Tips to save on your car rental in America

Car rental USA tips

Driving through America with a rental car is the most beautiful way to explore this beautiful country. On this page, I will share my experience and give tips on renting a car in America!

Start by comparing prices! Many car rental companies operate in America, including Hertz, Sixt, Alamo, and Avis. At, you can compare the prices of all providers at a glance.

Rent at the airport

It is by far the easiest to pick up your rental car right at the airport. A so-called ‘Car Rental Center’ is located about a 10-minute drive from all major airports.

The route to the Car Rental Center is clearly indicated at the airport and is often accessible by bus or airtrain.

25 years or older

Most car rental companies in America have a minimum age requirement of 25 years for the driver. Some car rental companies accept 21 years as the minimum age. There are often extra costs associated with this. So, check this carefully.

Credit card

Without a credit card, you won’t get far in America. And you certainly won’t be able to take a rental car without one. So, bring one that is issued in your own name.

Car rental center

At the Car Rental Center, you’ll find a long row of counters where all the car rental companies are located next to each other. After checking in at the car rental company of your choice, you walk into a huge parking garage where you can pick out a rental car.

Choose your rental car yourself in the category you have booked. The keys are in the cars, and as you leave the Car Rental Center, the rental car of your choice is registered in your name.

If there isn’t a car to your liking, definitely discuss it at the counter. Sometimes there are other cars available that still need to be cleaned, or you might get an upgrade for a small additional charge.

Car rental USA

Ford Mustang in Monument Valley

Car Rental America

Dodge RAM in Texas

1. Compare Rental Cars in America

Of course, you can book your rental car directly from a car rental company. But if you’re looking for a good deal, it definitely pays to compare the prices of various car rental companies.

By clicking the button below to, you can easily compare prices from major providers such as Hertz, Sixt, Alamo, Avis, and a few other renters. In addition to easily comparing all car rental companies, you benefit from the conditions of This way, you can cancel most bookings for free up to 48 hours before picking up the rental car.

2. Additional Driver: Yes or No?

Many car rental companies charge an extra fee for an additional driver, the ‘additional driver fee’. The fee is about 12 to 14 dollars per day.

Often, there is a maximum charge for the entire rental period. For example, Hertz charges a maximum additional driver fee of 189 dollars, and the car rental company Budget charges 65 dollars.

The state of California is exempt from this fee, as mandated by law. Even if you drive from California to other states, this fee does not apply. The location where you pick up the rental car is what matters. This is advantageous, as many road trips through America start in California.

The rules are also different in the state of New York. Car rental companies may charge a maximum of 3 dollars per day for an additional driver.

3. Do not rent a GPS

Renting a GPS with your rental car can easily cost about 15 dollars per day. This adds up significantly over a road trip of, say, 3 weeks. Also, it is unnecessary to rent a GPS, as your mobile phone already has a GPS.

With Google Maps, you can download maps and then use them without an active internet connection. There are also alternatives, such as I always have both apps on my phone to ensure I can find my way.

Rental Car Boston

Our rental car in Boston, a large and comfortable Toyota Highlander (size Volvo XC90)

4. Rent from a budget car rental company

There are, in short, 8 major car rental companies in America with hundreds of pick-up and drop-off locations throughout America. Some of these rental companies position themselves as “low budget” providers.

The cheaper car rental companies in America are Budget, Dollar, and Thrifty. Definitely check if you can find a good deal here. My advice is to compare all the car rental companies thoroughly via

The prices vary enormously, both for the type of car, the rental period, and the location.

5. Do not upgrade your rental car

Once you arrive at the counter of the car rental company, you will be warmly offered an upgrade. For an additional fee, you can choose an even nicer rental car from the brochure on the counter.

Very tempting, of course. It’s good to be aware that the offer for an upgrade will probably come. And, if you want to keep costs low, it’s wise not to accept it.

We have accepted an upgrade before. At the counter, they can often offer a good price for a nicer car. So, it really depends on what you want!

6. Bring your Credit Card

Without credit, you’re nowhere in America. So definitely bring a credit card in your own name. Without a credit card, you can count on paying a huge deposit in cash to get the car. If you get it at all.

Also for other matters, such as checking into hotels, you need a credit card. I use a Mastercard credit card with a low spending limit. The low spending limit is not an issue because you can always transfer money from your bank to your credit card.

Car Rental Center Las Vegas

Car Rental Center in Las Vegas

7. Be aware of une-way fees

With one-way car rental, you drop off the car at a different location from where you picked it up. For example, you pick up the rental car in San Francisco and return it in Los Angeles.

A one-way rental is often no problem. However, it’s good to know that many car rental companies charge a one-way fee. Therefore, it’s cheaper to return the car to the same place where you picked it up.

