have a few 4WD models but their fleet is limited. These vehicles may not be available in all major Australian cities. For example, you will have great difficulty finding one in Sydney, Melbourne or Brisbane. Very often their 4WD vehicles will be available from Perth, Broome, Darwin and Cairns.
To explore certain regions/parks, you will need to use a rental company that specialises in that destination. For example, to visit the Kimberley or Fraser Island. There are also some destinations where you will not be allowed to go if you use a ‘traditional’ rental company. In addition, specialist rental companies will have more suitable vehicles to offer.
What to check a rental vehicle for
The first thing you want to do is read your rental contract closely and don’t forget the fine print. Look out for hidden fees for mileage and other extras. Before you sign though, go have a look at the vehicle. Confirm that the vehicle that’s waiting for you is the model you actually booked. It sometimes happens that you get a different models if yours is not available. In any case, you should only be upgraded. Then, take the time to carefully inspect the vehicle. Check for dents and blemishes (interior, cockpit, engine etc.) as you don’t want to be held responsible for damages caused by other people. Mark them in your contract and take photos, so you’re on the safe side. Quickly start the vehicle to make sure you can’t hear any weird noises. Find out how to adjust the seats and mirrors, where to turn on the windshield wipers and lights, and what side the fuel latch side is on.
More information: Inspecting your Rental Vehicle – What to check?
Tips on the road
The roads in Australia are very well maintained! Here are a few tips that will come in handy when you are on the road:
- In Australia you drive on the left side of the road!
- The highways have no tolls and are free. The only exception is around major cities like Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. You will have to pay on the internet, there are no toll booths or kiosks on the road sections.
- Speed limits are clearly marked. Respect them to avoid a hefty fine! On motorways, the speed limit is 110km/h, 130km/h on some sections of the Stuart Highway (NT). In town, the speed limit is 50km/h. Around schools, the speed limit is 40km/h or less.
- The blood alcohol level must not exceed 0.5 grams of alcohol per litre of blood.
- Avoid driving at night in rural areas, as the risk of collisions with wild animals is high
- Always wear your seat belt.
How to choose the right vehicle for you
The right vehicle for you will depend on two main factors; how many of you are travelling together and what type of trip are you heading on?
If you are travelling in a couple (or a pair of friends) you are very flexible in the options available to you and can make this decision based more on affordability and the type of trip you are planning. For a sightseeing trip, renting a car at the airport to drive around a city and its surroundings is a great way to explore the place independently. It also means you are not limited by a heavy/large vehicle but will still have plenty of space for your belongings. You should opt for a 4WD if you will be going across country or through less populated areas.You can also easily enjoy a ‘road-trip’ between your destinations while opting for non-mobile accommodation. You can use hostels for affordable accommodation or choose a hotel depending on your budget.
Alternatively, you can opt for a 2 person camper. You can opt for a 4 person camper for more space or capabilities though this will cost you more but will help if you do not feel comfortable sharing your sleeping space! For traveling long distances, a van or motorhome remains the best way to experience all unique landscapes and wildlife Australia has to offer meaning you don’t have to stick to any set route. Due to the great weather in Australia, you will do a lot of your ‘living’ outdoors anyway, meaning you can opt for a smaller vehicle for just the two of you and not feel too cramped.
Family or group of 4+
If you are travelling in a group of 4 or more you have a variety of options open to you. If you want to go on a sightseeing trip, renting a car at the airport to drive around the city and its surroundings is a great way to explore the place independently but you will have to be mindful of budgeting for accommodation along the way. Booking in avance will help keep costs down of the larger vehicles you will require.
Renting a van or motorhome is the best way to experience unique landscapes and wildlife on long distance trips. This way, you are free to go wherever you want and, if plans change, as they often do when travelling with kids for example, you can easily adapt and find a nearby campsite. There are many options for vans and motorhomes which will sleep 4 (or even 6 or 8!) people comfortably. Due to the great weather in Australia, you will also do a lot of your ‘living’ outdoors anyway, meaning you can sit and enjoy the outdoors or eat your meals outside of your van for example. Alternatively, you can hire two vans between the group to give you more space and travel in convoy which is always fun!