On Phuket Island, automobile and motorbike rental is a fairly big business. There are more than a few reasons for this. For one thing, there is a severe lack of public transportation on Phuket Island, and that is just the way that the powers that be want it.
For another thing, companies and individuals that rent automobiles and motorbikes market their products relentlessly. There are good profits in rental, some of which can involve some highly unethical practices. Renting an automobile or a motorbike, however, does make sense since on an island like Phuket, which is large enough, and has enough man-made and natural variety, to make rental worthwhile.
There are a large number of companies – and shops located in stores along the main roads – doing rental so it is not hard to locate a place to rent an automobile or motorbike. There are some basic facts all considering automobile or motorbike rental should be aware of.
First, the weather makes driving any motor vehcile on Phuket Island dangerous, at least during rainy season. There are a very large number of accidents on Phuket Island and many of these are related to the weather.
Second, Thai traffic laws are rather different from those of other countries. Lots of drivers in Thailand just disregard the laws when it is convenient to do so. Therefore, driving is very confusing, and this makes driving dangerous.
Third, in the event of an accident, a foreigner will almost always be held responsible and in violation of the law, whatever the law is and who or whatever was really to blame.
Fourth, Thai automobile insurance is difficult to understand and it frequently is not written in English. If it is written in English, then the Thai version would always prevail in a legal proceeding.
If one does a rental from an internationally recognized company such as Hertz or Avis, one will be okay. If one does a rental from a Thai company, one might or might or might not be okay depending upon how ethcial the company is.
Fifth, there is no insurance on motorbike rentals. A motorbike driver is responsible for all damages and injuries resulting from an accident. They are also responsible for any damage for any reason to the motorbike. Renters are responsible for the entire cost of stolen motorbikes, and a surprisingly large number of them are stolen.
Sixth, there are frequently disagreements about how much and which damages were caused by the renter, which were already present, and which are the result of normal wear and tear. Rental businesses tend to view any damage to vehicles as the fault of the customer.
If one decides that they want to rent a motor vechicle, it is not difficult to do so. All that is required - besides money and a credit card to use as deposit – is a Thai or international driving license. Sometimes, the license from the travellers home country will be acceptable.
Sometimes, no license is asked for. It is probably better to avoid doing business with a company that does not ask for the legally required documents, unless one does not have them.
Concerning automobile rental prices, below are some automobile rental prices requested on two website. The first the site of a large Thai company that rents directly to tourists. The second is a hotel site connected to major Western renters. They can give a renter some idea about the prices requested.
For the first site, there is a low and high season price. The prices listed are for 24 hour rentals. Avaiable are the following vehicles:
The second site, connected with hotels and western companies, listed higher rentals, although they are discounted by the length of the rental: The prices here are daily and for 1-6 days.
Concerning the cost of renting motorbikes, below are some prices listed on three popular rental websites.
A second Thai motorbike rental company listed rates of 150 baht a day or 2,000 baht a month for 125 cc Kawasaki, Tiger, or Yamaha bikes.
A third company listed the following bikes as being available for 200 baht for 24 hours:: Honda Click, 110 cc, Yamaha Novo, 115 cc, and Suzuki Step, 125 cc.
Finding the right business to rent from is very important and very difficult, especially when it comes to motorbikes, which many of the more reputable companies prefer not to deal with.
If one rents from a company with offices at the airport or in a major hotel, such as Avis, Hertz, or Budget, or through a reference from a major hotel, one can be the most confident one is dealing with an honest and ethical organization… at least one can be confident that the insurance is as represented and one will be able to communicate with the sales and service personnel.
If one goes to an entirely local renter – one not affiliated with a Western company - one is less certain. The larger companies are probably the most reliable.
If one rents from a small concern that essentially lines up their vehicles on the street and waits for customers to come and get them, one is taking the greatest chance.
Many customers complain about a variety of problems in dealing with these businesses including total dishonesty - it has been said that some of them actually "steal" their vehicles while the renters sleep so they can charge renters full replacement prices.
Hopefully, if one is going to deal with a smaller, less well known provider, then one can get a good word-of-mouth recommendation beforehand.