Tag Archives: driving

Car hire in Melbourne and Victoria

Car hireVictoria is a diverse state with a multitude of attractions in both Melbourne and the state’s regional areas. When it comes to getting around, public transport isn’t always able to take you everywhere, and it may not always be convenient.  So if you come to Victoria without your own vehicle, hiring a car is a good option to get the most out of your visit.


Arriving by air

Most people coming to Victoria by air will land at Melbourne Airport which is located around 20 kilometres north-west of the city. This is Victoria’s only international airport and a major hub for domestic flights.

The major international hire car companies of Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Thrifty all have booking desks inside the airport terminal buildings, along with Australia’s own Redspot.

Compare car hire at Melbourne Airport

 

Car hire depots are also located at several smaller regional airports in Victoria:


Arriving by boat

If you are coming to Melbourne by sea, you will dock at Station Pier in Port Melbourne. Most arrivals will be aboard the Spirit of Tasmania which is a passenger and car ferry that runs services to and from Tasmania on almost every day of the year and sometimes twice a day during peak season.

While there are no car hire depots located at Port Melbourne, cars can be hired from depots nearby which are easily reached either by taxi or public transport.

Car hire near Port Melbourne

 


Arriving by train

There are two interstate passenger train lines that enter Victoria and extend to Melbourne. The Overland service runs between Adelaide and Melbourne while the XPT runs between Sydney and Melbourne. All these trains terminate at Southern Cross Station in Melbourne.

Car hire depots for Avis, Budget and Europcar are located at Southern Cross Station, while depots for other car hire companies are located very close by, either walking distance or a short tram or taxi ride away.

Car hire near Southern Cross Station

 


Getting the best deal

Most people don’t have too much loyalty to car hire brands, so whoever offers the best deal which matches the renter’s requirements will usually get the deal.

To save individually comparing rates between all the major car hire companies in Melbourne and Victoria, simply use the comparison tool below. Using your specified pick-up location and hire dates, it will display car hire availability from all the major providers.

Compare all car hire in Victoria

 


Should you pick up a hire car from the airport or elsewhere?

For those arriving by air, obviously the most convenient option is to pick up your hire vehicle at the airport. Car hire check-in desks are located within the terminal building, and the car you book is waiting for you at one of the closest car parks, usually just a few steps away.

Airports are regarded by most car hire companies as premium locations, so you will end up paying extra for the convenience of picking up your vehicle there.  If you want to save a bit of money, compare the cost of picking up your hire vehicle at the airport with a location that is either convenient to where you are staying or easily accessible by public transport.  Particularly for long rental periods, the savings can be quite substantial, even when you factor in the cost of transport between the airport to the depot.


Will others be driving your hire vehicle?

It is important to consider whether people other than yourself will be driving the rental vehicle. This may be relevant if you are planning a trip away with your partner, family, friends or business associates.

Some hire car companies allow you to nominate additional drivers at no cost, while others will charge extra fees.

Hire car company Fees for additional drivers Exemptions from fees
Avis None
Budget None.
Europcar $5.75 for each additional driver, capped at $28.75 for the whole rental period.
Hertz $5.50 for each additional driver, capped at $27.50 for the whole rental period. Immediate family members, employers or employees.
Redspot $5.50 for each additional driver, capped at $33.00 for the whole rental period. If the rate level you have selected is the “top dog” all inclusive rate.
Thrifty $5.50 for each additional driver, capped at $27.50 for the whole rental period. Corporate club and auto club members hiring vehicles pay no additional driver fees.

What sort of insurance should you take?

All cars you hire are insured against accidents. They also include roadside assistance for use in emergencies.

If your vehicle is involved in an accident, you will need to pay an insurance excess fee, which can be several thousands of dollars depending on the type of vehicle and if it was a single vehicle accident.

As well as accidents, any damage you cause to the vehicle that requires repairs, such as windscreen or tyre replacement, will also need to be paid for.

Hire car companies usually offer add-ons whereby you can pay an extra daily charge to reduce or completely eliminate the cost you would normally occur in the case of an accident or vehicle damage. These add-ons can inflate the daily hire charge by up to 50%, so it is important to consider some economical options if you wish to avoid paying out large sums of money in the event of an accident or damage to the vehicle.

