Hiring a Car in the USA: The 5 Essentials


The process of hiring a car in the USA may seem intimidating to inexperienced drivers, especially those who have never hired a car before or are used to a different style of driving. However, hiring a car is one of the best ways to explore the USA. Below is a table with some quick facts about car hiring in the 9 most-visited states.

hiring a car in usa

There are 5 key aspects of the car hiring process that should be highlighted: general car hiring requirements, cross-border restrictions, additional services, timing & seasonality, and cost-saving measures. Let EasyRentCars be your expert guide to hiring a car in the USA!

1. General Requirements

What do You Need to Rent a Car in the USA? Quick Check!

  • Age from 18 to 80 – but when to pay the surcharge?
  • Driving license 100% valid: USA and Canada! – How about driving in the USA with other foreign licenses?
  • Deposit from $170 to $3000 – Why is a deposit and credit card required for car rentals?
  • No protection insurance – Do you need insurance to hire a car in the USA and why?

Expert tips: Read on for details and exceptions!

  • Age

Generally, you must be at least 21, but not older than 75 to hire a car. Individuals under the age of 25 may be charged a Young Driver Fee (YDF) per day. However, in states such as New York, Michigan, and Saskatchewan, the minimum age for hiring a car can be 18. In addition, the maximum age limit for car hiring in the USA can be 80. However, drivers over the age of 70 may have to pay an additional “senior driver fee” or purchase mandatory insurance as an added layer of protection. In short, different car hire companies in the USA have varying terms and conditions – check their Terms and Conditions during the booking process!

Expert tips: Renters between the ages of 21-24 may not rent vehicles of the following car classes: Full-Size SUVs, Luxury, Minivans, Passenger Vans, Premium SUVs, and Signature Series. Pay extra attention to terms and conditions in order to avoid the risk of not having the car you want when you arrive in the United States!

  • Driving License

In order to hire a car in the USA, you must possess a valid driver’s license for at least 1 year with no major endorsements. However, some car rental companies and require a valid driver’s license for a minimum of 2 years without major endorsements for certain car categories – check with yours during the hiring process. Your driving license must be valid at the time of rental and remain valid throughout the rental period. Also, remember to carry your valid driving license and IDP (if necessary) with you all the time – if you are stopped by the police, you will need to show this.

Can I Hire a Car in the USA with an American or Canadian Driver’s License?

Absolutely! Licenses issued by any American state, territory or possession, as well as by a Canadian province, will be recognized as a valid driving license.

Can I Hire a Car in the USA with a UK Driver’s License?

90% yes, drivers with a UK driver’s license can directly hire a car in the US. However, UK license holders need to present their photo card when picking up the car (NB: In case of a No-Deal Brexit UK customers will be required to present an International Driver’s Permit).

Do You Need an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) or an Official Translation to Drive in the USA?

Drivers carrying a foreign license must carry an IDP (or an official translation) and their domestic license at all times, especially those whose license is not in English. However, it is advised that you double-check with your car hire company before arriving in the USA.

  • Deposit & Credit Card

You are required to pay a deposit before each car hire. This covers damage to the car during its hire period, or traffic violation cases and any costs arising from them. This amount will vary depending on the state and car hire company – see the table above for a comparison of deposit amounts in different states.

To pay for a deposit, your credit card must be valid for up to 6 months after the hire period has ended when hiring a car in the USA. Typically, the deposit will be returned to you within 1-2 months after returning the car if there is no theft or damage or any violation fees to it during the hire period. However, in the US you can get your deposit back as soon as 1 week.

  • Rental Car Insurance in the USA

Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) is a car rental insurance that is required when hiring a car in the USA. CDW usually has zero excess in the US which means the driver is absolved of any liability in cases of accidents under the scope of coverage.

There is a “no protection” car rental package when you hire a car in the United States. Purchasing this package does not mean you aren’t required to have insurance; rather, you are allowed to enjoy the “no protection” package because you may already be protected by CDW offered by your credit card or insurance company. Thus, remember to check with your credit card or insurance companies to see if they insure you with CDW when hiring a car, and request a letter of proof from them. Otherwise, you will be required to purchase insurance at the rental desk before picking up your car.

Finally, we strongly recommend you consider purchasing supplementary liability insurance (SLI) for your rented car, as third-party liability insurance coverage is generally quite low in the USA. Click here to see what are CDW and SLI and when are they worth buying.

