Jessica Sautter has a Bachelor’s Degree from Eastern Michigan University in Elementary Education with a Major in Reading and a Minor in Mathematics.

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Written by Jessica Sautter
Content Writer Jessica Sautter

Natasha McLachlan is a writer who currently lives in Southern California. She is an alumna of California College of the Arts, where she obtained her B.A. in Writing and Literature. Her current work revolves around auto insurance guides and informational articles. She truly enjoys helping others learn more about everyday, practical matters through her work.

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Reviewed by Natasha McLachlan
Content Writer Natasha McLachlan

UPDATED: Oct 1, 2020

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While you can get your U.S. driver’s license at an age as early as 16, you might have to wait for close to a decade to rent a car seamlessly. If you have never rented a car before, the entire experience might seem daunting.

Agency Handing Over the Car KeyThe combination of mileage policies, insurance options, and hidden surcharges could drive you to opt for train or air travel instead. While it is possible for young adults who are below 25 years to rent a car at specific rental agencies, most will rent to drivers who are above the 21-age bracket.

Some car rental agencies will even rent to younger drivers, but this comes with added restrictions and surcharges.

Why Is It Difficult To Rent A Car If You Are Below 25 Years?

Well, it all boils down to the statistics obtained. Drivers who are below 25 years have been found to easily get into accidents as compared to older drivers; which is according to the data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

After drivers attain 25 years, the crash rates are seen to reduce tremendously. Owing to this higher risk of accidents, rental agencies will often tack a “young renter” fee or even surcharge for those below 25 years.

How old do you have to be to rent a car?

From a more general perspective, however, drivers must have attained a minimum of 21 years to rent a vehicle. However, there are usually a few exceptions, and they depend on individual states. In New York and Michigan, for instance, the minimum age to rent a vehicle is 18 years, and this implies that surcharges are often higher.

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What Do You Need To Rent A Car?

1. Driver’s License

Female Driver Showing License

A state-issued driver’s license is mandatory for you to rent a car in the U.S. Besides ensuring that you are a legal driver, a driver’s license also serves as a proof of your age. While the common assumption is that you must be at least 25 years to seamlessly rent a car, the minimum allowable age is 21 years.

In most cases, however, the drivers who are aged between 21 and 24 years will have to incur a rental agency fee.

In some instances, you will need to provide a driver’s license for the same state as your rental location.

2. An Active Credit Card

Even when you have a driver’s license and car reservation in hand, you could be turned away if you do not have a credit card matching the name displayed on your driver’s license. A majority of rental agencies do not accept debit cards, even when they have credit card logos like MasterCard or Visa. An active credit card in the driver’s name is vital since these agencies put these cards on hold for purposes of insurance.

If you have a secondary driver who owns a credit card matching his driver’s license, you should have them as the primary driver to avoid this problem.

3. Car Insurance and Other Protection Products

In most cases, the car rental agency will provide auto insurance, which is not mandatory, but much encouraged if your homeowner’s or personal auto insurance policy does not provide coverage for rental cars. If you will be renting a car for business purposes, it is important to confirm with your employer before purchasing the optional coverage.

If you choose to opt out of insurance and are not covered by your employer’s or personal policy, you will be financially liable for damages to the rented car.

Typically, a rental company will require that any damage or repair payments be made upfront by the renter who will then try to recoup his losses from the insurance agency.

4. Personal Effects Coverage and Personal Accident Insurance

Personal accident insurance is usually offered at the time of rental for an extra daily charge. If accepted, the coverage contained in the policy gives the renter as well as his passengers with ambulance expense, unforeseen medical expenses, and accidental death benefits.

Personal effects coverage, on the other hand, insures all the personal effects of the vehicle renter, additional drivers, and an immediate family member of the renter and who is accompanying the renter. The benefits are usually payable in addition to other coverages that the passengers or renter might have.

Considerations and Tips

When it comes to renting a car, documentation is crucial, and every car rental company will have a policy or policies that are different from those of another agency.

Prior to booking a car rental, get in touch with the rental agency and ask for a list of all the essential documents. Additionally, it is important to note that rental companies will have hidden fees for out-of-state trips, secondary drivers, mileage coverages, GPS navigation systems, or an array of state surcharges.

You will need to be adept at all these aspects before putting your signature on the agreement form.