If you only have the vehicle for a day or two, the simplest and cheapest way may simply be to accept the hire car company’s offer of paying more to eliminate excess charges.

If you are hiring a vehicle for more than a couple of days, a cheaper option is to take out independent travel insurance.  Most general travel insurance plans include hire car excess charges, although you will need to verify they will cover the full amount as they usually set a limit. In fact, you may already have travel insurance arranged for your trip, so why not take advantage of all its features, including coverage for hire car excess fees.


How to pay for toll roads

In Melbourne there are several toll roads which you may use during your travels. Fortunately you shouldn’t have to worry about paying those tolls as vehicles hired through most hire car companies are registered with toll road operators.  This ensures you will be automatically billed for toll road usage.  This billing process will differ between hire care companies.

For Avis, Budget, Europcar and Thrifty, as well as incurring the actual cost of using a toll road, there is also a $3.30 daily service fee which is charged only on the days you use a toll road.

Redspot simply add a $1.43 fee to every toll charge you accumulate.  For a single trip in a day this is good value, but it can end up getting expensive if you make multiple toll road trips within a day. Note that when booking a vehicle, if you select the “top dog” all inclusive rate, then all toll road usage is covered an no additional cost.

Hertz operate quite differently and offer unlimited toll road usage with a fixed daily charge of $14.30 which applies to every day of rental period whether you use toll roads or not.  Alternatively, you can opt for an arrangement whereby you pay an upfront $16.50 administration fee and then you are automatically billed only for usage. This is recommended for longer term hiring or when you don’t expect to use toll roads every day.


Fuel options

When picking up the vehicle, it will have a full tank of fuel. Three options are usually available when returning the vehicle.

  1. Pay for a whole tank of fuel. This mean the hire car company assumes you will return the vehicle with an empty tank, so you will be charged for a full refueling, no matter how much is left. In reality, it is impossible to return a vehicle with not one drop of fuel left in it, so this can be an expensive option, particularly if you have a significant amount of fuel left in the vehicle, although usually the cost charged for a whole tank of petrol will be very competitive.
  2. Pay a “fill up” charge.  You can return the vehicle with any amount of fuel left in the tank, and you will only be charged to fill it up. While this may seem an attractive option, the cost per litre and fill up charge will be much more than what it would cost for you to buy fuel yourself.
  3. Return the vehicle with a full tank.  This is the cheapest option if you have the time, and if a petrol station is located not too far away from the car hire depot. That way you only pay for exactly the quantity of fuel you use.

Are you guaranteed to get the car you booked?

When looking at types of cars offered by the rental companies, they will tend to classify cars by their size, style, number of seats and luggage capacity by using terms such as “compact”, “intermediate”, “standard” or “full size”.  They usually provide an illustration of an example car that fits that size.

It is important to note the clause that says “or similar”. Car hire depots usually have various models within each category, so depending on availability, you can’t be guaranteed to get exactly the model advertised.  If you do have a specific preference for a model or a vehicle colour, make the hire car company aware of that at the time of booking and they may be able to arrange it when you pick it up.

There are some vehicle models which you can be guaranteed to get when booking, but these are usually if you hire prestige or sports vehicles.

End of freeway destinations from Melbourne

Map of Victoria
Driving from Melbourne to the end of its freeways in regional Victoria

If you’re in Melbourne, you may decide that for a hassle-free and non-stop drive into regional Victoria for a day out or extended stay, you’d like to travel to the end of one of the city’s several freeways.  Let’s see where you can go.


M1 – MONASH FREEWAY / PRINCES FREEWAYto YARRAGON

Follow the Monash Freeway through Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs, then eastwards from Berwick towards Gippsland where it changes its name to the Princes Freeway.  Exercise caution when driving along the section between Nar Nar Goon and Longwarry North – the freeway drops to a lower standard and includes several busy level road crossings, but you won’t have to stop at those.  Eastwards from Longwarry North, the freeway returns to a high standard again, and the speed limit rises to 110 km/h.

