How to hire the best car when travelling

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Take the hassle out of international car hire with these time and money-saving hints and tips.

What type of car?

Book the right size car for your needs. Choose a car that suits your driving ability, level of confidence, budget and the road conditions.

In the US, cars are generally larger and automatic transmissions are more common. In Europe, it’s the opposite. If you book a small automatic in Europe don’t be surprised to get a free upgrade to a larger vehicle. The popularity of auto rentals means they often run out of the smaller sizes first.

Compare and save

To find the best deal, browse individual car hire provider websites as well as broker websites. Your airline or hotel may also have some deals worth considering.

Book and pay in advance

Don’t leave it to chance. Like flights and trains, the earlier you book the better deal you’re likely to get. Some providers also give you a discount for paying up front.

Do I need an International driving permit?

International driving permits (IDPs) are a special permit for tourists driving overseas. In many countries it’s a requirement for renting a car and if you claim a loss on your travel insurance policy your claim may be rejected if you don’t have one. IDPs can only be purchased from RACV or other Australian auto clubs.


Be sure to ask if breakdown assistance is provided as part of your hire car agreement. If you have RACV Roadside Assistance then you receive reciprocal benefits from motoring organisations around the world. This may include emergency breakdown assistance and towing.

Pick-up locations

Tempting as it is to collect your hire car from the airport, you will pay a premium for the privilege. You will also pay extra to pick up from one location and return to another.

Damage check

When it comes to checking for pre- existing damage there is no such thing as too thorough. Check the exterior, the interior and also the underside for any hidden cracks and scratches.


If you consider getting lost to be an adventure then skip this section. You can download offline maps to your phone, which connects to your phone’s inbuilt GPS, costing you nothing. Or you can bring a GPS from Australia – make sure you pre-purchase and download the country’s maps. Or rent a GPS from your car hire provider.


Car hire providers will always try and upsell you insurance. If your personal travel insurance includes car hire excess, make sure the value is equal to or greater than the provider’s excess.

More info

To save on car hire in Australia and New Zealand, visit

Written by RACV
April 04, 2016