2016 Hire Car Service Reviews & Ratings

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Before you plan your next road trip, see which rental car company is rated highest in Australia.

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2016 Award for Hire Cars

Most Satisfied Customers | AVIS

Our comparison of hire car services has produced a consistent outcome over the years, with AVIS once again rated highest overall. It is the fourth time in five years that AVIS has led the field for customer satisfaction.

Hire car customers put their trust in AVIS

Australians are born travellers. Visit any major city in the world and you’ll probably bump into a bloke from Bundaberg or woman from Wollongong. We also like to explore our own vast homeland, which often begins with a domestic flight between state capitals. As a result, you might need a helping hand to get around, with hire cars the ideal temporary solution, provided you get a good deal.

Hire car companies have been under the spotlight in recent months, with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) focussing its attention on questionable rental costs, charges and liability in the event of damage after two major operators were reprimanded for misleading customers. While most people have a perfectly reasonable experience when they hire a car, the industry does suffer with something of an image problem, not helped by such high profile cases.

That’s why Canstar Blue produces an annual review of hire car companies to see which have earned the trust of motorists. To do this we surveyed hundreds of consumers who have hired a vehicle in Australia in the last 12 months, and their feedback is reflected by the star ratings you see above. Our comparison of hire car services has produced a consistent outcome over the years, with AVIS once again rated highest overall. It is the fourth time in five years that AVIS has led the field for customer satisfaction – a strong endorsement from local motorists who scored the operator five stars on customer service, cost & fee transparency, booking process, accessory availability and value for money, in addition to their overall five star review.

What to expect when hiring a car

Hiring a car can be a nervous experience, particularly if it’s the first time you’ve done it. This isn’t helped by horror stories of customers being slapped with unexpected charges, hit with outrageous bills for things like forgetting to fill the tank up with fuel, or having to dispute damage to the vehicle that was or wasn’t there before they drove off! It’s no wonder then that good customer service and transparency over cost and fees are the most significant drivers of hire car customer satisfaction, our research shows:

  • Customer service: 37%
  • Transparency of cost and fees: 19%
  • Booking and vehicle pick-up process: 18%
  • Value for money: 15%
  • Vehicle availability: 7%
  • Availability of accessories: 5%

More than one in three (38%) survey respondents told us they felt anxious when they last drove a hire car, which is perhaps understandable considering the responsibility of driving a vehicle you don’t own, and the potential consequences of damaging it. That brings us on nicely to the often contentious issue of hire car insurance.

Do you need insurance when you hire a car?

Insurance can be a scary subject if you’re not entirely sure where you stand. When it comes to hiring a car, it is not compulsory to buy insurance, but it is highly recommended, because failing to do so could turn out to be a serious financial mistake. The vehicle you hire will be insured against any damage you may cause, but the excess on the policy is likely to run into the thousands. And who pays for the excess in the event of an accident? You do. That’s why insurance is there to cover the excess in case something does go wrong, and you’d be a fool to drive off without it. However, the real question is: Should you buy insurance from the hire car operator?

Our survey found that just over half (53%) of hire car customers bought insurance from the rental company they booked through, with about a quarter (26%) feeling it was unnecessarily upsold to them. While it can be convenient to take out insurance with the operator when you collect your vehicle, it can also be costly. That’s why it’s a good idea to do your homework in advance. Did you know that most domestic travel insurance policies will cover you for hire car excess? Just under half (49%) of respondents to our survey were aware. That’s right, you can effectively kill two insurance birds with one stone, because it’s a good idea to take out travel insurance when you go exploring, and definitely the right move to cover yourself against hire car damage. Research from CANSTAR shows that a family can take out domestic cover for 10 days for under $100, which is likely to be a lot cheaper than the premium you are quoted by the hire car operator. If you don’t really want to take out a travel insurance policy, but do want to be protected from excess liability, you could also consider car rental excess insurance from a third party.

Always read the small print

Whatever insurance solution you reach, it’s important to remember that driving a hire car is a serious responsibility, and you shouldn’t do anything that you wouldn’t in your own vehicle. Not only is it irresponsible, but it could cost you big time. While most consumers return their hire vehicle and leave without any worries, we know that disputes are common, with one in five (21%) customers telling us they had to pay additional charges the last time they hired a car, either because they were accused of damaging the vehicle, or they failed to meet the terms and conditions of use. So what should you do before hiring a car?

  • Read the vehicle condition report
  • Check the vehicle for existing damage
  • Take photos of the car being driving off

Make sure you refer to the condition report if you spot any damage to the vehicle, to make sure it has already been noted. If you have any concerns, take them up with the operator before you leave. And always make sure you read the small print of your rental contract, because even subtle things could end up costing you. Operators will usually impose charges if you return your vehicle late, or without a full take of petrol, for example.

With all this said, the chances are your hire car experience will be an enjoyable one. But you’ll have more fun – and more money in your hop pocket – if you’re prepared.

Frequently Asked Questions

Canstar Blue commissioned Colmar Brunton to survey 3,000 Australian consumers across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have hired a car in Australia in the last 12 months – in this case, 591 people.

Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then alphabetically.