Whether you’re on a holiday, a business trip or a road trip, renting a car gives you the flexibility to head out on the open road no matter where you are. We know how important a smooth renting process is for customers, so we wanted to find out all about the experiences of Australian car renters.

We surveyed 500 car hire customers to ask all about their past encounters with car hire companies. From how they choose their vehicles, to their understanding of rental car insurance, to confusion about contracts – we were enlightened by some of the experiences and emotions renters said they often feel at the rental desk. See more on our results below.

How people choose

Cost was undoubtedly the most important factor for the majority of the car renters we surveyed. Over half (53%) said competitive pricing is the most important thing when renting a car. In an increasingly competitive market and with high fuel costs, drivers want to know they can get the best value for money at the rental desk. A further 70% of those surveyed said they usually book the cheapest hire car available of the size they need – suggesting budget and practicality are more important than style and performance for most car rental customers.

Trust was also a big factor for many drivers. 76% of renters said they usually try to use a brand that they recognise and trust when hiring a car. When using a rental vehicle, we’re often in an unfamiliar place, so using an established firm can help give drivers a bit of security should they have any problems with their vehicle. However, we would always encourage drivers to compare companies and scrutinise contracts – even when it’s a brand they know.

Confusing contracts

Despite the reliance on trusted brands, there still seems to be a lot of confusion over car rental contracts around the country. 70% think you need to be an expert in contracts to understand what each clause means. While the jargon in contracts can be confusing, hire companies have an obligation to explain the implications of your contract and we would strongly encourage you to read contracts in detail and ask about anything you don’t understand.

Car hire insurance was specifically one of the biggest sore points raised by our car renters. 61% said they have been confused by the amount of jargon car hire companies use to explain their insurance options. Perhaps as a result, 23% said they have been scared into buying expensive extra insurance at the rental desk. While many car hire companies offer excess insurance, you are not obligated to take their package. Our car hire excess insurance is up to 65% cheaper than at the rental desk and covers damage to the roof, windscreen, undercarriage, tyres and wheels as well as the standard bodywork – so you won’t be left out of pocket.

Misleading costs

What became abundantly clear from our survey was that many customers felt misled about the true cost of their hire car. Almost half of those we spoke to (48%) said they felt rental companies had misled them about the total cost of their service. This was especially true when it came to specific policies such as fuel, insurance and excess. In many cases, it seems customers don’t feel informed about potential costs until they reach the hire desk when it’s often too late to choose a different company. For example, 60% said they weren’t told about the hire company's policy on fuel before the hire desk. When you’re on a tight budget, the difference between a full tank of petrol and an empty tank can really tip the scales.

A large proportion of those we surveyed also suggested some hire companies were using the threat of extra costs to their own benefit. 72% of those we surveyed said that they think car rental companies use the threat of holding the excess on a credit card to persuade them into buying their excess insurance. Sadly, the negative experiences at the rental desk didn’t stop there.

Experiences at the rental desk

Faced with unclear contracts, confusing costs and a general lack of understanding about the intricacies of renting a car – it’s understandable there were some mixed emotions about the process. When we asked renters about the range of emotions they have experienced at the rental desk, we received some interesting insight into the overall experience of renting a car:

  • done32% felt stressed at the rental desk

  • done28% felt frustrated at the rental desk

  • done28% felt confused at the rental desk

It wasn’t all negative though:

  • done23% felt calm at the rental desk

  • done23% felt in control at the rental desk

  • done17% felt happy at the rental desk

Despite the mix, a worrying 32% say the experience of hiring a car has put them off hiring again. So, what can renters do to help ensure that they are personally prepared for all eventualities?

Personal Preparation

While some car hire companies certainly need to improve the service they offer, there is a lot that drivers can also do to ensure they aren’t surprised by extra charges. Only 54% fully check the car for any damage and ensure it's all marked on the checkout. That means half of Australian renters aren’t fully aware of all existing damage to the car and could be caught out by unexpected costs when they return their hire car.

Checking for damage and noting it on the checkout is one thing, but you should take extra precautions where possible. 25% of those we surveyed have taken a picture of the hire car to prove there was already existing damage on it before they used it. We would encourage the other 75% of drivers to follow suit and keep their own record of damage to their car in case they need evidence in the future.

Every car hire company is different, and while experiences will vary depending on where you go, car renters should do their research before renting, ask questions during the renting process and keep a record of damage and costs as they go. By taking this three-pronged approach to renting a vehicle, Aussie drivers can avoid any stress at the rental desk and enjoy their trip.

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