When you hire a car, you are entitled to a number of ‘consumer guarantees’ under Australian consumer laws. For example, the car must be:
- of acceptable quality
- fit for purpose.
For a full list of consumer guarantees, visit our Goods covered by guarantees – fair trading page.
The hire company must give you a car that meets the terms of your agreement. This includes any promises the company made to you before you entered into the agreement.
If the hire company does not do this, they may be in breach of contract.
Damage to hire cars
Rental car contracts include terms about damage and your liabilities. Unless you have closely read those terms, you may only become aware of your liabilities after a deduction is made from your credit card.
Credit card deductions for damage (whether it is your fault or not) should only be made after the hire company provides an itemised bill and a reasonable opportunity for you to dispute any charge.
Any insurance/excess fees you have paid will not fully cover you for damage – it will only reduce the amount you may have to pay if the car is damaged while in your possession. This fee will limit your liability to a particular amount – usually between $3000 and $5000.
These deduction limits will be higher for a prestige car.
Note that such ‘damage reduction’ options only reduce your liability in limited circumstances – often, you will not be covered for roof and underbody damage, single-vehicle accidents, careless driving, vandalism and hailstorms.
Before you hire a car, protect yourself:
- Inspect the car thoroughly. Look under the bumper bars, examine the doors and check inside the car for evidence of damage.
- Insist on a condition report. Any acknowledgement on your part that the vehicle is in an undamaged state is unfair unless the hire car company has provided you with such a report for you to sign in support of that acknowledgement.
- Consider taking photographs of the car before you return it. Make sure you are present when it is inspected.
- If you have booked the car through a travel agent, check with them whether your travel insurance covers any excess damage.