Car rental tips from Lonely Planet’s travel experts
Dreaming of the open road? Car rental is all you need to hit the highway. Here’s how to lock down the right car hire deal.
Desert road trip, winding mountain passes or zooming around national parks? Wherever you’re headed, the only thing between you and freedom is nailing down your car rental. So how do you find the car hire gems among the clapped-out rustbuckets, and navigate the fog of fine print? Grab the best car rental deals with our tips.
How to snap up the perfect car rental
Budget car rentals with the most va-va-voom are often available just after peak holiday season. If you can plan your road trip away from school holidays or give summer a wide berth, car rental discounts may be your reward.
Know your terrain.
Will you be flooring the gas on Germany’s Autobahn or grinding your gears in the Australian Outback? Might you need winter tyres to make it up that mountain? Make sure your car hire deal matches your road trip style – or you might find yourself flexing your hitchhiking thumb as your hire car wheezes to a halt on an Icelandic glacier.
Confirmed your flights or booked time off work? The time to reserve rental cars is now. Early-bird car rental deals are out there, and you don’t need to have perfected your itinerary to know you need wheels.
Are you feeling lucky?
Even if you are, you’ll want peace of mind on the road. When researching car rental, keep one beady eye on options to reduce your excess if you get into any scrapes. And if you’re in doubt about your navigation skills, tick the option to include a sat-nav (so you’ll know exactly when to turn around where possible).
Lonely Planet’s expert road trip tips
Got wheels? Here’s how to ensure a smooth journey.
Don’t start assembling your perfect road trip soundtrack before you’ve checked the weather forecast and road conditions. This is especially important if you’re exploring a new destination. Make sure you have the local emergency phone number, your insurance details, and a charged mobile phone – just in case.
Pack emergency supplies.
A steady supply of sugary treats to stave off road boredom? Worth packing. A few bottles of water, extra food and a blanket in case you end up stranded wildly off course? Essential.
Bring a back-up map.
Malfunctioning sat-nav, tablet with a flat battery… when it comes to navigation, don’t put all your faith in technology. Make sure you have at least one hard copy of a road map in case disaster strikes your gadgetry.
Plan your pit-stops.
Road trip pit-stops aren’t just to prevent the chorus of ‘are we there yet’ from the back seat. Plan some stops along your way to keep you feeling refreshed on your journey – and swap drivers if you can. Don’t try to drive for more than 2-3 hours without taking a short break.
Check in with friends or family.
We know, you really don’t want to text your mother. But if you’re planning a road trip somewhere remote, let a friend or family member know your route and expected arrival time.