Car hire Adelaide tips and pitfalls

Car hire Adelaide tips and pitfalls

Car hire Adelaide tips and pitfalls

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Car hire Adelaide tips and pitfalls

Here are some general car hire tips and pitfalls to consider before you rent a hire car in Adelaide or anywhere for that matter. It may help you to save hundreds of dollars and avoid some common scams in the industry. Believe me, I am not deliberately trying to be overly negative about this industry but rather to highlight areas that some people forget about when they are too trusting of these car hire companies sometimes.

Check your insurance

Look at your own car insurance policy, automobile club membership policy, credit card policy, and/or local travel insurance policy. It may cover rental car insurance as well and that could save you hundreds of dollars. Car rental companies often offer absurdly expensive insurance. The excess can be very high and some of the commonly occurring types of damage that you would expect to be covered are not. Full coverage with a limited or zero excess is best but costly so look at alternatives that you may already have.

Take photos

The first and most important step before you take the hire car is to photograph it and also video record it. Ensure that the time and date stamp is set to record on each photograph and the video. Ensure that the staff at the hire car company know that you are about to take photos. If you can take photos with the company’s logo on a sign and the building in the background then do so. That way they cannot say that you took the photos elsewhere. This works best when recording the car on video.

There are some crazy scammers in the industry and it is sad that people have to deal with the absurd headaches that they cause. Some of them will tell you that you have scratched and dented the car as you drove it from the back but before you even take it out of the lot. Some will not even wait for that and are dumb enough to announce the damage the second after you have signed the agreement but have not even touched the car yet. It is completely ridiculous but this is what people have to put up with. Always photograph and video record the car to protect yourself from their silly, stupid, dumb, fraudulent scams.

Always photograph these and anything else you wish to:

  • car exterior (including wheels and underneath the car if possible either with the camera flash on or out in the sunlight),
  • interior (seats, back rests, roof lining, fuel gauge, odometer, the lot),
  • the inside of the boot (including spare tyre and the wheel brace and jack)
  • the engine bay

Car rental companies do not like the stigma attached to them about being unscrupulous but you have to protect yourself first and foremost. They ask for a credit card number so that they can charge you later if any damage is found. So, when returning the car always take the full set of photos again. That way you can compare those with the ones you took before you hired the car.

I remember once when a friend hired a ute to move house, which I helped with. He hired it from a petrol station. When we returned it a few hours later they tried to tell us that we had done hundreds of kilometres more than we actually did during the short suburban trips we made. We could have travelled interstate if we really did the mileage that they said that we did. They did not like our subsequent laughter and criticism of them not keeping up with own their paperwork.

The lesson learned is to always photograph the mileage before you take the hire car and ensure that it matches what they have written on the agreement. Do the same when you return it and check the paperwork. Try to take the photo up close and then hold the agreement next to the odometer reading and take a photo from slightly further away if it is still readable.

General tips

To prevent some of the aforementioned scams, ensure that you drive the car to the front of the lot if it is in the back. It matters not really if you drive it or if they do. They will still try to pull a swift one on you regardless and have you believe that you damaged the car even if they drove it. At least if you drive it you know that you did not hit anything. I would photograph the car’s exterior before they drive it and again afterwards when you do the full documentation of the car’s condition. Take a strap on camera as well as record everything but ensure that the staff know that they are being recorded some or all of the time for insurance purposes. If they tell you to stop filming then either concentrate on filming the car and where it is parked or go elsewhere.

Also, ensure that they sign the inspection both before and after you have returned the car and taken video and photographic evidence each time. If you ask them if they will do this before you hire the car and they say that they will not agree to that then go elsewhere. If they refuse to inspect the car upon returning it then tell them that you will take photos and video of the car and get your credit card company to block later charges if there are any. You could also report your card as lost and get the bank to stop any transactions for the immediate future. The replacement cost of a card weeks later is far cheaper than the rip off from a car hire company.

Always opt to refuel yourself before returning the car with the fuel receipt. This will save you being ripped off by the car rental company later. Again, photograph and video record the fuel gauge with the date and time stamp turned on. Have the agreement next to it if possible in the photo.

Hire your car from a location in the suburbs rather than the airport where they know they can charge more. It might save you hundreds of dollars jumping on a tram and hiring from outside of the CBD.

Say you want to hire a car from one place and drop it off elsewhere along the way? This will cost you more. However, you can ask the car rental company at the drop off point if there are any cars that need to be taken to where your next destination is. This is cheaper than regular hire costs.

Try to use a debit card with a Visa or Mastercard logo on it and limited funds in the account when you hire the car. You can use other cards during your travel but keep the limited funds one as insurance against rip offs. Many car rental companies will only accept a credit card but try to get them to take a debit card. If they will not budge then go elsewhere. Try the slightly smaller car rental companies anyway because they can be cheaper and more flexible. If the car hire company later charges for some damage then get your bank to block transactions from them and charge the money back until the car hire company can prove it. This usually makes them go away and stop trying to defraud you if you have proof that you did not cause any damage.

One final tip before you hire a rental car is to do some research online. Look at web sites like the Whirlpool forums Automotive rental section for common scams and other potentially useful information. People will post comments about “invisible” hail damage (despite the car being used on sunny days) and other common scams in the car hire business. Read up and be informed before you hire a rental car. Customers should not have to go to all this trouble just to hire a car. Sadly it is an industry full of crooked people and you have to be well informed in order to deal with them. Best of luck with your next car rental!

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