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Minding your Ps & Qs – How to choose which car rental model in South Africa is right for YOU in 2024?

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Why is it that we like driving a nice car when we’re at home but when we go on holiday or vacation, we decide to opt for the cheapest possible rental car’? Into this, we try to cram a family of 4 with all their associated luggage and paraphernalia. We are happy with our decision for about 30 minutes until we get onto the highway and realise that the absolutely maximum speed that the car will go – now that it is laden with granny and grandpa, their ten bags and the kitchen sink – is 110km/ hour (67 miles/hour).

And that’s with your foot flat on the accelerator. Going downhill. Not fast.

Yes of course you don’t want to pay over the odds for your self-drive holiday. BUT you do want to enjoy it! And driving can be a joy. Especially in South Africa.

So here’s the low-down on minding your Ps and Qs. Which car rental model should you opt for?

Caveat: We generally use Europcar and Bidvest. The car group model codes differ slightly so we have used Bidvest codes for illustrative purposes but each car rental company has groups which match each other.

All the cars below have Radio/CD player, air-conditioning, power steering, air bags, central locking, ABS brakes so we don’t mention these again in the summary.

Questions to ask

  • Does it have enough space for all our luggage?
  • Does it have enough power for longer car journeys?
  • Is it the right transmission to suit me?

Group C or D: The reasonable option

group c car rental model

Key points

The Group C is Toyota Corolla or similar Manual Transmission. Generally 1.4 litre engine but some 1.6 litres engine on fleet as well. The Group D (Toyota Starlet or similar) has similar specs but with Automatic Tranmission

Most, but not all, of our sample self drive tours for couples in this website are based on a Group D (to keep it affordable) but we can easily swap to a larger car if you prefer. Our family self-drive itineraries do NOT use this car group, nor our sample tours heading into more remote areas. See Group R later.

Ideal for: This is great for European couples who prefer a manual transmission. Being small, it’s got good fuel efficiency, but not a huge amount of power. However most clients like the Automatic Transmission.

Not suitable for:
– More than just a couple
– People not used to a Manual transmission car
– Anyone who likes a large boot (or trunk) as some of the Group C & D models are hatchbacks

Note: The Group D is a similar specification BUT with an automatic transmission.

We usually book the Group D unless someone wants the manual transmission

Group F: Gets you from A to B faster

group e car rental model

Key points

This is now a Group F. Toyota Corolla Quest or similar. Automatic Transmission.  1.6 litre engine.

Ideal for: Couples who want a little more power and automatic transmission.

Not suitable for: A family of 4 as there’s not enough luggage space. Family with 1 child should be OK…

Group F: Hardly any more in money terms

group f car rental model

Handy Tip – The Group F (Audi A3 or similar) is virtually the same price and perfect for couples wanting a better car rental experience.

Group G: Great for families who like a saloon or two couples

group g car rental model

Key Points
Audi A4 or Honda Accord or similar. Automatic Transmission. 1.8 litre engine.

Ideal for: Families who like to drive a saloon car, as opposed to an SUV. Or perhaps two couples travelling together?

Not suitable for: Families of five adults or teenagers (or only for a few days)

Group K: Great if you’ve got baggage or a family

group k car rental model

Key points
Mitsubishi ASX or Nissan Qashqai or similar. Manual Transmission. 1.8 litre engine.

Ideal for: Families

Not suitable for: People who make a mess as the boots is large enough that you’ll need half an hour at the airport to sort it out

Group R: Great if you want higher clearance

Group R car rental model

Key Points
Nissan X-Trail or Honda CR-V or Similar. Manual Transmission.  1.8 to 2.0 litre engine.

Ideal for: Families especially if heading for the bush where you need higher clearance

Not suitable for: People on more of a budget?

Group I: Great if want a more rugged vehicle

Group I car rental model

Key Points
Toyota Fortuner 4×2 or Chev Captiva or Similar. Automatic Transmission. Up to 7 seats with no luggage and 5 seats with luggage. 2.0 litre engine.

Ideal for: Families especially if heading for the bush where you need higher clearance

Not suitable for: Very long car journeys as the ride is not as super smooth (Design is based on a Toyota Baakie)

Group N: People Carrier

Group N car rental model

Key Points
VW T5 or Similar. Manual Transmission. Up to 7 seats with no luggage and 5 seats with luggage. 1.9 litre engine. There is an automatic version as well (Group P)

Ideal for: Family parties with 5 adults or 6 people in total

Not suitable for: People who don’t like driving a larger vehicle (though its not that big)

Note: The Group P is very similar specification BUT with an automatic transmission.  

Our Tips

  • Our sample self-drive holidays are based on a Group C for couples to keep them affordable in price. We strongly recommend upgrading to a Group E (or F for same sort of price) for a better ride experience. It will cost you an extra $12-13 per day (£8-9)
  • Don’t go for the Group O if you are a family. You will regret it! We recommend a Group K for our family self drive holidays. An upgrade to a Group G (sedan), a Group N or a Group I is small change – an extra $6 per day (£4 or so)
  • Namibia – choose a rugged high clearance SUV vehicle such as at least a Group K. Ideally a Group N or I (Toyota Fortuner). You don’t really need a 4×4 unless you are travel during the summer rains when we do recommend the upgrade (though a 4×4 is quite a bit more.)


Why book car rental through a tour operator?

Tour operator car rental prices are very competitive versus the car rental company’s own websites.

Plus our rates include all sorts of things which are usually extras when you book online

  • Unlimited kilometres
  • Fully insured with NO EXCESS
  • 1st additional driver at no extra cost
  • No airport surcharges
  • Damage to Tyres, rims, hubcaps, windscreen & sandblasting damage
  • Water and undercarriage damage (unless you’ve been fording rivers!)

Plus GPS can be included for a nominal extra charge which is about 40% of what you’d pay to take it when you get to the car rental office.

Get the ball rolling to plan your dream self-drive trip

Not sure where to start? Tell us what you have in mind & we'll create a tailor-made itinerary for you

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Sonja Brand

Africa Travel Specialist

Hi I’m Sonja, I’m here to help you plan your ideal holiday experience

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