Answers to Common Questions About Car Rental

Here are answers to questions we frequently get asked about car hire in Australia. For other questions not answered here please see our Contact page.

Can I use my overseas driving licence to drive in Australia?

Laws and road rules vary by state. However, all allow visitors to drive for up to three months if they have a valid unrestricted overseas licence which they have had for at least a year.

If you are travelling in the Northern Territory (NT), overseas drivers are also required to have an International Driving Permit (IDP) as well as their overseas licence.

After three months of arrival, visitors are required to obtain a local driving licence. If your overseas driving licence is not in English, all states and territories (except NT) require you have an approved translation or an International Driving Permit. These documents must be carried with you at all times while driving, and must be original — photocopies are not accepted.

For more details, please review the specific requirements for the places where you will be driving:

I have a current Australian drivers licence — can I use it when driving in another state?

Yes — for up to three months, after which time you will no longer be assumed a visitor, and will need to get a local driver’s licence. Interstate visitors driving in Western Australia, however, may continue to use their current licence (one that has not expired, been cancelled, suspended or disqualified) until such time as it expires.Queensland requires that if you have been issued with a local licence, you use that licence — not an interstate or overseas licence — when driving in Queensland.

I have a Provisional Drivers Licence — am I able to rent a car?

Redspot and East Coast Car Rentals are the only suppliers we currently work with that may accept the provisional (P Plate) Australian drivers licence. You will need to have had the licence for at least a year, and a surcharge will be applied. Please check their Terms and Conditions for details when making a booking.

How old must I be to rent a car?

All our suppliers require you have an appropriate licence and you are aged between 25 and 80 years of age.

Drivers aged 21–24 are also able to rent a car, but a daily surcharge (which varies by company) will also be added — other conditions may also apply. Firefly Car Rental will also accept 20-year-olds with a current licence, although a surcharge will be applied.

Drivers must have had their driving licence for a year or more.

What are Australia’s drink driving laws?

For most drivers the legal limit is a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.05. A BAC of 0.05 means you have 0.05 grams (50 milligrams) of alcohol for every 100 millilitres of blood.

As a general rule of thumb, two “standard” drinks in the first hour of drinking will raise your BAC to 0.05; just one “standard” drink each hour thereafter will keep your BAC at 0.05. However, BAC varies from one person to the next depending on gender, size and weight, fitness level, liver state and age.

What makes a “standard” drink? It varies from country to country, but in Australia a “standard” drink is one that has about 10 grams (12.5ml) of alcohol.

Your BAC limit may be zero or less than 0.02, depending on your category of driver’s licence and the type of vehicle you are driving. Novice drivers (including anyone with a provisional or learner licence) have a zero limit. Professional drivers (such as those driving a taxi, bus or heavy vehicle) have a zero limit in all states except NSW (where they must be under 0.02).

What do I need to have with me when I pick up my rental car?

When you turn up to collect your vehicle, make sure you bring:

  • Your booking confirmation voucher
  • A valid driver’s licenses for each driver
  • A credit card or cash
  • ID (a driver’s licence with photo or passport)

Where am I permitted to drive?

Depending on the car rental firm, there may be some restrictions on where you can travel, and the type of roads you can drive on. Check the Terms and Conditions before confirming your booking; particularly if the trip you’ve planned includes travel on unsealed roads and you intend to take the vehicle on a car ferry.

The rental vehicle already had some damage before I picked it up — will I be charged for it?

You need to be sure to inspect the vehicle for any signs of damage before you drive away. Any dings, scratches and the like need to be noted in the rental agreement at the time you collect your vehicle. If they aren’t, then you risk being charged for pre-existing damage after you have returned the vehicle.

Before you drive off, take a few minutes to look inside and outside the vehicle. Let the rental company know of anything you see that has not already been noted in the rental agreement.

It’s a good idea also to take some photos with your smartphone so that you have documented and dated the vehicle’s condition prior to your trip.

There are toll roads where I will be driving — how do I pay the tolls?

There are toll roads in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane. You can plan your trip carefully to avoid them, otherwise, you will have to pay for their convenience.

All Australian tollways are cashless and your rental car will usually include an electronic tag (E Tag). But check first with your rental company as to how tolls will be paid.It’s important you don’t have unpaid tolls after returning your vehicle. If you do, you may end up also having to pay additional fees charged by the car hire company (as well as the toll operator).

Do I need to return the vehicle with a full tank of petrol?

Check with your hire company when you go to pick up your vehicle. In most cases, you can return your hire car without a full tank. However, you will be charged a higher rate for refueling. It’s much cheaper to fill up at a nearby petrol station before dropping off your vehicle.

What are the most important rules for driving in Australia?

