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Sarah Reid

editor

TRAVEL TIP

If you're planning to cover some serious mileage, be sure to check there will be ample fuel stations along your chosen route.
It could be worth bringing a spare can of fuel before you zoom off. I made this rookie error while road trippin' in Alaska ... Then (embarrassingly) again in the Nevada desert.

Seb Neylan

staff

TRAVEL TIP

Choose the right car for the right journey.
Especially if picking it up in a city and driving out of town to the coast, countryside or mountains. I learned the hard way that a little hatchback was not ideal for stream crossings in Grand Terre’s rugged south.

Tasmin Waby

editor

TRAVEL TIP

Look for a rental office beyond the city centre if you want to avoid driving an unfamiliar car in heavy traffic.
I once found myself negotiating the Arc de Triomphe roundabout in a right-hand-drive car moments after collecting it.
Sixt Avis Hertz Budget Alamo Dollar Enterprise Europcar Thrifty

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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?

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Lonely Planet's guide to car hire

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

  • Perfect timing. 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.
  • Plan ahead. 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.

  • Safety first. 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.