Know your rights
Under the Consumer Guarantees Act any car you rent in New Zealand must be of acceptable quality. It needs to be safe and roadworthy, clean, tidy, reasonably fit for its purpose and free from defects, unless you're aware of minor defects that don’t bother you.
The vehicle must also match the model you booked and be fit for any purpose specified by you or the rental company.
If a particular feature of the car is important to you but isn't specified, mention this when you book, for example, fuel-efficient or with a large boot for luggage.
Otherwise, it may be harder to turn down a bigger car if the small one isn't available. If, however, the company advertised the car you booked as being fuel-efficient, or a company representative told you it was, any replacement car needs to meet this requirement.
Most importantly, your consumer guarantees can’t be reduced by a car hire company, even if it tries to do this by agreement or through terms in a contract.
Also, under the Fair Trading Act, car rental agencies can't make any false or misleading representations about the car, price, or your level of cover and liability. Businesses also shouldn't use unfair contract terms – see Contracts and sales agreements for more information. See Misleading prices or advertising for more information about your rights with untrue statements.
If your rental car breaks down or is not working properly, contact the rental car company immediately. Under the Consumer Guarantees Act, you need to let the company sort out the problem for you. However, if they refuse, get it sorted yourself and send the bill to the company.
See Faulty and unsafe products for more information.
If you have mechanical troubles with your rental car, any replacement car provided should be the same model, or an upgrade if you agree.
Damage to a rental car
Under most rental vehicle contracts, you may be charged for damage to a vehicle during the rental period. You may dispute this, for example a third party was at fault or the amount you are being charged for repairing the damage is excessive.
Nearly all rental car contracts are paid for by credit card. If extra charges are placed on your card without you being given the chance to dispute them, or if the maximum damage liability is charged without a repair quote, you can try quickly seeking a chargeback through your credit card company. Chargeback is a process where the credit card company may refund your money.
A term in the car hire company's contract allowing such practices is likely to be deemed unfair according to the Commerce Commission’s Unfair Contract Terms Guidelines(external link) .
If the rental company accuses you of damage that you don't think you have caused, make sure they know you are disputing the charge. You may need to apply to the Disputes Tribunal if the money has been deducted from your credit card and you can’t get a chargeback.
Waiver or excess damage insurance
This provides extra cover for roof and underbody damage, single-vehicle accidents, windscreen damage, careless driving, vandalism and hailstorms.
You may find it's not worth taking out the company's excess reduction cover for example, if you can get cheaper cover through your own insurer, or through an Association such as AA, or travel insurance.
If you do choose the rental agency's liability reduction, the agency needs to be clear about what is and isn't included. It can't mislead you into thinking that extra cover products provide greater protection from liability than is actually the case. Also important details must not be hidden in the fine print.
Small passenger services
Small passenger services (SPS) include taxis, shuttles, dial a driver, private-hire vehicles and app-based services like Uber. Anyone who drives for a SPS (with a maximum of 12 seats, including the driver) for hire or reward needs to have a current Passenger (P) endorsement on their driver's licence from the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA), except for exempt services:
Volunteer drivers and exempt services(external link) — NZTA
The NZTA has certain requirements that must be met before a P endorsement is granted including:
- Meets mandatory background checks - 'fit and proper person' checks.
- Has held a full New Zealand Class 1 driver licence for at least two years.
- Passes medical checks.
- Assessment for a range of other risk factors.
Visit the NZTA's website to find out more about:
Using a small passenger service
Taxi drivers and drivers of all SPS vehicles are regulated by the NZTA and must:
- have a small passenger service licence, or drive on behalf of someone that does
- Have a current P endorsement on their licence
- Drive a vehicle that has a current certificate of fitness
- Adhere to work time and logbook requirements
- Take the most advantageous route for the passenger
- Agree the scale or basis of the fare (including any extra charges and GST if charged) at the start of the trip and ask for payment of no more than that
- Be able to issue a receipt if requested – either paper or electronic.
Taxis and other SPS drivers should always take you to your destination using the shortest or most advantageous route. Sometimes they will take a different route because they have information about traffic or road works.
Taxis are not required to display a fare schedule but many do. However, drivers must agree the scale or basis of the fare before the trip.
The driver must accept the first request for hire unless there is a lawful reason to refuse, or if the service the driver works for only provides services to registered passengers.
If you need to change or cancel your booking
Most rental car providers charge a cancellation fee if you need to cancel your rental car booking close to the time you were due to pick the car up. The amount of notice you need to give will depend on what they state in their terms and conditions.
If the rental agency cancels your booking or does not have the car you booked available
The vehicle must match the model you booked and be fit for any purpose specified by you or the rental company. If they do not have the car you booked available, they can offer you another car that meets your specifications.
If they do not have any cars available despite you booking in advance, cancel contract, receive refund and compensation for any loss, unless the lack of vehicles was due to an event outside their control.