Have you ever driven a 4WD at night, when touring? Pulling in to camp after dusk? Quick trip a K or two down the track for firewood, or leaving to get an early start perhaps?
How about being caught in the rain. Can you put your trip on hold until the rain clears, by staying in the one camp site indefinitely?
Yeah, thought as much. You’d be liable to lose thousands of dollars from your bond if reports about Australian 4WD Hire are true.

The operator of Australian 4WD Hire, based at Surfer’s Paradise but also advertising in most states and the NT, has been accused of ripping off tourists in an “unscrupulous, unfair, fraudulent” and “well-rehearsed” scam.
Reports from LNP member for Clayfield Tim Nicholls, who brought the matter up in parliament, said the scam involved charging the customer unreasonably high amounts when the vehicles broke down, and threatening with legal action if the customer didn’t pay up.
“[This was] affecting many Australians and foreign tourists as well as damaging Queensland’s and Australia’s reputation as a friendly, safe and honest destination for holidays,” Mr Nicholls said.
He described Australian 4WD Hire as carrying out “a relentless, systemic and well-rehearsed fraud” on 4WD vehicle hirers.

Customer Feedback

A bit of research shows it goes deeper than that. Reports on yelp.com.au and productreview.com.au show customers complaining that the hire company uses GPS data loggers to penalize speeding harsher than the police can even though no fine was given by the police, dictate speed limits lower than Australian road rules (60km/h max on unsealed roads), even use G-Force data as a reason to withhold bond. Want to write a negative review? Expect legal threats. Heck, we expect them for this post.

Hittheroad.rentals report having far more negative feedback about Australian 4WD Hire than any of the 300 other hire operators they list. Due to legal threats all reviewers took down their reviews.
TripAdvisor makes for interesting reading, though there is a large proportion of removed posts too.

Now the reports nearly all say the cars are well maintained and being plain white with a simple graphic on the door is far more tasteful than a Wicked camper, but gets expensive if you aren’t ludicrously careful! Not many rental mobs allow their 4WDs to be taken off-road (albeit within strict limitations) so that’s a tick for them too.

What’s that joke: The only thing faster than a company car is a hire car? It is understandable that a company with a fleet of modern well presented and expensive 4WDs would try and limit the damage caused to their vehicles-the next customer doesn’t want to hire a car that you’ve rally driven to near destruction. Tourists are hardly renowned for careful driving…

Creek crossings are fun and all, but not if it costs you your 4WD Hire bond
Creek crossings are fun and all, but not if it costs you your 4WD Hire bond. Photo from Australian 4WD Hire’s website

Is it a case of ‘read and understand the Terms & Conditions’ or are hire companies too restrictive or greedy?
In the case of Australian 4WD Hire, the T&C form lists “operating the Vehicle in any body of water, including but not limited to creeks, rivers and the ocean” as prohibited operation, yet the briefing form states “Do not submerse in water any Vehicle higher than the lowest point of driver door”, leaving it open to misunderstanding. Check out their customer’s gallery, and we’ve picked a few to share here, of their vehicles obviously in the drink.

Customer photo on Australian 4WD Hire's website shows a Prado on Fraser Island very wet
Customer photo on Australian 4WD Hire’s website shows a Prado on Fraser Island very wet

Apollo is another 4WD Hire company, if you are in the market to hire and have an hour or two to waste, check out this thread!

On the other hand, there’s No Limits 4X4 Hire who actively promote trips over harsh off road terrain! Check out this video on facebook!

I guess we owners of 4X4s take it for granted the freedom available to us, but for many wishing to join in on the adventures if only occasionally it is expensive and fraught with high unexpected costs.

Have you had a good or bad experience with this or another 4WD rental company? Do you think it ridiculous or justified to charge customers for speeding or other misdemeanors? Tell us in the comments below!