2. Cross-Border Restrictions

If you decide to pick up and drop off your rented car in the same location and wish to embark on cross-border travel, you must obtain the rental desk’s consent when picking up your car – because a cross-border fee may apply. Otherwise, you risk violating their cross-border restrictions and may be charged $0.5/mile.

In One Way Car Hire, you need to pick up your car in one state and drop off it in another. In these cases, the cross-border element is necessary and allowed. However, the One Way Car Rental generally comes with a cross-border fee. Since tax rates differ between States, the tax amount payable will be calculated at the rental desk. The following states and cities are exempted from this cross-border fee: California (Los Angeles, San Francisco, etc.), Nevada (Dallas and other cities), Arizona (Phoenix and other cities), and Florida (Miami, Orlando, Tampa, etc.).

Expert tips: Cars picked-up and dropped-off in the same location cannot transit through to Canada, except for those hired cars picked up in Washington – but you are only permitted to drive the hired car to British Columbia province in Canada!

car rental deals

3. Additional Services at the Rental Desk

While these additional services are optional, they will undoubtedly enhance the safety and convenience aspects of your journey. Here are some commonly purchased extras that could further improve your driving experience in the USA:

  • Infant Safety Seat: recommended for children weighing under 20lbs/9kg (Birth to approx. 1-12 months). Please note that for safety reasons, infant safety seats must not be placed in the front passenger seat of the car.
  • Child Booster Seat: recommended for children weighing 40-80lbs/18-36kg. Please note that for safety reasons, child booster seats must not be placed in the front passenger seat of the car.
  • GPS Navigation: interface and voice are usually in English (foreign language options may be provided – check with the rental desk during pick-up).
  • Additional driver: take turns in the driver’s seat and enjoy your journey. Please note that all drivers must provide their valid documentation all the time during the rental period.

4. When Is the Best Time to Hire a Car in the USA?

Unsurprisingly, summer is the season where most tourists flock to the USA, with over 8 million visitors in August 2018 alone. The summer months are a great chance for you to hire a car in the US and visit some of the most iconic landmarks in the States, as well as discover some hidden gems. Here are a few of them:

  • Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona: One of the world’s most iconic and premier natural attractions. Perfect for enjoying scenic hikes, thrilling skydives, and observing wildlife.
  • Yosemite National Park, California: home to some of the most magnificent cliffs, waterfalls and mountains in the world.
  • Disneyland Park, California: immerse yourself in a day of family fun at the happiest place on earth.
  • South Beach, Florida: renowned for its buzzing nightlife and celebrity-chef dining spots.

But don’t forget about the winter months in the USA, which still offer tourists exciting and breathtaking experiences such as:

  • Lake Placid, New York: Fancy putting your bobsledding skills to the test? There’s no better place to do so than at Lake Placid’s Olympic Sports Complex, which has hosted the Winter Olympics twice.
  • Fairbanks, Alaska: with its consistently clear nights and close proximity to the North Pole, Fairbanks ranks highly as one of the best places to view the Northern Lights.
  • Jackson Hole, Wyoming: renowned for its skiing, snowboarding, and sleigh riding activities.
  • Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming: wolf tracking in the Yellowstone National Park is a popular activity during the winter, which is when wolves are most active during the year.

5. Why Choose EasyRentCars? Save Time and Money When Hiring a Car in the USA!

  • Best Price Guarantee: EasyRentCars Saves Your Time!

Say goodbye to hours of comparing prices online – EasyRentCars guarantees lowest-priced reservations. If you find the same itinerary at a lower price, EasyRentCars will refund you the difference!

  • Free Cancellation: EasyRentCars Offers Stress-Free Travel!

Fed up with canceling a booking and not being able to get all your money back? EasyRentCar will not charge you any fee if you cancel before the reserved pickup time.

  • Price Drop Protector (PDP): EasyRentCars Saves Your Money!

Made a reservation but worried that the price might be lower later? Thanks to our Price Drop Protector (PDP), we will automatically re-book your itinerary if a lower price is detected – no extra fee required! See how our customers love this feature here!

  • TanTu Offline Map: EasyRentCars is Here to Guide You!

At an unfamiliar location without internet access or a local SIM card? You will love TanTu Map! Our free, offline, and content-rich map is powered by GPS and shows data for over 200 countries. Simply download your route on the TanTu App before you reach your destination!

Visit easyrentcars.com now.

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    • Hi, John. Thanks for reading! We also have car hiring tips for other countries, if you need welcome to visit us~


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