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Renting a Car in Penang

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When it comes to exploring Penang, there's no better way to do it than with your own set of wheels. But unless you are driving to Penang from another state, your only option is to rent a car. In this article, I want to discuss renting a car in Penang, and offer you some tips about how you could go about doing it. To prepare this article, I spoke to a representative from New Bob Rent-A-Car, one of the major licensed car rental agencies in Penang.

Most visitors to Penang pre-book their car before arrival. You can do that by contacting any of the major car-rental agencies by phone. I have their numbers right here, in alphabetical order:

Avis-Rent-A-Car: (04) 646 2410
Hertz-Rent-A-Car: (04) 263 5914
Mayflower Car Rental: (04) 262 8196
Kasina Baru: (04) 228 2641
National Car Rental: (04) 262 9204
New Bob Rent-A-Car: (04) 642 1111
Orix Car Rental: 1 800 88 1555
Syarikat Ruhanmas: (04) 881 1071

As with so many other things, it is now also possible to book your car online. If you use an online search engine like Rentalcars.com, you can search and compare prices from all the major car rental agencies and view at one go what they have to offer.

What to look for when renting a car

It is certainly safest to go with a licensed car rental agency. In Malaysia, they belong to CRAM, the Car Rental Association of Malaysia. You can view a list of CRAM members here. These are accredited by the Land Public Transport Commission (Suruhanjaya Pengangkutan Awam Darat, SPAD) with proper permits to offer car rental services to the public.

Car rental companies are supposed to use only commercial vehicles that have been inspected by the accredited vehicle inspection specialist, PUSPAKOM, once every 6 months, to receive the permit to offer the vehicle as a rented car. If an accident should occur, and if it should involve casualties or injuries to the hirer or passengers, there will be insurance coverage from the car rental company, particularly if it involves a large sum of money.

But how do we know whether the car offered to us has a permit? Cars that have been approved by PUSPAKOM will display a disc on the windshield. This is in addition to the road tax.

PUSPAKOM discPUSPAKOM disc
© Justin Goh

PUSPAKOM discPUSPAKOM disc above the road tax on a commercial vehicle
© Justin Goh

This safeguards you, and the renter, should you be involved in an accident resulting in disputes.

Where to rent a car in Penang

The majority of the licensed car rental agencies have a counter at the Penang International Airport. I wrote about this in my tips on arriving in Penang by plane. You can see a row of car rental counters on the Arrival Hall of the airport.

Car Rental Counters at the Penang International Airport (27 October, 2012)


Do note that the majority of the licensed car rental agencies will only release a car to you if they are able to block a deposit on your credit card. The majority are unwilling to accept cash deposits, so you would need to have a credit card on hand to book with most of them. This is understandable, as they are handing over an asset worth thousands of ringgit into your hands. Some of them will also offer various packages such as hotel-and-car, driver-and-car, and so on.

If you are arriving by ferry, train or bus, there aren't any car rental counters waiting for you, so you will have to either contact the car rental agencies directly, by the phone numbers provided above, or use Rentalcars.com to pre-book with them.

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