Thursday, November 12, 2015

Tips on Renting a Car in Australia and Brisbane: Insurance and Toll Roads

 I recently rented a car in Brisbane, Australia.  Here are some tips.

Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) Insurance:
I am currently researching all the requirements needed to rent a car in Mexico.  I'll have a blog post on that in the future.  For now, however, I learned some things about renting cars in Australia as a US citizen.

When I rent a car in the US, I always use a higher-end Visa or Mastercard to reserve and to pay for the rental car.  This allows me to decline the rental car company's insurance on all fronts.  I've double-checked the benefits of the credit card that I use.  The credit cards that I use have benefits such as "Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver (CDW)."  The credit card, as long as you decline the rental car's CDW (they require that you do so), will then reimburse you or the car rental company "for damage due to collision or theft up to the actual cash value of most rental vehicles."  There's no deductible, so this is my primary coverage.  In other words, "you do not have to claim payment from any source of insurance before receiving coverage under the benefit."  This is a great benefit.  Just make sure that your credit card offers this benefit. 

My personal car insurance covers the other types of insurance that might be needed. 

There's also this wording in the benefits brochure: "If you accept the collision damage waiver offered by the rental company, you will not be eligible for [our] Auto Rental CDW."

In Australia and some other countries, however, the car rental company may insist that you buy their CDW insurance.  In this case, the credit card will still cover you as long as the country is on their list of "exception countries."  I called my MasterCard benefits number, and they told me that the exception countries are New Zealand, Australia, Costa Rica, and Italy. 

Therefore, when renting a car in Australia, I could try to decline the company's CDW insurance, but if I was forced to buy it, my credit card benefits arm would still cover me in the case of an accident. 

I spoke to a friend who is also an underwater photographer.  He actually does highly recommend getting CDW insurance in Australia.  He did not get it once and was involved in an accident that was not his fault.  He therefore had to pay $3500 as a bond, and it was extremely difficult for him to get that money back, even though he was entitled to it.  He had to write numerous letters and make dozens of phone calls to clear the entire matter up.  From my initial reading, the situation can be even worse in Mexico.  

In other words, your credit card may cover you for CDW insurance in Australia, and you could decline the company's CDW insurance.  I did so when I was in Brisbane.  However, buying the company's CDW insurance in Australia is allowed by MasterCard benefits -- and it's probably a good idea.  Otherwise you will have to pay a $3500 or higher bond if you are involved in any type of accident, and it will be a hassle to get that money back. 

Brisbane Domestic and International Terminals:
 Here is a tip when renting a car in Brisbane, and it applies to other cities, anywhere.  When renting a car, double check to see if the car can be picked up "in terminal" or if you have to take a shuttle to the rental company location.  In Brisbane, companies like Hertz, Avis, and a few others had their facilities right on the airport.  It was thus a simple matter to pick up and return a car -- in Brisbane, I just returned my Hertz rental car right across the street from the domestic terminal one morning.  If I had rented from another company, I might have had to get up earlier and take a shuttle once I returned the car. 

Brisbane has separate international and domestic terminals.  They are about a 10-minute walk apart.  If you rent from Hertz, Avis, or other on-airport companies, they make it easy.  You can pick up a car from the international terminal and return it to the domestic terminal, or vice versa.  The rental car companies have counters and cars available at both the international and domestic terminals.  I liked Brisbane Airport a lot -- it was easy to get around in and picking up and returning a car was super-easy. 

Toll Roads in Brisbane: Don't Let the Rental Car Company Scam You

When I rented the car from Hertz, I was told that I had two options to pay for the toll roads around Brisbane.  I really dislike getting into situations where I am being scammed, and sure enough, the Hertz agent scammed me.  He convinced me to pay in advance of using any toll roads.  The options I had were:

1.  Pay AUD $11 in advance, and I would pay nothing more if I used a toll road(s).  I was not sure if the AUD $11 covered my entire rental, or if it only covered 24 hours or one day of my rental.  For example, if I kept the car for three days, would I be charged AUD $33 for three days at $11 per day, or just a flat $11? 
2.  Don't pay, and I would be billed the cost of the toll road fee along with a $16 Hertz administrative fee after the fact. 

What the Hertz agent neglected to tell me, which I discovered after a web search at my hotel, was that I could choose option 1 at the TIME I RETURNED MY CAR.  Therefore, if I never used a toll road in Brisbane, then I would not need to pay any fee; if I did in fact use a toll road, I could simply pay Hertz $10 for option 1 when I returned the car. 

That's what I ended up doing.  My Garmin unit had Australia maps loaded onto it, and it was programmed to avoid toll roads.  It worked just fine in Brisbane and I got to my hotel without having to use the M7 toll road from the airport (easy).  As it turns out, there are only one or two toll roads in Brisbane, and they are clearly marked so that you can avoid them. 

I also discovered that for at least the M7 airport toll road (the most likely road that a tourist driving to or from the Brisbane airport to the city would use), if you found yourself driving on it -- you could pay the toll online within three days. 

Here's how to pay the toll for the airport toll road:

For a casual user or a driver of a rental car -- buy a trip pass: Here's some wording from the website:
If you have already used AirporlinkM7 you have 3 days from the date of travel to pay for your trip by opening an account or buying a pass.

You can purchase a casual user pass prior to travel or 3 days after the date of travel.

A trip pass can pay for trips taken on AirportlinkM7 within the last 3 days; select the appropriate start date to cover any unpaid travel.

Hope this helps folks traveling to Brisbane!

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