Underage Car RentingUnder Age Car Rental, Student Rental Cars
Legally, you're an adult, you're old enough to vote, pay taxes, and live on your own but unless you're 25 or over, you still can't rent a car from most rental agencies. Also, many companies deal only with persons who have held a driver's license for at least a year or two. For the most part, the larger car rental companies will not rent to persons under 25 unless they are part of a corporate or organization's discount program.
Drivers ages 18 to 21 are, for the most part, completely unable to rent from the big rental companies. The exception is rentals in New York and Michigan, where state laws require agencies to rent to drivers ages 18 and up. However, you'll pay dearly for the privilege. In other states, you may be able to find smaller or lesser-known agencies that rent to drivers under 21—for an extra charge of course.
Most rental locations operated by Advantage, Auto Europe, Dollar, Enterprise, National, and Thrifty will rent to drivers age 21 to 24; But will come with restrictions and other charges like daily surcharge and, in most cases, you won't be able to take advantage of promotions or discounts; you will be required to pay the highest base rate. Also, you may be unable to rent expensive car models, like convertibles and SUVs.
The individual locations of a car rental company set their own fees and policies for underage drivers. You might find that two locations owned by the same car rental agency and located in the same region have completely different age requirements and fee structures. Sometimes you can search for the rental policies of individual locations on the company's website, but usually you'll need to call each rental agency and check.
Liabilities and insurance costs go up for rental car agencies when renting to those under 25. Companies that allow the "underage" to rent will usually pass this cost down to you in the form of a daily surcharge. Pricier rental car categories such as luxury vehicles, vans, and SUVs are usually off limits to renters in this age group as well, although some companies may allow you to drive specialty vehicles for an even higher daily surcharge. The upside to all this is that those companies that will allow you to rent may also offer low basic rates!
To avoid paying the highest rates, you'll need to compare fees and restrictions at the rental agencies in the area where you want to rent, as these can vary by owner. You may also want to check and see if you are eligible for corporate or organizational rates that may include underage fee waivers. If you have a job or are doing an internship and need to rent a car, see if your company has a corporate account with a rental car agency. Some companies have special contracts with rental companies that allow employees to rent at reduced rates and avoid paying underage fees.
US MilitaryU.S Government employees or military personnel as young as 18 years old can often arrange to rent if they are on official business and traveling with orders. Oftentimes, surcharges are waived, and you might even get a discounted rate.
USAA, an organization for military personnel and their families, has a partnership with Avis that allows members 21 and over to rent cars without paying a surcharge. Check and see if you or your parents belong to a group that offers this type of benefit.
Some Car Rental Companies that have a general policy of renting only to those over 25, have special agreements with certain corporate accounts allowing rentals to corporate employees who are under 25. In some cases, they will also wave any surcharge for those employees. However, the corporate employees are often limited to renting the car for only business purposes. You can check with the Rental Companies or your corporate travel departments to see if you are eligible for these programs.
Dollar offers Student Advantage members a 5% discount off regular daily rates, but you'll still be subject to an underage fee.
Overall, renting a car is going to be expensive until you're 25 and difficult or impossible until you're 21, so take a look at all the available transportation options. Having your own vehicles may be convenient but the expense may not be worth it if there are other transportation options. You'll have to calculate the cost of the base daily rental fee with the daily underage fees, the daily insurance fees (unless you already have coverage), and taxes and fees, and then measure that total with the costs of other travel options.
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