Car rental rates are generally based on a flat daily rate including 150 kilometers. The mileage can add up, so you're better off getting an unlimited kilometer rate (often with a two-day minimum rental). Many of the smaller car rental agencies not associated with the international chains will give you a large discount on their published rates if you take the car for a week or more. Bargaining may be possible, but hang onto all the paperwork until you get home, because cases of credit card fraud have occurred here. Most companies will allow you to drop the car off at La Tontouta Airport at no additional charge.
Full collision insurance is extra, although the unlimited km rates usually include it. When checking the car rental insurance, ask how much the "franchise" is, as that's the deductible amount you'll have to pay if you're found to be at fault, insurance or no insurance. Often it's over US$1,000. Any driver's license will do, but some companies will only rent to those 25 and older. To rent a scooter, a regular drivers license is all you need, but the provided helmet must be worn. Of course, gasoline is extra and in remote areas tank up every chance you get. Gasoline is exactly the same price everywhere on Grande Terre.
Some companies don't want their cars taken out of South Province, and a clause in the rental contract may stipulate that the insurance will be void and the renter responsible for full damages and towing charges if the car is taken beyond Bourail. Riviére Bleue Provincial Park, roads south of Yaté, and all unpaved roads may also be banned. Chances are, the agency won't mention this to you, but it will be printed in the contract. Thus it's wise to read the contracts carefully when deciding whom to rent from, and make sure North Province is included in the insurance coverage if you intend to go there.
Compared to the other Pacific islands, the roads of New Caledonia are excellent and a joy to drive. Surprisingly, however, the signposting is often poor, and there's a general absence of picnic or rest areas along the highways and benches in the town parks (except occasionally in Nouméa). Driving is on the right, and the use of seat belts is compulsory. The speed limit is 50 kph in town, and up to 110 kph on the open road (beware of speed traps). If two cars meet at an unmarked town intersection, the car on the right has priority. Drive defensively as the fatal accident rate here is four times higher than in France and many local drivers don't even have valid licenses. In case of an accident, report to the nearest gendarmerie.
Take care when parking in the center of Nouméa, because you are required to purchase a ticket from an automatic machine on the corner, and this must be placed face up on the dash inside the car for inspection. This fee is payable weekdays 0800-1100 and 1300-1600, Saturday 0800-1000. There's plenty of free downtown parking in the lot on the west side of Baie de la Moselle, between the market and the American War Memorial. Parking at Anse Vata is usually also free. Elsewhere in the territory, you'll have no trouble finding free parking (except at Mont-Dore on the weekend).