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?
Requirement 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 (apart from left-hand drive which takes a few minutes to get comfortable), 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 travelers, 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, you rather avoid public transport
- Going o a short road trip, you like to overnight in hotels
- Happy to sleep in a tent, 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.
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. For traveling long distances, renting a van or motorhome is the way to go if you want to experience unique landscapes and wildlife. This way you are free to go wherever you want in your small house on wheels.