The first time I had to drive a rental car in South Africa, I drove from Hoedspruit through Swaziland and Lesotho, all the way to Bloemfontein. I clearly remember my sweaty hands and increased heart rate when I began my journey. I also remember that by the time I was in Nelspruit, it felt as if I had always driven in Africa, and a deep love for independent travel in Southern Africa had begun.
In South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho the roads are really easy and in most places well maintained. If you are one or two people you can easily get around in a normal sedan, and there are bigger cars available if you are a family or group of friends. In Namibia it is advisable to hire a sturdier vehicle with a bit more ground clearance, as almost half of all the roads are (well-maintained) gravel roads. In Botswana the main (tarred) roads can easily be driven with a rental car, but as soon as you head into the parks and reserves (Okavango Delta, Moremi and Savuti), you will need a 4x4 and preferably a guide who knows the area.
For those independent souls a rental car is by far the cheapest way of getting around, whereas flying or guided overland itineraries can become quite expensive if you are one or two people.
In the last 5 years I have put together nearly 300 different self-drive itineraries all over Southern Africa, and the people in the photographs are just a few examples of happy singles, couples, families and groups of friends who bumbled around on their own!