When you arrive to pick up your rental car, you’ll sign a contract at the counter. By signing, you’re agreeing to all kinds of terms and conditions. Find out the basics on what you’re signing up for, what to watch out for, and what you’re liable for if things go wrong.

The contract you sign before you get your rental car key is called a rental agreement. Every East Africa car hire company has their own version of this contract, and their specific terms and conditions will be unique. To be sure of what you’re signing up for, check the rental company’s terms and conditions online and read the rental agreement before you sign it. Don’t feel pressured to sign quickly before you’re confident about what you’re agreeing to.  

Here are the most common elements in car rental agreements 


Rental agreement number 

This is a unique number that identifies your rental. If you need to contact the car hire company during the rental or once you’ve dropped the car off, they’ll use this number to find your rental details.

Booking reference number 

If you’ve pre-booked your rental (perhaps through a booking site, such as KenyaCarRental.com), you might see the reference number of your booking from them as well as your booking number for the rental company you’re using.

Hirer’s details 

This is to identify who is renting the car. The main driver is the person who signs the rental agreement, and agrees to all its terms and conditions. The renter is the person who is legally responsible for the repair costs if the car gets damaged and anything that might happen to the car during the rental.

You’ll usually see:

  • The name of the main driver and any additional drivers
  • The main driver’s driving licence number
  • The main driver’s address – in case the rental company need to forward information to them after the rental
  • The main driver’s phone number and/or email address – in case they need to get in touch during or after your rental


When the rental starts/ends: dates and times 

Many people don’t realise that a rental car won’t wait for them if they’re late, even if they’ve paid up front. Also, if they drop off the car later than the time it’s booked for return, the rental company will charge a late fee.

Location address and phone number 

This is the address you can put in your GPS/sat nav so you don’t get lost when you return the car. If you have any questions during the rental, just give the counter staff a quick call.

Breakdown recovery and emergency contact numbers 

These are the numbers to call if anything goes wrong while you have the car. It’s worth taking a photograph of the numbers or tapping them into your phone so you always have them with you.


This makes it clear precisely what you are renting.

Car make, model and category

The car may not be the exact model you booked.

Fuel type 

Such as petrol or diesel. It is really worth being clear on which fuel the car takes, as insurance won’t cover you if you put in the wrong fuel. It can be expensive to put right.

Fuel level 

Check the fuel gauge is the same as what is written in the agreement. Some car hire companies will give you the car with a full tank, others will not.


When you arrive at the car, check the mileage is the same as what is written in the agreement. Some rentals have unlimited mileage, so it’s not an issue. Others have mileage limits, and the staff will check the mileage you’ve done at the end of your rental. They’ll charge you any extra miles you’ve done.


Fees to pay 

This should explain any fees, including those you’ve already paid if you pre-booked your car. It’s worth making sure there aren’t any outstanding charges you weren’t expecting.

Security deposit amount and how it’s paid 

The rental company will block a security deposit on your credit card.

It will also show you any prepayment if you’ve booked your rental.

Details of any extra charges

The rental company will set out fees due for any extra services, such as adding an additional driver or having a young driver, for example.

Fuel policy 

When you sign the rental agreement, you’re agreeing to the fuel policy too. The most common fuel policy is ‘Full to Full’ where you receive the car with a full tank and return it with a full tank.

Insurance and/or liability waiver details 

This will detail what you’re covered for, what the terms of the waivers are and what you’re responsible for.


The existing damage details are not always on the rental agreement. Sometimes, the damage is listed or shown on a separate document called a ‘check-out form’ that the staff will give you at pick-up.

If your rental car already has any scratches or bumps, they should be listed here. When you reach the car, do check the damage details to make sure there is no extra damage not recorded here. If there is, seek out a rental company agent and ask them to update the document before you drive away.


In the last section, you declare that you’ve read and agree with the information on the rental agreement. You also confirm that you’ve received the full Ts & Cs. You authorise the car hire company to take money from your credit/debit card if there is any problem with the car.

Lastly, you sign the rental agreement to record that you’ve read, understood and agreed to all the conditions of renting the car. The agreement will also explain the penalties you will face for breaching the conditions. Once you’ve signed the rental agreement, you’ve agreed to be liable for the car during your rental.