Get moving: What to do if you rental car breaks down.

There’s nothing worse than having your car hire holiday in Australia or New Zealand interrupted by a broken-down vehicle. We always hope for the best, but life has no guarantees - and at some point you may find yourself stuck on a roadside with an engine that refuses to respond.  
The good news is that most car rental companies are ready for the unlikely event of a breakdown and have systems in place to get you going again. Airport Rentals Asia-Pacific Account Manger, Chris Houston, says the speed of recovery is crucial: “They want to get you on your way as quickly as they can.” That’s good news for renters - and he also recommends you read the breakdown policies before choosing your rental car. “The best ones are those with 24-hour roadside assistance, so keep a lookout for that. Most suppliers do offer it.” 
Airport Rentals make it easy to find the best breakdown policies - when it’s available, 24-hour Roadside Assistance is generally listed right there on the results pages. You can also view full terms and conditions without clicking away, to get a full picture of the breakdown procedures for a particular vehicle.

Roadside Assistance: Hertz, Europcar, Avis, Budget, Thrifty and more

The majority of these big international names have similar systems. For mechanical issues which are no fault of the renter, there is a 24-hour callout service. So, when you find yourself broken down, dig out your rental documents, locate the provided roadside assistance number and tell them you need help - great for your peace of mind. Local and smaller companies offer this too - Jucy, East Coast Car Rentals and Alpha also solid policies.
Roadside assistance is generally offered for at-fault situations such as lockouts, refuelling and the like - but it will incur a fee. Some companies, like Avis and Redspot, offer Roadside Assistance Cover or something similar, which means you can enjoy free callouts for those at-fault situations. This is great for those who value convenience above all!
Chris suggests reading the terms and conditions for any vehicle closely before booking a rental, so you know what you’re getting into and what to expect if something goes wrong. As an example, Bargain Rental Cars in New Zealand require that the renter contacts the company and allows 48 hours to repair or replace the vehicle - a long time for those on a short holiday!

Top tips

No matter which company you are renting with, there are a few things to keep in mind in case of the dreaded breakdown: 
  • Never go ahead and have repairs made to the car without first talking to the rental company. There is no guarantee they will reimburse you for unauthorised work on the vehicle, so check first. Even if you think you can fix it yourself, we recommend you leave well alone, as you may be held liable for any perceived damage.
  • Always have a cellphone! International travellers should make it a priority to pick up a local sim or arrange roaming services on their phone. It allows you to make contact with the rental company where necessary.
  • Before driving, check the rental agreement for prohibited roads/areas - places such as Skippers Canyon in New Zealand and the far north of Cape York Peninsula in Australia are often restricted in the terms. You don’t want a breakdown, then discover you have voided the rental agreement!
  • Staying safe is always the first priority. Try to pull off the road onto a shoulder or side road where the traffic is less and put on your hazard lights. Make sure it is safe to get out before you do so - and remember which side of the road the traffic will come from! It is very easy to forget in a foreign country. 
  • Some vehicles may be equipped with an emergency kit containing things like a high vis vest and reflective triangles. Use these where available.
  • Don't try to flag down passing motorists.
Have you broken down in a rental car? We’d love to hear your experiences and recommendations. 

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