Travel Tip: Rental Car Insurance in Oz 20

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My cargo freighter arrived in Brisbane, Australia on the morning of December 13th. I found my way into town and got a room at a local hostel. The owners were reported to be very helpful about travel plans, which was important to me, since I had no idea how I was going to spend my next couple weeks. I had a last-minute harebrained thought (par for the course for me) to rent a car and drive to Alice Springs to go see Ayers Rock/Uluru.

There were a couple factors running around in my head. I hadn’t driven on this trip, except for one day in Capetown. I am am American, which means I am addicted to driving — and in my case, it is really true — I love driving. I wanted the freedom of being able to pull off the road whenever I wanted. And I wanted to see some of the Australian interior, which even most of my new Australian friends haven’t done.

I asked the two owners of the hostel, Wendy and Chris, about renting a car and whether it would be possible to get from Brisbane to Ayers Rock by the next evening, my 42th birthday for an Australian road trip. They said they thought it was about 2,000 kilometers and they would check on rental car prices for me while I pulled some stuff up on the internet about other options and made my decision. 2,000 kilometers is about 1,200 miles. That’s a pretty easy two day drive in my book. Assuming I could get an early start on the 14th, sunset at Ayers Rock/Uluru might even be possible. Sign me up.

Chris told me that they couldn’t get a hold of their friend with the good rental car deals until the next morning. They also pulled up the map to Alice Springs (the nearest town to Uluru) and it showed a distance of 2,500. Still feasibly doable in two days, but making sunset at Uluru didn’t seem likely. As I went to bed on the 13th, in my head, I’d decided that if the rental fee was $50 or less per day, I’d go for it.

kangaroo warning sign australia next 15 kmsThe next morning, I was told the rental fee for unlimited mileage was $54 per day. That included $18 per day for insurance. Now, I hate insurance. Rental car insurance is a horrible, horrible scam. One of the worst value things you can ever buy (right up there with extended warranties).

Plus, I’m incredibly lucky. I was going to have the car for about 10 days and not getting the insurance would save me almost $200, which is real money for sure. I asked them if the drivers in Australia were bad enough where I should worry about insurance and they both said, “it’s not the other drivers, it’s the kangaroos.”

Apparently, there are kangaroos everywhere in the hinterlands and they regularly just jump across the roads and run into cars. Chris said that he has run into one before, but only one. He said it was a real risk though. He also pointed out that if a rock chipped the windshield, the insurance would pay for itself. If I paid the $200 for the insurance, the maximum I would be out in case of an accident would be the $330 deductible. If i didn’t get the insurance, I would be maxed out at $3,000 in case of an accident.

I decided to get the insurance. Good idea.

rental car after hitting kangaroo australia

glad I ended up getting that insurance….

Basically, I have no idea how people do NOT hit kangaroos, at least on the roads that I was on. I must have seen 200 of them in a stretch of a hundred kilometers at one point. They just sit on the side of the road. You have no idea when they will hop across the road. They are incredibly erratic and you cannot predict what direction they are going. Hell, I was lucky to hit only one of them, but it was a big one.

Vital tip. You simply cannot drive at night. During the day I haven’t seen as many of them as the one night I drove (and hit one). For what it’s worth, I haven’t seen too many of them in the far interior, but they seem to roam in packs and I bet I just haven’t run across any big packs in the last couple days. There have been at least 300 ‘roo carcasses I have seen on the road in three days. It is amazing.

As a friend put it, the question sometimes is merely, what do you do when things go wrong?  And on the road, you better be ready for lots of those moments.  Made me wonder why I didn’t stay on the east coast of Australia a bit longer!

map of route from brisbane to alice springs, australia

looks so close on a map

As to the trip, it was a hell of a lot longer than 2,500 kilometers. Turns out that route was about 1,000 kilometers of non-sealed (meaning dirt or gravel) road. I didn’t figure that out until I was about to turn down that way and looked at an atlas during a gas station stop. So I stayed on the main sealed road route and the total mileage is going to end up being about 3,500 kilometers each way from Brisbane to Uluru. I am writing this from Alice Springs — it took me three full days of driving to get here. Uluru is about 450 more kilometers from here.

Putting that mileage into some perspective for my U.S. readers: 3,500 kilometers each way/7,000 total = 4,350 miles total. NYC to LA is 2,800 miles. So I’m doing NYC to LA then back to Houston. In about 9-10 days. Seriously.

Australia is big.

A friend of mine just recently wrote another post about hitting a kangaroo in Oz.  Seems common.

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About Michael Hodson

I’m an attorney that took off on my birthday in December of 2008 to circumnavigate the globe without ever getting on an airplane. After 16 months, 6 continents and 44 countries, I made it all the way back home. Right now, I am back on the road writing about it all.

20 thoughts on “Travel Tip: Rental Car Insurance in Oz

  • Scott

    Wow, that's an insane amount of dirt road.You always wonder if the extra insurance is worth it when you rent. it sounds like it's a must if heading into the outback. Definitely a good idea!