8. Car rental age in America: From 25 years

There’s not much you can do about your age. But being between 25 and 65 years old helps when renting a car in America. A significant surcharge is applied for younger drivers. This surcharge is known as the ‘young driver fee’ or ‘young renter fee’.

At Hertz, Thrifty, and Dollar, it’s possible to rent a car from 20 years old. At Alamo, Budget, Sixt, Avis, Enterprise, and National, the minimum age is 21 years.

The surcharge for young drivers varies by car rental company. Most rental companies charge about 25 to 27 dollars surcharge per day. For a two-week rental period, that’s about 350 dollars. So, renting a car under 25 years old in America is certainly possible. However, it pays off to compare prices thoroughly!

An exception to the age restrictions are in the states of New York and Michigan, where you can rent a car from 18 years old. The surcharge is adjusted accordingly. For drivers between 18 and 20 years old, you pay about 40 to 65 dollars surcharge per day. Thus, you can rent a car in America if you are 18 or 19 years old, but the options are limited and it’s very expensive.

9. Save on extra insurances

Insurances are a “cash cow” for car rental companies. And there are many you can take out. Of course, you need a standard insurance that covers damage when you cause an accident (to your own rental car or someone else’s).

You can extend your insurance with a so-called PAI insurance (Personal Accident Insurance: insurance for passengers that pays out in case of injury or death). This is a risk that a good travel insurance also covers. Then there’s the PEC insurance (personal effects coverage). This is also already covered by your travel insurance.

Finally, there’s the Premium Roadside Service, insurance in case you end up on the side of the road with your keys locked inside a closed car, an empty tank, or a dead battery. The rental company employee will certainly try to sell you this extra (expensive) insurance (“everyone takes this insurance”). Consider carefully whether you want to insure this minimal risk (with high costs).

Rental Car Zion National Park USA

Our rental car in Zion NP, a Mitsubishi ASX (called Mitsubishi Outlander in America). A fine car, but quite small for a 5-week road trip with 2 small children.

10. Decline the “fuel option”

When you pick up your rental car, you’ll be offered the ‘fuel option’. This means you don’t have to return the car with a full tank; the rental company will refill it for you after you’ve returned the car.

And, of course, that seems like a nice service from the rental company. It’s good to know that you pay relatively a lot for this option to have your car refueled after the rental period.

And those costs are, of course, debited from your credit card once you’re back in the Netherlands. A tip: decline the fuel option and refill the car yourself just before returning it. There are often plenty of gas stations near the Car Rental Center.

11. Check your rental car for damage

Nothing is as annoying as being charged for damage caused by the previous renter. Inspect your rental car thoroughly and document any damage with your mobile phone. This prevents issues later on.

We have never had problems in America with damage. Also, the rental cars always looked neat. Often, we received a practically new rental car. In my opinion, it’s always good to stay vigilant and check your car just to be safe.

12. Rent a car from the Economy Class

It’s quite logical, but the smaller/simpler the car, the cheaper it will be to rent. And that really saves tens of dollars per day and hundreds of dollars for a road trip of several weeks.

Renting a Dodge RAM or a Ford Mustang in America is naturally a fantastic experience, and if you’re a car enthusiast and you can afford it, definitely go for it! But a luxury car will surely cost you double compared to a simple car. Good to know!

Car Rental Center Amerika

Checking in at the Car Rental Center. You can find all the car rental companies next to each other. You can’t miss it!

Frequently Asked Questions about car rental in America

Where is the best place to rent a car in America?

Most car rental companies are located at the airport. It’s the ideal place to pick up your rental car! Right after collecting your luggage, you head to the Car Rental Center at the airport. Often, it is accessible on foot, by bus, or air shuttle, just a few minutes away from the airport. Large and popular airports for renting a car in America include Los Angeles (LAX), San Francisco (SFO), and New York (JFK).

How many kilometers can I drive in a rental car?

Almost all rental companies in the United States offer ‘Unlimited Mileage’ as standard. This is very convenient in America, where driving distances can be very long. With unlimited mileage for your rental car, you can travel worry-free. Make sure to check that ‘Unlimited Mileage’ is listed when comparing rental cars.

Cost of renting a car in America: what should I consider?

When renting a car in America, you need to consider several costs. Firstly, the cost of renting the car itself and the insurance for your rental car. Additionally, you may encounter extra costs, such as a ‘one-way fee’ (for dropping off your rental car in a different city), charges for an additional driver, and the ‘fuel option’ (the rental company refills the car after you return it).

What rules apply to car rental in America?

To rent a car in America, you must be at least 25 years old. You can also rent a car from the age of 21, but you will have to pay a significant surcharge, the ‘young driver fee’. You must have held a driver’s license for at least one year. The Dutch driver’s license is valid for renting a car in America, provided you do not stay longer than 90 days. Another important rule: bring your credit card. At practically all car rental companies, you need a credit card to get your rental car.