  • Australia, like New Zealand, the UK and Japan, drives on the left. This can take some getting used to if you’ve driven on the right-hand side of the road all your life. Many rental car companies now place stickers and cards in their vehicles as reminders.
  • On multi-lane roads, highways and freeways, keep to the left lane unless overtaking.
  • Watch out for commuter lanes (which you may be able to use if you are travelling with two or more passengers), and for lanes on the left that are restricted to buses and taxis.
  • Speed limits are shown in kilometres per hour and are strictly enforced. 
  • While speed limit rules vary between states and territories, most major roads and freeways have a maximum speed of 110km/h. For city areas, the limit is generally 50km/h.
  • Speed cameras — fixed, hidden, aerial and hand-held — are widely used to deter speeding. Fines for exceeding the limits can be expensive; an unwelcome surprise at the end of an otherwise enjoyable holiday.
  • The requirement that driver and passengers (including children) wear seatbelts at all times is strictly enforced.
  • Rules are also strict regarding mobile (cell) phone usage while driving. Rules vary by state and territory but across the country it’s forbidden to make calls from a hand-held phone if you are driving (unless your car is parked). If you use your phone as a GPS or to play music it must be mounted for hands-free use, with most states requiring a commercially sold stand designed for the purpose. Chances are you don’t normally use your phone to call, text, email, browse websites, play games, or take photos or videos while you’re driving at home. And you don’t want to start doing so while driving a rental car on unfamiliar roads.
  • At roundabouts (traffic circles), be sure to give way to traffic coming from your right.
  • Give way to pedestrians (who always have the right of way).
  • If you need to do a U-turn, it is illegal to do so at a traffic light (in most states) unless it is signposted that you can.
  • Should you have an accident where a person or property is damaged you must stop immediately, report the accident to police, and wait for the police to arrive. Call 000 or 112 from a mobile phone for emergency services (police, ambulance and fire brigade). Even if, as a driver, you were not involved in the accident but witnessed one, you are legally obliged to stop and provide assistance to anyone who is injured.

Where Do I Find The Depot Location Details And Pick Up Instructions?

There are several places you can find the depot location details. Before You Book: You can find the address for the pickup location by clicking on the “depot info” button on the main search page after you have entered in your search criteria. If you already have a booking: Depot location and pick up instructions can be found at the bottom of your confirmation email. If you have followed the link to your confirmation voucher you can also find this information by clicking the red link that says, “Important: please read pick up instructions below”.

What Happens If My Booking Is Not Available, Will I Get Charged?

If the vehicle you requested is not available, you will not be charged as you do not have a confirmed booking. We will look for alternative vehicles for you and send you an email with any available options. If you select one of these options and it is confirmed, we will then collect payment.

Who Can I Contact If I Have A Problem With My Vehicle?

If you have a problem with your vehicle, please contact the rental company in the first instance as they will be able to assist you immediately. If you are unable to get hold of them, please contact us on the free phone number 0800 556 606

What Are The Charges If I Cancel?

The amount of the cancellation fee depends on the rental company, please see your terms and conditions regarding this. However, the deposit is nonrefundable. If any further fees apply they will be charged at cancellation.

The most efficient way to cancel your booking is to click on the modification link in your confirmation and cancel from there. We then contact the rental company on your behalf and will advise you the amount of the cancellation fee, if applicable.

When Will My Credit Card Be Charged?

Your credit card will only be charged once you have a confirmed booking. At that time the deposit will be collected along with any excess or cancellation covers.

Each rental company has different policies. Some companies require full payment upfront whereas others do not require final payment until you pick up the vehicle. Please see the payment details for when the final balance is due. This final balance is automatically taken from the credit card you have nominated, on your due date. No further action is required on your part. If you chose to pay in your currency instead of the local currency of the country your rental takes place, full payment will be collected upon confirmation. By doing this you lock in the current exchange rate and avoid future exchange fluctuations.

What Is An Excess?

An “excess and bond” are also known as the “deductible and security deposit”. An excess/deductible is the amount you are liable for in case of any damages to the vehicle, the liability amount could increase over and above this figure if damages caused are excluded by the supplier’s policy.

A bond/security deposit is the amount the supplier will hold/authorise from your credit card. There are several ways the rental company may collect the bond or security deposit from you. The most common way is to collect an amount of around $100-500 as a bond/deposit. They will hold or “freeze” this amount on your credit card.

The excess or deductible is usually anywhere from $1500 to $3500 and can be collected in the same way the bond is collected. Some rental companies will only take an imprint of your credit card and keep it on file until you bring back the vehicle undamaged. While others may deduct this amount from your credit card. They generally will do this to encourage you to take one of their insurance policies by charging you a daily amount to reduce your excess.

It is also possible for you to cover yourself by taking excess cover online. The advantage here is that the policy covers the policy holder, not just for a single rental company. So you are covered no matter which rental company you hire a vehicle from. If you have a third party cover such as DriveEasy, you will be fully covered for the excess of the vehicle. If you were involved in an accident, simply submit a reimbursement claim form showing the receipt/invoice of the amount you were charged for damages to your vehicle and you will be refunded up to the amount of your policy.

What Does A Late Model Vehicle Mean?

A late model is a vehicle that is between 1-3 years old. In some cases vehicles may be up to 5 years old, depending on how many models the manufacturer has released. We also sometimes say ‘recent model’ in which case 1-5 years is more accurate.

When I Select A Car Model, What Does 'Or Similar' Mean?

“Similar” means the rental company cannot guarantee a particular model car. They will provide you a vehicle with the same passenger capacity and similar size. For example, a Hyundai Getz is similar to a Suzuki Swift as these are in the same category.

What Is The Difference Between 4WD And AWD?

All wheel drive (AWD) is almost the same thing as full time 4WD – it is a system that powers all four wheels of a vehicle at all times as well. It can be used full time on all surfaces, including pavement, like full time 4WD. The main difference is that a “4-low” setting is not available in AWD cars. Due to the lack of “low range”, AWD vehicles are much less capable in off-road settings than full time 4WD vehicles, but work perfectly well on-road.