If you’ve ever rented a car, you know that the first experience is pretty overwhelming. There are so many different companies and websites to choose from. The policies and fine print seem endless and impossible to understand. And there are so many ways to incur hefty unintentional fees.
But if you know exactly what you need to rent a car, you’ll feel more confident when you head to the rental desk and pick up your keys. Here, we answer the question: “What all do I need to rent a car?”
First and foremost, when you rent a car in the United States, you will need to present an updated state-issued driver’s license. No expired licenses will work here. If you’re traveling abroad, your U.S. driver’s license will likely pass, but you should check with the rental company beforehand. You may also need your passport or even an international driver’s license in some countries.
If you have a secondary driver on your contract (be careful about the extra fees on this one!), they will also need to provide their driver’s license.
Do you need a credit card to rent a car? The short answer is yes. When it comes time to reserve or pay for the rental car, beware. You likely won’t be able to pay in cash or even with a debit card. And if you can, you may have to fork over a hefty deposit or go through a credit screening to verify you can cover the costs.
Rental companies commonly require you to book the car with a credit card. They will put a temporary hold on your credit card and release the hold when you return the car. It’s all about mitigating risk and protecting the vehicle in case of damage. Thus, when you do book with a credit card, you’ll need to make sure you have enough credit. Check with the rental company to see how much they charge before you book.
The name on the credit card should match the name on your driver’s license. Typically, just one driver is responsible for the credit card. If you have an additional driver on the contract (watch for additional driver fees!), they won’t need to present a credit card.
Car insurance is a must when it comes to renting a car. The rental agency will offer you the choice of rental insurance when you book or when you pick up the vehicle. It’s optional and pricey, but if you don’t opt in, you’re putting you (and your bank account) at risk.
There are, however, alternatives. Your own auto insurance may include rental insurance. Or your credit card could offer rental insurance as well. You can also venture into buying insurance through a separate agency, which can be cheaper. Do you research to find the best alternatives.
Some rental car agencies charge an extra young driver fee for drivers under 25 or 21. Essentially, these companies are trying to protect themselves against inexperienced drivers who could be more likely to have an accident. These fees can be hefty, so make sure you’ve got a good understanding of the policy and pricing before renting a car.
Rental agencies want to know when you’re planning to pick up the vehicle so they can have the car ready at the right time. If you’re renting from an airport, they may also ask for your flight itinerary to track the flights for delays. This document can actually be to your advantage: if your flight lands late and the company has the information, you shouldn’t get charged any late pick-up fees.
When you go to pick up the car, you’ll want to bring your confirmation number. Whether it's printed or on your phone, this will make the process quicker and easier for the agent, and ultimately get you on the road faster. It also serves as a backup in case they can’t find your booking information.
Okay, so maybe you’re not a detailed person. But when it comes to renting a car, there are so many places where things can go wrong. Muster your internal detail-oriented self and do a thorough lookover of the car before driving off the lot, noting any nicks and dents. This will keep you from having to pay for damages you didn’t incur.
To secure a good price and avoid hidden fees, your best bet is an email or call to the rental car agency to go through the contract. That way, you won’t be hit with any unwanted surprises.
Renting a car for the first time is definitely a daunting task. Which is why borrowing a car is honestly just way easier. Try Avail’s car sharing service and you’ll avoid all the usual rental headaches. You can pay with a debit or credit card and you’ll get coverage with Allstate. You won’t get charged extra for being under 25 and you can add a second driver for free. You’ll just get honest, affordable prices with no surprises at checkout.
The next time you ask, “What information do you need to rent a car?” borrow one with Avail instead.
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