This is the continuation of my first blog so please look for Numbers 1 to 5 before reading this.
6. Before you leave the depot. Sit in the driver’s seat and adjust seat and mirrors and take the time to familiarize yourself with all the controls, including sound system, air-conditioning and GPS. Do NOT attempt to do this whilst driving. YES I have done it in the past but not any more.
And remember that the indicator and windscreen wiper levers may be on opposite sides to what you expect. Turning corners after indicating with windscreen wipers is not very effective or safe!!!
7. Leaving the depot/airport. This is one of the most dangerous parts of your driving holiday. Firstly ensure that you are driving out of the correct Exit onto the road. At Sydney domestic airport, the EXIT signs from the rental cars depot are confusing, and I regularly meet rental cars coming out AT ME in my lane when I am returning a car! And the same when I am driving out. So be alert!
Secondly, if you have never driven on the opposite side of the road, the next few minutes will be challenging and often in busy fast, traffic. There can be lots of road signs, quick lane changes required (get the indicators right), and no doubt your travelling companion next to you will be shouting at you. And all the time you are trying to follow the GPS instructions.
Finally there will be other drivers like yourself leaving the airport who are madly trying to work out the controls as they drive, and who decide to change lanes without warning. Be alert to all these dangers.
At this point I hope that I haven’t put you off a driving holiday. It’s fun – really.
8. General driving advice. If you are driving a car on the opposite side of the road to which you are used, then the one thing that no one tells you is that you now have to readjust your thinking about the width of the car. Now the bulk of the car is on the other side of you, and this needs to be seriously considered as you drive in lanes, go around corners, and pass other cars – moving or parked. If you don’t consider this then you run the risk of hitting another vehicle or at least the kerb!
Again if driving a “foreign” car, be aware that the most dangerous time for the first few days is as you drive out onto the road in the morning. I have been known to go straight out on the wrong side if there are no cars around. It takes just a few days to get used to it. And on roundabouts, of course, the traffic goes round the other way.
Road tolls often apply on highways, so always have some cash and credit card ready. You may not want to be on the toll road but it will happen anyway!
Finally, when parking the car never leave anything of value in sight inside the car, and try to park in well well-lit areas.
9. An accident. If by any chance you have a collision with another vehicle, ensure that you obtain the driver’s name, the registration number of the car, full address of the driver (not just email) and his insurance company. Take pictures of the damage to both vehicles and the collision site. Contact your rental company and await instructions. If the damage is minimal then they may advise you to continue the rental. If it is major damage then it may need towing and a replacement car.
Then the question of Excess raise its ugly head, and what happens now will depend on if you have cover, and what type. If you have no Excess cover, then expect to pay a maximum of about $4,000 which they will take immediately from your credit card. I say more about this in Chapter 7 in The Happy Holiday Travel Planner.
10. Returning the car. If you are returning to a different depot allow yourself plenty of time to find it. If at an airpors look for the sign “Rental Cars”. Ensure that you have filled the tank, and the vehicle is in good condition, with no damage, and clean inside – no mud, dog hair, food scraps.
As you approach the depot/airport look for the Rental Cars sign and get into the correct lane – there may not be a lot of warning. Again be very alert to other drivers changing lanes at the last minute. They are not hard to spot – driving slowly, peering out the windows and may have a rental sign on the back window. Look out!!! They are about to cut across into your lane without warning! Phew that was a near miss – so glad that you were alert. And when entering the depot look out for drivers coming out in the wrong lane.
If you arrive at a major airport drop point there will be parking indicated for each major car rental company. Hopefully, there will be a company representative who will check the fuel gauge, check the mileage and check the car for damage. I always insist on getting them to print the final paperwork which will show the state of my account, and a nil balance if prepaid. At this point do not be in a hurry, and if necessary go to the desk to clarify. Ensure that if all is OK then there should be no extra charges. Trying to sort something later over the phone when you get home and find a strange amount on your credit card is not easy!
Unfortunately, at some depots, you park the car with no one in attendance and do a “key drop” at an airport desk or sometimes into a box at an unattended counter. I really really don’t like this – if something happens to that car whilst parked before they collect it they could blame it on you. So what is the answer?
You could take pictures of the car with your phone in the car park with a visible sign. If there is a person at the desk when you return the key, ask for an immediate inspection there and then. You won’t get it because they are manning the desk, but politely voice your displeasure, take their name, and insist that the car is inspected and collected as soon as possible. You may not be popular but they will remember you and that should ensure no problems.
For the full story on car rental go to Chapter 7 in The Happy Holiday Travel Planner.
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