How to hire a car in America: We steer you through the options

How-To July 3, 2016

john

Having a car in the US helps, and we don’t just mean if you’re heading on a multi-state road trip either. The size of America and its states, cities, and towns should not be underestimated!

Obviously, there are places you shouldn’t bother – New York, San Francisco – but for every exception, there’s an Orlando where a car makes perfect sense.

If you’re confident driving abroad and decide you will indeed need a vehicle, then follow this guide to save some cash monies.

Where to hire

The big car hire companies have lots of locations at airports, within cities and at hotels, so you won’t struggle to find options.

If it’s your first time driving in the US, or you’re not familiar with the area, we’d recommend picking a car up at the airport rather than the city centre – it’s a good way to get into your driving groove away from congested city centre traffic. This might carry some extra ‘airport fees’ but they’re not excessive and we’d say worth it for first timers in particular.

As in Europe, if you’re not dropping off the car in the same place you started, you’ll be charged a “drop-off fee”. Consider this when pricing things up.

There are also companies that will drive the car to your location and drop it off to you, but it’s an expensive luxury.

 

Car hire in the US

LAX – no shortage of cars to hire

 

What will you need to rent a car?

A full UK or EU driving license and a copy of your passport. You don’t need your paper license anymore. Many places also ask for a credit card to guarantee the booking and won’t accept debit or prepaid cards, so make sure you bring one along even if just for this.

 

UK driving licence for renting a card in the US

A paper licence is no longer needed

Also most rental companies won’t rent a car to anyone under 25. Some will but you’ll be charged an extra fee.

 

Prices of car rental

Obviously, prices depend on how long you’re renting for, where you’re renting it from and which model you go for. Expect to pay a little less in popular spots like California where competition drives the cost down, and more at peak times or during a big event.

Generally, prices start from around £20 a day – comparing rates and booking online in advance will help keep costs down.

And swot up on whether you need any extra insurance. Consider your options here well before you get to the car-hire counter because it’s complicated and can be expensive.Check that your credit card and travel insurance doesn’t already cover you for before forking out. If you do need extra cover, pre-pay if possible. It’s invariably more expensive at the counter.

A GPS of some sort is almost essential to get around stress-free.If you’ve got a good international phone deal then Google maps works great. Otherwise, most hire firms rent them for about $10 a day. If you are using it for a while it’s worth looking into buying one online and bringing it along with you.

If you’ve got a good international phone deal then Google maps works great. Otherwise, most hire firms rent them for about $10 a day. If you are using it for a while it’s worth looking into buying one online and bringing it along with you.

Little tip – don’t solely rely on a GPS especially in rural areas. It’s not unheard of for people driving into lakes following them blindly! Take a map as a backup as they can be unreliable outside of the cities.

GPS fail on US car hire trip

Don’t follow your GPS blindly. Things can go wrong!

Automatic is normal

For Americans, driving a manual (or ‘driving stick’) is unusual. Luckily it doesn’t take long to get to grips with one. Just remember to press the brake before moving from neutral… and drive on the right!

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