If you’re hungry along the way or need fuel, service centres with direct access to both sides of the freeway are located at Officer and Longwarry North.

Yarragon
Yarragon – a tourist village located 116 kilometres from Melbourne

The freeway ends at the charming town of Yarragon where you’ll stop at your first set of traffic lights since leaving Melbourne. This tourist village features an attractive strip of shops which overlook an extensive garden with manicured lawns, colourful flowers, a rotunda and lots of seating. Browse through antique and craft shops, drop into the Town & Country Gallery, or treat yourself to some refreshments or a meal at the local hotel or one of Yarragon’s cafes or restaurants. Yarragon is set against the backdrop of the Strzelecki Ranges, so you can take a scenic drive southwards from the town up into the hills.


M11 – PENINSULA LINK / MORNINGTON PENINSULA FREEWAYto ROSEBUD

Depending where you are in Melbourne, you can access Peninsula Link and the Mornington Peninsula Freeway by starting off on either the Monash or Eastern Freeways, then using EastLink (a toll road) to reach the start of Peninsula Link at Seaford.

The high-standard Peninsula Link and Mornington Peninsula Freeway heads inland through the rolling countryside of the Mornington Peninsula, squeezes between the towering peak of Arthurs Seat and the beach-side suburb of Dromana, then arrives at the Jetty Road roundabout in the residential area of Rosebud.  Head northwards along Jetty Road for just over one kilometre and you’ll reach the commercial centre of Rosebud, which is separated from the beach by a bushy foreshore.

Rosebud
The beachside town of Rosebud – 73 kilometres from Melbourne

Rosebud is one of the largest centres on the Mornington Peninsula, with an extensive array of shops fronting Point Nepean Road, the Rosebud Plaza Shopping Centre and several major supermarkets. One of Rosebud’s interesting features is the extensive foreshore reserve which acts as a thick buffer along the beach. This reserve is home to picnic areas, community facilities and designated camping areas in some of the bushy sections. Rosebud is excellent for swimming with the calm and shallow waters of the bay making it ideal for children and families. For surfers, the ocean beaches fronting Bass Strait on the other side of the Mornington Peninsula, such as Gunnamatta and St Andrews, are a short drive away.


M1 – WEST GATE FREEWAY / PRINCES FREEWAYto GEELONG

Head westwards along the West Gate Freeway, crossing the iconic West Gate Bridge which spans the Yarra River and surrounding industrial areas.  The road then becomes known as the Princes Freeway as it heads south-west towards Geelong.

Service centres are located on both sides of the freeway between Little River and Avalon Airport, providing a convenient location for topping up with fuel or grabbing a coffee to keep you going.

The Princes Freeway skirts around the edge of Geelong’s sprawling suburbs and reverts to standard highway conditions in Geelong’s outer south-western suburb of Waurn Ponds, with several freeway exits providing access to Victoria’s second largest city.

Geelong
Geelong – the city on the bay, 75 kilometres from Melbourne

The city centre of Geelong fronts the waters of Corio Bay where there is an attractive waterfront precinct, a sandy beach, safe swimming enclosure and plenty of boating activity. Attractions galore can be found within Geelong including the National Wool Museum, Geelong Performing Arts Centre, several galleries, botanic gardens and the beautiful parkland along the Barwon River. Shopaholics will be right at home in Geelong, with its extensive collection of retail stores on the streets of the city centre, plus a selection of undercover shopping centres. Further afield, Geelong is the gateway to the emerging Bellarine Peninsula and of course Victoria’s internationally famous coastal drive, the Great Ocean Road.


M8 – WESTERN FREEWAYto BALLARAT

Access to the start of the Western Freeway is via the West Gate Freeway (M1) and/or the Western Ring Road (M80).  The high-standard roadway heads through Melbourne’s western suburbs on its journey westwards. Take care when driving on the section between Rockbank and Melton as there are several local roads which have direct level crossing junctions with the freeway. You’ll travel through the scenic valleys and farmland surrounding Bacchus Marsh, then on the eastern outskirts of Ballarat, the freeway standard drops again at Warrenheip with several local road crossings near a group of service stations.

