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Renting a Car for Your US Road Trip | Insight Guides Blog

Renting a Car for Your US Road Trip

Renting a car in the USA, (photo by David Dunai)
Renting a car in the USA

If you don’t have your own vehicle, never fear: rental cars are easy to come by in the US, provided you meet certain basic requirements. The most popular companies include Budget, Enterprise, Avis, Dollar, Thrifty, and Hertz. It’s worth checking several companies as well as general online travel booking agencies to find the best deal. Most companies require a credit or debit card deposit to reserve and rent a vehicle, although in some cases you also have the option to pay cash when you return the car.


Age limits

The minimum age to rent a car at most places in the US is 21; however, special surcharges and restrictions typically apply to drivers under the age of 25. Most rental agencies will charge an additional fee if more than one person will be driving, so be sure to provide license information for all potential drivers.

One-way trips

One-way rentals are usually available, though the price may be higher than for round-trip rentals. There are usually no restrictions on taking rental cars across state lines, but bringing rental vehicles into Canada or Mexico generally requires special permission for insurance reasons. No matter where you travel, be sure to check whether your rental includes unlimited mileage or a fixed distance per day.

International licenses

International visitors can use their home-country driver’s license in the US. However, if your license is not in English, it may be worth obtaining an International Driving Permit before arrival. This document provides translations of the information on your license into several languages and supplements your original license. It helps US police to recognize that your driver’s license is legitimate and unexpired in the event that you are stopped or involved in an accident. Since the International Driving Permit is a supplement and not a replacement for your licence, it is essential that you keep your original license with you at all times to avoid unnecessary headaches.

Alternative vehicles

When it comes to your choice of vehicle, if you want to feel the wind in your hair as you drive through the countryside, consider renting a convertible – or, at the very least, a car with a sunroof.

If you are comfortable driving large vehicles, you may want to rent an RV (recreational vehicle), essentially a camper van. Major RV rental companies include Cruise America, El Monte RV, Moturis and Camping World, and Compass Campers. Most RVs don’t require any special license, although you should be familiar with the ins and outs of maneuvering a large vehicle before you take one of these on a small, winding, country road.

An abandoned car in the countryside.


Plan your US road trip


To read more about what to see in the United States, visit our USA destination pages. See also our guide to the Northern route from east coast Boston to west coast Washington state.

Or choose from one of our fantastic USA travel guides.



This June we're exploring the highways and inroads of the United States of America as our destination of the month. For more updates keep following the Insight blog, or check us out on Twitter @InsightGuides or on our Insight Facebook page, or why not look at some lovely travel photography on Pinterest.

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