    You are SO lucky you got that insurance. That is why I try to avoid driving when I'm traveling. One more headache, strange roads, strange driving customs, sometimes no traffic enforcement or stoplights, liability. Not worth it for me. If you didn't ask Wendy and Chris you would have never known about the kangaroos.

  • Magnifique

    I just got back from Australia a couple weeks ago. Renting a car there is completely worth the effort- how else would you see all those beautiful landscapes? We stayed on Kangaroo Island and I think it was only luck that we never hit a kangaroo, given that my Dad drives like a NYC taxi driver. I tried to explain to people when I got back that kangaroos are sort of like deer in North America- an edible, prolific pest- but I think it's something you have to see to believe.

  • Chris

    I find it funny how the world percives kangaroos here in australia. To us they are a borderline pest and as you found out can total a car when hit. For the rest of the world they are fuzzy cute things you want to hug.

  • Anonymous

    Are deer edible, prolific pests? While both have huge populations and can total a car; I hope that bitterness doesn't spread….they bleed just like you.

  • Anonymous

    Are deer edible, prolific pests? While both have huge populations and can total a car; I hope that bitterness doesn't spread….they bleed just like you.

  • SoloTraveler

    I ate some 'roo a couple days after this slaughter. Was pretty good. Not great, but good.

  • Melvin

    Luckily you had the insurance! We hadn't one, but we bought the 4×4 for 3 months & sold it afterwards again. If a kangaroo would have hit us, it would be the money of the car we bought… fair deal. You can't damage a 4×4 that easily as a kangaroo, if you have the right bumpers in front of the car! ;-)We drove around 20'000km & hit none kangaroo. We drove day times & night times… I guess we were lucky! But one kangaroo was very very close! We couldn't even see it from inside the car anymore… but it made it! Good for it & us!

  • Jason

    Nice post Michael,

    I wonder if you priced out “roo bars,” those big metal bars they affix to the front of cars to protect from wayward kangaroos. I saw a lot of them in the outback on my last visit there.

    Also, I hate to ask, but…did you make some “roo jerky?”


    • Michael Hodson Post author

      I heard about them, but none of the rental cars had them. If I was buying a vehicle down there, and planning on any travel to the interior, I would think about getting them. From what I saw though, the biggest tip was just to not drive at dusk, dawn, or at night. I saw plenty of ‘roos during the day, but they stayed much farther from the road. Funny you mention eating them…. a bunch of locals did ask if I somehow did something with the carcass. I made up for it by ordering a kangaroo steak a few nights later.

  • Nancie

    I’m a firm believer in insurance. Maybe that’s a Canadian thing, since most people would never question not getting it. Rental companies won’t rent a car without it. In fact, it’s against the law to drive without insurance in Canada.

    I’ve hit an animal before, It was a deer, and luckily I was going through a small town, I wasn’t going fast. Regardless, it was scary. Looks like you hit hard! Glad you lived to write about it 🙂

    I was in Australia many many years ago. I took a bus to Alice and I remember how long a trip it was. We never hit anything, but I was amazed by all the Kangaroos on the roads.

  • Amanda

    Awesome story and advice, Michael. Love it that you discovered just how big Australia is, and that it’s a bloody long way to Alice Springs (where I live), from anywhere else.

    I have to tell you that I drive a 4WD with a big roo bar (we actually call them ‘bull bars’ in the NT!). I’ve never hit a roo once, but then, I avoid driving at night like the plague because there are so many ‘roos on the roads.

    However!!! It’s not the kangaroos you have to worry about: it’s camels! Central Australia is over-run with camels and if you hit one of them, bull bar or not, it’s going to wreck your car and possibly be fatal to YOU!

    My best advice for anyone coming here (and especially people who drive to Uluru), is to NEVER drive at night and to slow down once you leave the Stuart Highway and get onto the Lasseter Highway (the main road to Ayers Rock), because it’s the one place that more tourists are killed than anywhere else in the Outback.

    And the reason why: fatigue, speed and camels!

  • Dina

    Wow, Mike, seemed like so many things go wrong during that time. I wonder why Wendy and Chris didn’t tell you about the driving condition and timing estimation! Australia (and also NZ) don’t follow the 100 km/h scheme, that I usually use to predict the timing. But then even with lowering the speed to… ehmm… speed that permit us to avoid kangaroo at night, we are still off.

    In Oz, we drove along the states in the east coast, so the kangaroo count didn’t get too high like yours. We drove very slow at night, and often had to break hard. In the end, we didn’t hit any. But it could be different if we drove far in land at night like you. Thank goodness you are okay!

    Was the car driveable after the collision?

  • Phil

    Woah. What? Lucky you got the insurance and lucky you weren’t hurt. How fast were you going do you think?

  • Andrea

    We’ve seen heaps of roos in the road. Had to stop completely once because a massive one was hopping down the middle of the road on our way to the Great Ocean Road. They have no concept of cars…

  • Mac Fryer

    I didn’t know there were that many kangaroos in Australia. That sounds like the armadillos in the south; we are always swerving on the road to avoid hitting one.

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