South Africans are no strangers to road trips, with many opting to rent a car. Here, Cheapflights, a travel search site that compares flights, hotels and rental cars, shares tips that can help you convert a long and drawn-out car rental process into a 10-minute exercise. Here’s how to turn a drawn-out car rental process into a 10-minute exercise.
1. Gather your documents
In South Africa, you must be 18 years or older and hold a valid driver’s licence for at least one year in order to hire a car. Some companies also add a Young Drivers Surcharge if you are younger than 25 years old, which is automatically added to the charge of your booking.
To make the booking, you will need a valid driver’s licence and proof of identification, or an international driving permit and passport if you are not South African or you are renting a car abroad. Also, travellers should have a credit card issued in the driver’s name (some companies may accept a debit card, too).
When picking up the car, a car rental company will charge a holding deposit – a fee to reserve the car that is returned when the car is dropped off at the end of the rental period. In certain instances, the car rental company may request other documentation so be sure to read all the terms of the booking carefully before purchase.
2. Understand the insurance coverage
Before completing the booking, ensure you understand the different insurance options and pick the one most appropriate for your needs. Most car rentals will include a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) as part of the full cost of the booking.
This means that, although you will be subject to any excess payments in the event of a crash or accident, the company cannot charge you more than the excess specified. You can also opt for a Loss Damage Waiver, which includes both a CDW and Theft Protection policies, so the cost for the replacement of the vehicle will be covered if it gets stolen.
Check whether or not you are covered for damage or injury to other parties (Third-Party Liability insurance) and whether there is any other excess insurance you can buy if you are held liable for any accidents.
3. Choose a car and check the details
The choice of car will impact other factors, for example, if you’re planning a long road trip, opt for a car deal with unlimited kilometres or mileage.
A flexible cancellation policy will provide peace of mind if plans change often, while the size and type of vehicle will also affect the cost of the rental. You can also check the company’s Covid-19 health and safety practices, and what you need to be aware of when using the car.
4. Pick up and drop off at the same place
One-way car hire gives you the freedom to pick up a rental car in one location and drop it off at the end of your trip in another location. It’s ideal for those who want to cover longer distances during their trip without worrying about the drive back to return the car.
However, picking up and dropping off at the same location will always be less expensive than picking up and dropping off at different locations.
5. Watch for cross-border fees
If you’re planning on driving across national borders, you need to make sure that the car is eligible to cross as well as check how much it would cost. Cross-border fees depend on the countries involved, so check the terms and conditions of your rental car.
6. Book with only one driver
It’s more comfortable to split driving duty between multiple drivers on a long road trip, but additional drivers mean additional costs. Check to see if the car rental company offers a free second driver or if a second driver can be added for individual days where you know there will be lots of time spent behind the wheel.
7. Watch the clock
This depends on the hire, but it generally pays to drop off the car at the same time that it was picked up. It also helps you avoid getting charged for an entire additional day in the event the car is returned after the 24-hour cut-off time.
8. Fill up your fuel tank before you return the car
One of the easiest ways to save on a car rental is to fill up the tank before dropping it off. The price to fill the tank is generally less than the price the rental company will charge for the same amount of fuel.
9. The best time to book
Car rental prices differ widely and can fluctuate because of the season, a particular holiday, the car category, the rental company, and timing. Use travel search engines like Cheapflights.co.za/cars/ to compare online before committing.
If you’ll be renting during a high-travel season when prices are likely to be the highest, book as long in advance as possible. When travelling with a big group or with kids, where you may need a minibus, starting the search early will avoid unnecessary price hikes during peak seasons.
However, if renting during a quieter period or if you can be flexible with dates, it’s acceptable to book closer to the date the car is neede