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Driving the Great Ocean Road in Victoria.

Driving a rental car in Australia

Once you’re on the road in your hire car there are some points to keep in mind. From tolls to kilometre limits it pays to drive informed. Read on to find out the details.

When renting a car in Australia, there are some things you should be aware of. We recommend that you pay close attention to your rental agreement for any restrictions that may apply to your booking; Terms and Conditions can vary between locations and rental providers.

Which side of the road do Australians drive on?

As with India, Japan, New Zealand and the United Kingdom, Australia abides by left-hand traffic laws, meaning vehicle steering wheels are the right-hand side and you drive on your left hand side. If you wish to drive in Australia in a rental car, keep in mind that if you’re used to driving on the right, everything is basically mirrored. The primary points to keep in mind are to always give way to your right, to leave a roundabout to your left, and to give way to all pedestrians and any vehicles whose path you’ll be crossing. If you’re a pedestrian, always check to your right before checking to your left.

Do I have to wear a seat belt in Australia?

Yes. In Australia, by law, all drivers and passengers in any car must wear seat belts on every trip, regardless of the length of the trip. Seat belts are built to be worn by only one person at a time, and fastening a seat belt around two people or doubling up may be not only unsafe but illegal as well. Any passenger aged under seven must use an approved child restraint such as a baby car seat, baby capsule of booster seat.

The driver will be held responsible if they — or any passenger — are caught not wearing a seat belt. Penalties may include both a fine and demerit points — double demerit points in some cases — and fines can be high. Any passenger over the age of 16 may also be fined for not wearing a seat belt.

In summary, it is the driver’s legal responsibility to make sure every passenger — including children — are properly restrained, even for short trips.

As the popular Australian saying goes, “Click Clack Front And Back.”

What are the rules for mobile phones and rental cars in Australia?

Australia has strict laws regarding the use of mobile devices in a vehicle, including rental cars. While there is a little variation from state to state, in all Australian states it is illegal to hold a mobile phone in your hand or have it resting on any part of your body — including your lap — when driving. This also applies if you are stopped in traffic. In fact, the phone does not even need to be turned on for this to be an offence. Usage of the phone includes — but is not limited to — texting, audio texting, emailing, instant messaging, taking photos, and video messaging.

In order to use a mobile phone while driving, it must be mounted on a cradle attached to the vehicle in a position that does not obscure the driver’s view of the road. Some states may allow the phone to be in a pocket of the driver’s clothing or a pouch. Regardless of where the phone is located, it must be for for hands free use. If you need to use your phone in an emergency, you’ll need to stop and park your car in an area where you will not endanger yourself or other road users.

The fines for using a mobile phone while driving are very high and can include demerit points.

Are there speed limits in Australia?

Speed limits apply everywhere in Australia with rare exceptions. These speed limits are measured in “kilometres per hour” and are strictly enforced through use of mobile police units, speed cameras, and highway patrol, especially over peak holiday and travel seasons like Christmas and Easter. The fines for speeding can be extremely high and may include the loss of one’s driving licence.

What is the range of speed limits in Australia

Depending where you are in Australia and the type of road you’re driving on, the speed limit can range anywhere from 10km/h to 100km/h to 110km/h, the former typically applying to schools, inner-city thoroughfares, and housing complexes, and the latter to expressways.

School zones

Take particular heed of school zones when driving. The speed limit in active school zones can be 30km/h to 40km/h, and override the default speed limit of the area it encompasses. School zones are marked by signage and are generally time-based, with the default speed limit applying outside of school hours, although in some cases school zones are permanent. Always pay attention to speed limit signage — not seeing a sign is generally not seen as a valid excuse.

Speeding penalties

The penalty for speeding can vary depending on the state you were driving in and the degree to which you were speeding, however across the board fines for speeding can be very high and can include demerit points against your licence. If you’re caught speeding by a speed camera or mobile unit while driving a rental car, the penalty notice will be sent to the rental provider and forwarded to you for payment. The rental provider will may also add administration fees to your car rental invoice for any traffic fines that are sent to them.

Do travel restrictions apply to certain areas of Australia?

Yes, there are restrictions as to where you can take your hire vehicle. For example, many car rental providers do not allow their vehicles to be driven on Australia’s islands, beaches, or any unsealed roads, including parts of Cape York, Kakadu National Park, the Kimberley, and Savannah Way.

Travel restrictions may also apply to alpine areas of New South Wales, Victoria, and Tasmania. Some rental providers may require you to purchase additional cover before taking your rental car above the snow line.

Rental providers do not allow you to drive your hire car on unsealed roads, though you are allowed to take your car on gazetted roads. Gazetted roads are any roads unkept by the government that are displayed on a map, regardless if they are bitumen, tar, or dirt. If you’re unsure about whether you can drive on a certain road, please contact our customer care team to check.

What happens if I exceed the kilometre limit?

Some rental cars — usually in the Northern Territory and Western Australia — will have a daily kilometre limit. This is often around 100 kilometres per day. If you exceed this limit in your travels, you’ll be charged extra for each kilometre over the limit. The amount you’ll be charged will differ depending on your rental provider.

How do I pay for road tolls?

If you are driving on Australian toll roads in a hire car, you’ll be responsible for paying any toll costs. Most of our car hire partners fit their vehicles with e-Tags, which automatically cover the price of any tolls during your journey, so don’t pay these costs in advance, via Linkt, or by any means not outlined by your car rental provider as otherwise you could end up paying one toll twice. Toll roads in Australia do not accept cash.

What if I am in a car accident in my rental car?

The first thing you should do is call emergency services if anyone has been injured. In Australia, this number is 000. You’ll also need to contact your rental provider and let them know about the accident. They will generally ask you to fill in an accident report form.

What should I do if my rental car breaks down?

In the event your vehicle breaks down during the rental period, make sure to get to safety before calling your rental provider for roadside assistance. The rental provider will have the vehicle repaired at the soonest possible time, and usually, a replacement vehicle will be provided for the duration of your rental period if your original vehicle cannot be repaired and is considered to be a write-off.

What should I do if my rental car is stolen?

In the event that your rental car is stolen, you should immediately report the theft to your car rental provider and to the police. The sooner you do this, the better chance your provider will have in tracking down the stolen vehicle.

Can I take my hire car on ferries?

Although some of Australia’s islands are accessible by road, others are not, and if you’re hoping to take your rental car on a ferry, it’s important that you adhere to the terms in your rental agreement. Depending on your rental provider, there may be restrictions around where you can take your rental car, so make sure to check with them before setting off.

Important Information

When driving a rental car in Australia

Make sure you are familiar with the terms and conditions of your rental agreement. Travel restrictions often apply — even in popular areas like Far North Queensland and Kakadu National Park. You’ll need to know if any roads or specific areas are off-limits to your rental car, or if a kilometre limit applies.