Avoid These Common Mistakes When Hiring a Car in South Africa

Car Hire offers boundless convenience for both business and leisure travellers, especially when you know how to find the best deal.

Hiring a car in South Africa gives you access to road trips across the country, city sightseeing, self-drive safaris, and so much more. There are so many ways to benefit from car rentals in South Africa when you know how to do it right.

Learn how to maximise car rental in South Africa by avoiding these common pitfalls.

Renting a Car at the Airport

Unless you’ve got money to burn, avoid taking advantage of airport rentals.

If you haven’t booked your car hire online and in advance, it’s cheaper to take an Uber to the nearest car rental outlet or visit one of the car hire kiosks outside the airport building and start your journey there. Car hire companies charge extra fees for airport rentals.

Late Arrivals

Always give yourself plenty of time when you arrive at the car hire outlet – you should have at least half an hour to spend onsite finalising the finer details before you drive off.

For starters, inspect the vehicle yourself. It’s easy for car hire companies to overlook small issues like a tiny chip on the windscreen, torn upholstery or carpet stains. If you return the car with these issues, you might not be as lucky as the driver before you.

Point out any discrepancies you notice before you drive the car away. They will make a note of anything they didn’t pick up on before and you won’t end up paying for damages you didn’t cause.

Make sure the car has all the necessary safety gear onboard. It should have a spare tyre, a jack, a warning triangle, and all the tools you need to change a wheel should you have to.

Double-check the paperwork to make sure the car hire company has recorded everything to do with the status of the car correctly.

Timely Returns

Likewise, time your trip so that you return the car in good time.

If you don’t, you’ll need to pay an extra day’s rental due to inconveniencing other clients. Rather hire the car for an extra day if you’re worried about time constraints.

Returning the car early also gives you time to walk around the vehicle with a rental company representative to prove you haven’t damaged the car in any way.

Not Asking for More

When you have time to spare, you can also investigate the option to get a little more bang for your buck.

There’s always high demand for some types of vehicles at the last minute. So, if you’ve booked one of these, there’s a chance you could upgrade to a less popular, more luxurious vehicle at a last-minute discounted rate.

It won’t harm to ask, and you could end up driving away in a much nicer car than you anticipated. Remember, a larger, more powerful vehicle will cost more to run fuel-wise.

Ignoring the Fine Print

Read your car hire contract fully and pay attention to small details. You should take note of two things in particular:

  1. Border Crossings
    This is very important if you’re heading to somewhere near the edges of South Africa. For instance, that trip up Sani Pass, shortcut through Swaziland, or game viewing afternoon in Mozambique could land you in hot water and incur penalty charges.

Many car hire companies don’t allow drivers to take their vehicles across international boundaries.

  1. Off-Road Excursions
    Make sure you understand whether you can take the vehicle off-road and that you know the rental company’s definition of the term, ‘off-road’.

They aren’t necessarily referring to attempting the Dakar rally. ‘Off-road’ could refer to any gravel road, including those in game reserves, or leading to your fishing cabin alongside the Vaal River.

Make sure you know where you can and can’t travel with your rental car, and don’t assume that 4×4 hire includes going off the beaten track, either.

One final thing to check involves deposits. Make sure you know if, how, and when the car hire company will pay back the money they’ve asked for in advance.

Don’t Pay More Than You Need to When Hiring a Car in South Africa

There are several ways you can fall into the trap of paying for things you don’t need when you indulge in car hire in South Africa.

Firstly, everyone assumes they need to pay for extra insurance, but this isn’t always the case. Check your own car insurance policy first. Many of them cover rental vehicles, too, so you won’t need any extra protection.

Also, you need a credit card for car rentals in South Africa, and your credit card company may also cover car hire insurance.

It only takes a quick phone call and a few minutes to check these things, but it will save you a lot of money on car hire and you’ll know for next time.

Due to intense competition in the car hire industry, most rental companies offer attractive rates on car hire nowadays. This means they need to make their money on selling you extras like insurance, and extra driver privileges.

Unless there’s a time when you know that your spouse will have to drive the car, don’t pay extra to add them. You’ll also pay a premium rate if you need to add an extra driver under the age of 25.

Rather stick to one driver unless it’s absolutely necessary.

Not Filling Up with Fuel Yourself

If you can, avoid paying the extra fee for petrol the vehicle consumes during your trip. Car hire agencies charge an escalated fee for filling the tank after you bring the car back, especially if you return it on the wrong side of a petrol price hike.

Unless finding a fuel station proves impossible on the day you return your car, rather fill the tank before you hand the vehicle back.

Take note of a nearby petrol station when you drive the car away initially and plan to head there on the way back. You’ll save a lot of money this way.

Not Shopping Around

This is the cardinal sin of car hire in South Africa. Always look for the best prices before you commit to a car rental company.

Use our website to compare prices, enjoy online booking discounts, and manage your reservation from your laptop or phone.

There’s no better way to maximise your experience when hiring a car in South Africa.