Car Rental, Travel Tips, United States

An Insiders Guide to Car Rental in the US

It is a real pitty that most of the historic “Route 66” does no longer exist. But there are many other good driving routes to follow, like the highway alternative


I have previously written a blog post with general car rental tips for the untrained minds, but figured that it would also be good with a bit more country specific advise. This post could just as well have been for car rental in another countries, but USA is probably the country in the world where renting a car makes most sense, so this might be the first of several posts about the topic (South Africa, Canada and Australia might come later). For customers I have probably booked more than a hundred cars in the US and have noticed the following:


  • The competition among the rental companies in the States is strong and most companies therefore let you cancel a car rental free of charge. It can therefore be smart to book a car if you are uncertain, and just cancel it if the price should be reduced a couple of months later or if you should find a better deal somewhere else
  • If you are planning on driving “Highway 1” in the peak season/summer months you will notice high one-way charges if you are driving from San Francisco to Los Angeles, but not the other way around. This is because everyone wish to drive from North to South in order to drive on the outer lane right by the water. In my opinion it can be worth sacrificing a little sight for a rental with little or no one-way fee.
  • The age limit for car rental with most companies is 20, but if you are under 26 you will probably be charged with underage driver fees. Age limit is also dependending on the state where you rent, and there are two states where the minimum age is 18 which is New York and Michigan. And since you follow the laws of the state where you pick up your car, that means that for people under 20, driving from Los Angeles to NYC is a “no go” while driving from NYC to Los Angeles is a “go go”
  • The tax of the car rental is also state dependent, so a drive across the country will often be hundreds of dollars more expensive when driving from east to west than from west to east. NYC-Los Angeles is much more expensive than Los Angeles to NYC.
  • Florida is the only state where it is required to have an international drivers license to pick up and drive a car. This should be collected at your local NAF office before you go
  • GPS is usually cheaper to buy than to rent, a day of GPS rental can cost the same as as downloading maps for your phone and a couple of weeks GPS rental will probably cost you as much as the price of a brand new GPS in the US (100USD)
  • A lot of American rental companies include a tank of petrol when picking up the car, which can easily be worth 50 US dollars, so in many cases it can be cheaper to divide the car rentals between the cities. Especially if you are travelling through San Fransico, where you can ride the tube and easily get between the different parts of the city or get to the airport without a car
  • “Go big or go home”. Roads in the US are good, the gas is much cheaper and most cars are bigger than here in Europe. It is highly reccomended to get the full American experience and get a car that has enough room for you to travel comfortably with all your stuff. Upgrading locally is really expensive, so doing the upgrade at the time of booking is strongly advised.

Do you have other tips for people going to rent a car in the States, feel free to share them on the comment field below.