Because of its size, Australia is best explored by driving and as a tourist, the only way to take advantage of the freedom to visit everything you want in your own pace, is to hire a car. Sydney is one of the main hubs of getting into Australia, especially when flying from the States, so it makes sense to hire a car here, rather than in a small town. Being such a large metropolis, the prices of hiring a car in Sydney are also competitive, so you will get a better deal here than somewhere else on the East Coast of Australia.
Where to hire a car in Sydney from
As a rule of the thumb, the further away you book, the cheapest your car will be. For example, for a 2 weeks period, a medium car such as a Kia Forte or a Hyundai i20 will cost around $400, booked in advance. I usually use comparison websites such as Kayak to find the best deals on rental cars. They usually have powerful search engines that will show you the cheapest car hires in town and at the airport, so you can choose the best one for you and your family. By booking your car hire through a comparison website you also get advantages such as free cancellation, unlimited mileage, third party coverage and collision damage waiver.
Cheap car hire in Sydney
The easiest way to hire a car is at Sydney airport. Here you will find all major companies, such as Hertz, Europcar, Alamo or Avis. You can also rent a car in town, but then you will have to travel with your bags and spend money on an airport transfer as well, which will not only be an extra hassle, but you will also loose time.
What type of car to rent
There are plenty of types of car you could rent in Sydney, from small city vehicles to campervans, SUVs, convertibles and even limousines. My advice would be to have a very good defined plan before you rent the car. As Australia is such a big country and has so many different types of roads, it’s important to take in consideration what each type of car can do. For example, you won’t be able to take a city car on a road trip through the outback, where only a 4WD jeep would manage.
Also, do consider hiring a campervan, even if the price will be higher than a medium car. A campervan will save you lots of nights of hotel accommodation.
What do you need to rent a car in Sydney
To rent a car in Sydney you have to be between 25 and 80 years old and have a valid driving license. For people who are aged between 21 and 24 years old there is a surcharge which varies from one rental company to another, starting with $9.90 a day and reaching $30 a day. Also, the selection car cars a young adult can rent is limited as well.
Tourists can rent cars in Australia if they have a driving license that is written with Roman Alphabet characters. If the driving license is in Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, etc, then you will need to apply for an International Driver’s Permit in your country of origin.
Make sure that you bring with you the same card you have used to make the booking online and also, that it is a credit card. When renting a car, pretty much everywhere in the world, you need a credit card for the deposit and possible excesses. Debit card are not accepted.
Toll roads in Sydney
In Australia, toll roads are found only in the eastern states, in the urban limits of Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. This means that you will need to take in consideration this when you plan your road trip through the states of New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland.
All the roll roads in Australia are operated under a cashless system. The rental cars are equipped with e-TAGs, with are electronic tags that are linked to an account from which the fees are charged directly. This is why some rental companies will add an extra fee a day on top of your rental costs, whilst others will debit your card directly on your return. You can see here the fees for all the toll roads in Australia.
Car hire rules in Australia
First of all, remember that your travel insurance is not enough to rent a car in Australia. Usually the car rental companies will offer you an extra insurance that will reduce your liability as a hirer. I strongly recommend you to take it, for peace of mind. They usually cover everything that could happen to the car, including scratches or “love bites” that can occur whilst your car is parked and are not your fault. Sometimes, they even cover theft. Each company has its own policies, so do check the fine print when you book.
Rental companies usually will put restrictions on where you can and can’t drive the hire vehicle. Usually driving on beaches, through streams of rivers, taking the vehicle above the snow line in New South Wales and Victoria, going to Tasmania or the Northern Territory with a rental car are forbidden. You will need to drive your car all the time on proper roads. You can only take 4WD vehicles on unsealed roads.
Driving rules in Australia
In Australia, same as in the United Kingdom, people drive on the left-hand side of the road and the cars have their steering wheel on the right. If you are not used driving like this, go for an automatic car, as changing gears will be confusing at the beginning. Because a lot of cars in Australia are have an automatic gear box, there is no price difference between hiring an automatic or a manual car.
The use of seatbelts in mandatory in Australia for all the passengers of a car. Children under five years old have to be secured in a child seat. You can require an approved child restraint when you book your rental car.
In some areas of Australia night driving is not permitted. This is because the roads are not in great condition and because of the local wildlife, which becomes active by night.
Speeding is a serious offence in Australia and the fines are very high. Exceeding the speed limit by 10km/h will usually result in a $200 fine. For exceeding the speed limit with 30km/h can result in a criminal conviction and a court appearance. The mobile speed cameras are not marked.
If you get a speeding fine with your hired car, the rental company will add administrative fees and pass your name to a debit collection agency. So, it’s better not to speed at all.
Tips for driving in Australia
Plan your road trip very careful and always make sure that you know where you will fill up the car with gas. Petrol stations can be hundreds of miles away, especially in the outback.
Have plenty of water and a first aid kit in the car.
If your vehicle breaks down, do not leave it to search for help. When traveling in the outback make sure you always have a satellite phone with you, as the phone signal is not the best. Most rental companies cover 24 hours road assistance for breakdowns.
Invest or rent a GPS, especially if you plan to drive through the outback. It’s important to always know where you are. Getting lost in remote areas can be very dangerous.
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