Car Rentals in the USA
When you travel to the United States, you'll most likely want a car to get around. Public transport is always an option if you have the time, finances, and travel flexibility necessary to use it.
Otherwise, renting a car is your best option. With a rental car you have the freedom to come and go as you please and don't have to spend extra money on taxis, buses, and/or train rides.
For convenience, some travel booking websites offer car rental packages with your flight and/or hotel stay. If you're booking a car rental separately, make sure that you do it in advance. That way you'll be guaranteed transportation upon arrival, sometimes even at a lower rate.
Keep in mind that there are certain requirements you need to meet if you want to rent a car in the United States.
U.S. Car Rental Requirements
Most car rental companies will only consider renting out to foreign travelers if you:
- Hold a valid driver's license in your home country.
- Have an international driver's permit (IDP).
- Meet specific age requirements.
- Age requirements vary by company, but note that teens are prohibited from renting cars in the United States.
Most rental companies offer liability insurance (also called collision damage waivers and loss damage waivers). It's recommended that you at least pay for the minimum amount of insurance offered, since you never know what can happen on the road.
By paying for some sort of liability coverage, you can drive with a little more peace of mind. That way if you get into an accident, the fees you'd usually have to pay in repairs will either be reduced or omitted altogether.
You can also try speaking with your personal insurance provider in your home country to see if they provide traveler's auto insurance.
One aspect of renting a car that may not even have crossed your mind is your gasoline budget. When you pick up the car, make sure that the tank is already full. Upon return, you will need to refuel to the amount that was in the car when you initially received it.
Your options for refueling the rental typically include:
- Gassing it up yourself.
- Prepaying the rental company for a full tank of gas.
- Paying the rental company for the gallons of gas that you used.
- Beware: Rental companies can sometimes charge a lot more than standard gas prices.
Types of U.S. Rental Cars
The large rental companies in the United States have a variety of cars for you to choose from, including:
- Compact cars.
- Mini vans.
- Large vans.
There are a few factors you should consider when figuring out which kind of vehicle to rent. Some things to think about include:
- How many people are in your group.
- How much luggage you have with you.
- The amount of driving you plan on doing.
- Are you spending most of your time on foot or in specific destinations that are relatively close together? Or are you planning an extensive road trip consisting of many hours spent in the car?
- The type of weather and terrain you'll be driving in.
- Downtown city driving is much different than traveling on winding mountain roads... and similarly, driving through a desert is far different than icy winter weather.
Some cars will also have the option for GPS at a slightly higher rate. This can be very useful if you're unfamiliar with the city or state you'll be in.
Rental Car Pricing in the U.S.
The price of renting a car varies from state to state. Generally, you have the option of paying either a daily or weekly rate:
- If you'll be in the United States for a while, weekly rates are usually a more economical option.
- If you're only staying for a few days, you might consider going with daily rates.
The majority of rental car companies require that you pay with a credit card. When you pick up your rental, the amount that you owe is taken out of your account. Make sure that you plan for this so that you aren't left without money to spend during your travels.
Finally, depending on when you decide to rent, the prices may be higher. For example, you might pay more if you rent during:
- A weekend.
- A holiday.
- A special event in that city.
With the right wheels to get you where you need to go, your trip around the United States should be a breeze!