When visiting a new country like Kenya, there is no better way of exploring it than by getting behind the wheel and hitting the open road. For this very reason, many travellers prefer to rent their own vehicles as opposed to using public transport options; especially in African countries where these transport systems are not as reliable. Renting a car abroad can be a daunting task, especially when you have never done it before and have no idea where to start. We’ve put together all our experiences with rental companies abroad to provide you with a comprehensive checklist to avoid your next rental car scam.
Kenya offers everything from adventure activities like white water rafting near Mt Kenya to sail boarding on the magical Swahili coast, trekking to the peak of Mt Kenya to a multiday trek across Masai Land, various desert safaris around Lake Turkana to a camel trek near Laikipia and Samburu. Kenya has it all from dramatic mountains, vibrant deserts, magnificent savannah plains and spectacular tropical beaches. All packaged into a relatively small diverse country the perfect destination for a self-drive safari.
RENTAL CAR SAFETY TIPS
Before booking your rental car
- Book as soon as you have confirmed your flight tickets. Booking in advance will save you significant costs and not having to worry about transport during your holiday. Remember to always compare the final cost of your ideal rental car across different companies. The cost of adding extra drivers, young drivers, and hiring child seats can be high and varies widely so shop around.
- Make sure you have enough cash on your debit/credit card to stand a hefty deposit. Most car rental companies require a security deposit on the rental car. The deposit itself isn’t taken from the card, but blocked out until you return the car. The credit card will usually need to be in the name of the primary driver.
At the rentals counter
At the rental counter, the key is making sure you’re getting the price you expect and that you know whom to call for help if the rental car breaks down.
- Ask the representative when the car last received vehicle maintenance. If the clerk can’t answer this question, start to get suspicious.
- As the representative who you should call if the car breaks down or you lose your rental car keys. Note this number on your rental agreement or store it in your phone.
Before driving your rental car
- Avoid being conned into a hard sell, especially if you’ve taken out adequate insurance beforehand. The same goes for GPS systems, car seats or any other extras you might be offered. If you don’t need them, don’t take them (or bring your own).
- Remember to note all damage(including minor scratches, dents, etc.) on the car before leaving. This can be done by taking videos or photographs of the car. This applies to the interior as well. Check the spare wheel is there, inflated and undamaged. Check the car is full of fuel if it supposed to be, and record the mileage, if it’s restricted. Ensure that there will be no reason for disputes with the rental company upon returning the car by pre-empting with proof of its original condition.
- Familiarize yourself with the car. Adjust the seat and mirrors (rear-view and side mirrors), turn on the hazard lights, check the window controls, try the windshield wipers, the turn signals, the headlights, etc.
- When you’re ready, take the car for a quick spin around the lot: turning, braking, and listening. If there’s a problem or a strange sound, it’s best to find out now before you get on the road.
- Check that your payment includes all necessary and relevant highway vignettes or toll stickers before driving away. If you enter a toll zone without the necessary vignette, you might end up incurring a larger amount than if you had just paid for one.
- Check the fuel type (which should be noted on the agreement). Putting in the wrong fuel and driving off can terminally damage the engine and is regarded as negligence and all Collision Damage Waiver cover is withdrawn.
- If you’ve paid for additional products such as GPS systems, ensure that it is working properly before driving off or you could be responsible for its damage. Minor details such as language and location sensitivity should be toggled before driving.
Returning your rental car
- Ensure that you abide by your rental car fuel policy and top up fuel if necessary.
- Take photos the car on return and keep the paperwork. Assuming you have done no damage, and have filled the paperwork up (if required), park it up and then take digital photos of each panel of the car, the wheels, the mileage, and other detailed shots before handing the keys back to the person at the desk.
- Check your credit card statement regularly for a few days after returning your car to make sure promised fuel payments and excess charges are returned and keep an eye out in later statements that no extra payments have mysteriously materialised.
- If necessary, fight any wrongful additional charges incurred. If you have bought excess protection, simply claim from the firm in question. If the claim is spurious, pass this on to them and let them sort it out. If you don’t get anywhere and know you are innocent, raise the dispute with your credit card provider.