What do you know about car hire South Africa and self-drive safaris? Probably not enough!

Getting up close and personal with a breeding herd of elephants is a once in a lifetime opportunity, right? Not quite so great when an angry elephant cow feels the need to chase off and trunk-lash out at what she views as an imminent threat to her calf.

Following the casually strolling pride of Lions on a hunt is living the dream, right? Not quite when a territorial lion jumps on the roof of your car and starts clawing at the paintwork. The only thing that could make either of these situations worse is if you don’t own the vehicle yourself.

Driving a rental car or even a work car through a safari destination such as the Kruger National Park may seem like the dream, and it can be, but only if you have the right self-drive safari car insurance in place.

Better Safe than Sorry

There are many practical tips for ensuring that animal encounters aren’t the reason for your next insurance claim, which we will focus on just now. However, what you really need to do before entering a game park or national reserve with free-roaming wildlife is to check your insurance policy – and all the small print that comes along with it.

If you are hiring a rental car from any one of the three airports closest to Kruger Park, it’s a good idea to check the terms and conditions in the policy in relation to animal encounters. Vehicle accidents in game parks and private reserves are extremely rare. That said, animals are unpredictable, which can result in unavoidable damage to your rental car.

There have been incidents where drivers and passengers in private vehicles and rental cars have violated the park/establishment rules. In these instances,it is not unexpected to hear that the insurer refused to pay out as a result of driver negligence. Quite simply, if you adhere to the park rules and the conditions of your policy states, then there would be no reason for the insurance company to refute your claim.

Let’s Talk Car Rental Insurance

When hiring a car for a self-drive safari or any other holiday in South Africa, a standard insurance cover is usually included in your booking. However, this basic cover has many exclusions which is where it gets tricky, and in the event of a claim, the renter is often found to be liable for a large portion of the repair costs.

Car rental companies “self-insure’ through a waiver system with many terms and conditions which, if you haven’t read the small print, could end up costing you considerably more than planned. There are several waivers available that offer different types of cover, and it’s worth taking the time when you make your booking to read through the terms and conditions to ensure that you choose the right waiver for car hire South Africa.

Most companies offering car hire in South Africa offer two types of insurance covers – Standard and Super, although they may have different names for them.

  • Standard waiver –is the cheaper of the two waivers, but it does mean that if you get into a tussle with an angry elephant, you are going to pay considerably more for the repair.
  • Super waiver – this is the more expensive of the two waivers and basically means that you will pay a smaller amount towards a repair.

Match Your Vehicle to Road Type – Read the Ts and Cs

Rental companies will provide a list of no-nos in the small print. They may say that you can take the vehicle anywhere (including a national park or safari park), but there may be a stipulation that the vehicle should not be driven on “unsuitable” roads. There will be definitions of this. For instance, if you hire a Hyundai i10 with mention of dirt roads being an “unsuitable road” type for that car, and then take it into the Kruger National Park and have an angry elephant encounter on a dirt road, you will find yourself in violation of your contract.

If you had the same accident on a tarred road however, the insurance policy would have you covered. That being said, opt for suitable off-road vehicles if the parks, reserves and game farms you visit have untarred roads that you plan to use.

What Waivers Don’t Cover

If you read the terms and conditions of your car hire insurance waiver, you will find that most waivers don’t cover damage from driving on dirt/gravel roads, water damage, undercarriage damage, pot hole damage, and not reporting an accident when it happens. Be careful!

How to Ensure You Lessen the Risk

Of course, in addition to the correct insurance cover, you want to make sure that you aren’t doing anything that puts you and your rented car at risk while on a self-drive safari. Animals won’t attack a vehicle for no reason. In most instances, the vehicle has surprised the animal or the driver is doing something wrong. Below are a few tips to ensure that the risk is at a minimum.

  • Familiarise yourself with the park rules.
  • Never leave your vehicle unless the area expressly notes that you can.
  • Don’t hang out of your vehicle or have passengers on the back of an open bakkie.
  • Never hoot at animals or rev your vehicle for effect.
  • If an elephant looks frustrated (flapping ears, shaking head), retreat – keep a safe distance. Elephants run faster than you think they can.
  • Stick to the speed limit. It might seem slow, but animals can suddenly run into the road or be surprised by your presence and dart in front of your car.
  • Give animals the right of way and don’t try to rush them when crossing a road.
  • Never go off the main designated roads, even if you see someone else doing so.

Car Hire South Africa

When making a car hire booking with our quick search feature, make sure that you take a close look at the terms and conditions, especially if you are planning a self-drive safari in the Kruger National Park or any other off-road trip. While animal encounter accidents are rare, they do happen, and it could be your rental car that loses a wing mirror or ends up with a dent from a rhino horn!