Wherever you hire your vehicle, you must read all the fine print of your hire agreement very carefully. The insurance and the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) clauses are worth studying particularly closely. These spell out the 'excess' that you will pay in the event of an accident. These CDW excesses vary widely, and often explain the difference between cheap rental deals and better but more costly options.
In the last decade, Namibia has proved to be a very bad country for accidents. The problem is that the gravel roads are too good. If they had lots of potholes, then people would go slowly. But instead they are smooth, even, and empty – tempting people to speed. This results in an enormous damage and write-off rate amongst the car hire fleets. One large company with 70 cars complained to me that clients had written off 10% of its fleet in the last month
Generally this isn't due to collisions, but to foreign drivers going too fast on gravel roads and losing control on a bend, or losing concentration and falling asleep on a long, straight, tar road. There is usually no other reason than carelessness and ignorance. This phenomenon affects 2WDs and 4WDs equally, and under some circumstances the latter can roll more easily because they have a higher centre of gravity.
Because of this, car hire companies have very high excesses (ie: the amounts that you pay if you have a major accident). A maximum 80% CDW is normal – which means that you will always pay 20% of the cost of any damage. The bill for a major accident in a small Group A or B would normally be £1,300/US$2,080.
However, beware: the fine print will often state that you will still pay for all of the damage if you have an accident due to negligence
, or where no other vehicles are involved and you are driving on a gravel road
Some companies will offset some of this risk for you for an additional cost – the extra charge of their Additional Collision Damage Waiver (ACDW). Even after you have paid that, many will still hold you liable for 20% of the cost of any damage which occurs on an untarred road – and all of the cost if the accident is caused by 'negligence'. In short: the Namibian companies simply can't get totally comprehensive cover for their rental cars.
The only way around this is the solution found by a UK company that specialises in fly-drive trips to Namibia: Sunvil Africa (London, tel: 020 8232 9777). They offer their travellers a full 100% CDW – with no excesses in the event of a major accident, even if it occurs on a gravel road with no other vehicle involved. They insure their vehicles in the UK, not in Namibia, hence they can get this full cover.
This also gives them the lowest rental rates around, whilst using the best car hire companies in Namibia. Sunvil Africa offer this to UK-based clients who book a whole trip with them: flights, car hire and accommodation. Their trips are flexible, good value, and well worth considering.