Which rental car in South Africa & Tips to hire a cheap car

Which car to rent in South Africa + Tips to find a cheap car

Are you going to make a road trip through South Africa just like us? Then you will need a rental car. But which one? What are the roads in South Africa like? Do you need a 4×4 SUV or will a regular sedan be sufficient? We drove from Johannesburg to Cape Town (well not entirely, we also took the plane) and have gained some practical knowledge with various rental cars. I would like to share my car rental tips with you on how to rent a good and affordable car in beautiful South Africa!

What are the roads in South Africa like?

roads south africa experience

Driving on the left side of the road

Oooooo …. beware of Potholes! You will definitely experience them in South Africa: Potholes, huge craters in the road. But in general the roads are surprisingly good! The transport roads to the larger cities and tourist villages are mostly okay. With the emphasis on mostly. On the way from Johannesburg to Graskop we drove on a dreadful road for at least an hour with huge potholes, dips and rises.

However, the roads to the accommodations are often more challenging. If you are in a nature park such as the Greater Kruger Park or the Mlilwane Wildlife Sanctuary (Swaziland) then the roads are unpaved with lots of stones, dips, rises, etc. That is less pleasant for your tires and the bottom of your car.

Experience driving south africa

Dirt Road in the Greater Kruger Park

What are the roads in the Kruger Park like?

In the Kruger Park you will find an acceptable paved road as well as dirt roads. The paved road is fine and the dirt roads have a lot of ‘ridges’ due to the large jeeps that drive over them daily. We had the feeling that our car almost fell apart as it was vibrating and shaking – even with an SUV!

Need suv kruger park

Dirt road with obstacle in the Kruger Park!

Do you need a SUV, 4×4 (4wd) or regular sedan?

We opted for an SUV for the first part of our car trip, so a higher car. Rentalcars.com is a great comparison site.

Car hire south africa

Our rental car for the Kruger Park, an SUV Ford Eco Sport

You will be spending up to 8 or 10 hours a day in your car!

In the first part of our tour we visited the Kruger Park, the Panorama Route, Swaziland and St. Lucia. We were pleased with our choice for a higher car (SUV). Our Ford Eco Sport was an automatic, but not a 4wd (4 wheel drive). In my opinion, a 4×4 car is not necessary. A higher car (SUV) such as the Eco Sport or the Toyota RAV4 is super nice and comfortable! Don’t forget that you will be spending a lot of time in the car in South Africa, so comfort is absolutely important.

Having a higher car has the following advantages over a regular sedan:

  • Better tires (larger and therefore can handle more)
  • The bottom of your car is less likely to hit the ground on bumpy roads
  • Better view because you will be seated higher. Animals often lie in the tall grass, so good visibility is great.
  • You will feel safer and more protected
  • More comfort and space
  • Automatic: no worries and confusion while switching gears, since you are seated on the right

cheap car rental suv

An SUV has better tires! You really don’t want a flat tire while driving through the Kruger Park!

Our SUV has taken us safely everywhere. Now and then it lacked some power on the hills, but overall it was really a laid back car!

In St. Lucia we switched our SUV for a smaller car. We did this to save on costs … From St. Lucia we drove to Drakensbergen and to Durban. Overall the roads were acceptable, except for a number of high bumps and potholes!

cheap rental car south africa

Our downgrade rental car!

We received a Volkswagen Polo (the same category as the Ford Fiesta). Well that took some time getting used to! We now had to switch gears ourselves and the gear shift is on your left. When we crossed a bump a little too fast, the bottom immediately hit the road. Fortunately, we had no damage. One thing we knew for sure: if we would ever visit again, we would take a comfortable SUV during the entire vacation! You are spending so much time in the car, so I think it’s definitely worth the extra money.

In Cape Town we chose the smallest rental car. We got a Kia Picanto and it was fine for Cape Town!

Finding the most Affordable Rental Car

If you want to go really low-budget you can drive a car in South Africa for as little as $ 12 a day! I’m always trying to rent as cheaply as possible and I have therefore requested prices from the following comparators:

  • Rentalcars.com
  • Directly at the rental company, IN South Africa!!

Rentalcars.com has the cheapest cars. I always book my cars through them and their service is excellent. With most cars you will have unlimited mileage and you get transparency about what is and what is not insured.

Costs to take into account

In addition to renting the car you can expect more costs.

International Driving License

To rent a car in South Africa you will need an international driver’s license!


You can insure your car through Rentalcars. If you get a flat tire or other damage to the car, you will be fully insured. A disadvantage is that the insurance is quite pricey.

One-way Surcharge

If you are driving from Johannesburg to Durban or Cape Town, the rental company may charge a ‘one-way surcharge’. You pick up the car in one city and return it to the rental company in another city. We picked up our car in Johannesburg and returned it in St. Lucia. Some rental companies such as Budgetcars and Avis do not charge a one-way surcharge! At least not when we were visiting.

Crossing Border Permit

If you want to cross the border with your rental car, for example to Swaziland or Lesotho, you will need a crossing border permit. With some rental companies you get this for free. Some companies will make you pay around $ 28 to $ 40 for it! When picking up the rental car, always indicate that you want to cross a border. The rental company will then provide you with the correct documents!

Toll Roads and Fuel

The motorways in South Africa are often toll roads, but the prices are not that bad! You pay around $ 4,50 per toll road and be able to travel fast and smoothly from A to B. The gas price is around $ 1 per liter.

Hopefully you have benefited from my tips and experience to hire a cheap car in South Africa! If you have any questions, ask them below!

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