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How to Rent a Car in the USA

married couple signing their car rental contract

Finally, you've booked your first vacation after five years. Congratulations! But you know you need to rent a car to fully enjoy your vacation. Here are some tips and tricks to help you rent a car with ease, so you'll have plenty of time to  celebrate your much-deserved break.

Book your rental car

happy couple successfully book a car rental

If there's one thing that can be super easy to do, it's booking a car rental. In fact, you don't even need to go to every single car rental company site on the web. Simply use our search form above to search for a car rental in the U.S. We deal with over 3,000 car rental depots throughout the USA, and have over 2,000 locations, so chances are you'll be able to pick up your car and drop it off wherever you like! Our easy-to-use comparison system will allow you to compare rates from major car rental companies, including Avis, Alamo, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz, Thrifty, and National. When you have found a car to suit your requirements, just fill in all your details to reserve it, and receive an instant confirmation email.

Pick up your car at the depot

You must have a valid driver's license to be able to rent a car in the US. If you will be driving during a visit to the United States, you need to verify that you can use your non-United States driver's license in the state or states in which you will need to drive. You are not required to have an international driver's license to drive in the USA as long as you have a valid driver's license from your home country. However, an international driver's license may be helpful when they could not recognize your license or it was written in another language. 

The minimum age requirement to rent a car in the United States is 25 years old. However, there are some companies that rents a car to under 25 as long as they pay the underage driver fee. For additional information, you may also want to read our car rental tips here.

Always plan ahead

If possible, try to avoid the “extras" such as baby/child seats, GPS, satellite radio, etc. as you will have to pay for it per day. The best thing to avoid needing most of these extras is by planning in advance. 

Beware of restrictions

A lot of rental car agencies put restrictions on driving out of state, crossing borders, or into another country. Some also restrict use of the car on unpaved roads. Usually, a rental car has a GPS tracking device, so, if you are thinking of breaking these rules - don't say you haven't been warmed. 

Inspect for damage

man looking for scratches on a car rental

Check the vehicle meticulously for pre-existing damage like scruffs or minor scratches before you drive it. Allot an extra time to inspect both the exterior and interior of the car. Snap some photos of any pre-existing damage you see using your smart phone. You don't want to pay for something that was already damaged. Never accept any rental car with major damage or at least inform the staff if there's slight damage that you see so you can ensure that everything is properly documented.

Fill the rental car with fuel

As a renter, you can choose to fuel up the car before returning it or pre-pay for fuel ahead of time. Check this agreement with your rental agency as every rental company has different policies on how full the tank needs to be. 

Be on time

Take note of the drop off date and time on your car rental agreement. If you are going to be late, it is a good idea to give the rental company a call and advise them what time exactly you will be arriving. Most suppliers allow a 29-minute grace period. So if the rental car is not back within the grace period, they can charge around 1/3 to 1/2 of the daily rate per hour. In addition, all insurances are charged at the full day rate, even if the vehicle is only 30 minutes past check out time. Be sure to clarify this with your rental company.

Keep your rental car clean

Check the car thoroughly. Remove all the trash, rubbish or dirt. An extra charged may be added if the staff has to do more than a quick vacuum. Also, gather and remove all of your belongings before you step out of the vehicle.

Do you have other helpful tips for rental car success?