The Western Freeway skirts around to the north of Ballarat, and there are several freeway exists which lead into the city centre and suburbs. The freeway ends to the west of Ballarat and becomes the Western Highway.

Ballarat
Ballarat, the city of gold, 113 kilometres from Melbourne

Ballarat is a city of grand architecture and many attractions due to its rich gold mining heritage back in those “gold rush” days of the 1850s. Re-live those days by visiting Sovereign Hill – a recreated gold township with activities for everyone of all ages. Visit the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka which commemorates the miners’ rebellion which is regarded as the birth of democracy is Australia. Other attractions include the Ballarat Aviation Museum, Bird World, the Ballarat Wildlife Park, Kryal Castle and Her Majesty’s – one of Australia’s historic theatres. There’s plenty of shopping in Ballarat, and if you want some time out, head to the beautiful botanic gardens and the parkland which surrounds Lake Wendouree.


M79 – CALDER FREEWAYto BENDIGO

The Calder Freeway commences in Melbourne’s northern suburb of Essendon, and drivers can enter it either via the CityLink section of the Tullamarine Freeway (a toll road) or the Western Ring Road (M80).  As the freeway reaches Melbourne’s outskirts, take care around the Calder Park area as there are several level road crossings which intersect the freeway.

The Calder Freeway heads north-west from Melbourne and crosses the Great Dividing Range at Macedon.  It doesn’t quite make it to Bendigo, dropping down to highway standard north of Harcourt, however it’s still a non-stop journey along the Calder Highway through the Greater Bendigo National Park and to Bendigo’s far southern suburb of Kangaroo Flat where you’ll stop at your first traffic light since Melbourne.

Bendigo
Bendigo, the jewel in Victoria’s crown – 148 kilometres from Melbourne

Bendigo, like Ballarat, is a city of grand architecture and wealth thanks to its rich gold mining history.  Bendigo and its suburbs are ringed on most sides by bushland, creating the impression of a city within a forest.  Within this city you can go underground into a real mine at the Central Deborah Gold Mine, take a trip through the city on its famous “talking tram”, get hands-on at the Discovery & Technology Centre and connect with the heritage of Bendigo’s Chinese people at the Golden Dragon Museum. Beautiful gardens are a feature of Bendigo and highlights including Rosalind Park with its lookout tower, Lake Weeroona and the White Hills Botanical Gardens.


M39 – GOULBURN VALLEY FREEWAYto SHEPPARTON

The Goulburn Valley Freeway starts 100 kilometres north of Melbourne, just outside of Seymour. Access from Melbourne is via the CityLink section of the Tullamarine Freeway (a toll road) and/or the Western Ring Road (M80), then head north along the Hume Freeway (M31) until you reach the exit to the Goulburn Valley Freeway.

The Goulburn Valley Freeway continues its journey northwards, roughly following the Goulburn River and drops down to highway standard on the southern outskirts of Shepparton as it makes its way into the city centre.

Shepparton
Shepparton, in the heart of Victoria’s prime fruit-growing district – 176 kilometres from Melbourne.

Shepparton is located within one of Victoria’s richest fruit-growing districts and is home to SPC Ardmona which has a factory direct sales outlet which is open to the public.  Shepparton has a strong cultural background and the city is home to museums, galleries and festivals.  There’s an extensive shopping precinct in Shepparton with its heart being the Maude Street Mall. If you’ve got kids, take them to Kids Town – one of Australia’s best community playgrounds. Natural attractions in Shepparton include Victoria Park Lake, on the highway just south of the city centre, the Goulburn River and the reserves and forests which line this iconic waterway.


What about the Hume Freeway (M31), you may ask? This freeway-standard roadway continues non-stop from Melbourne’s northern suburbs and across the Murray River into the neighbouring state of New South Wales, thus there is no end point for this freeway in Victoria. When the Holbrook bypass opens later in 2013, you’ll be able to drive from Melbourne to Sydney without stopping, although you should stop regularly for rest breaks of course.