Youth can be a paradox: If you’re age 18 or older, you’re considered mature enough to be able to vote, pay taxes, and even go to war. But if you’re under 25, many rental car companies won’t trust you to drive their vehicles—at least not without hefty surcharges.
What’s the Minimum Age to Rent a Car?
Because drivers under 25 statistically get into more auto accidents than other age groups, car rental agencies have long penalized young drivers—even those with good driving records—by charging high daily underage fees, restricting the types of cars that can be rented, and even banning drivers (particularly those ages 18 to 21) from renting at all. So what’s an underage road tripper to do?
The picture isn’t as bleak as it was years ago, when many of the big companies didn’t allow any car rental under 25 years of age. Drivers ages 21 to 24 can now rent at most locations operated by Advantage, Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Europcar, National, and Sixt. The minimum age to rent a car at Hertz, Dollar, and Thrifty is 20 years old at most locations.
How Much Does Car Rental Under 25 Cost?
In the vast majority of cases, drivers ages 20 or 21 to 24 have to pay a daily surcharge that averages around $25 – $30 per day, depending on location. Pricier rental car categories such as luxury vehicles, vans, and SUVs are usually off limits to renters in this age group.
Drivers ages 18 or 19 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, especially in New York, where some companies may charge drivers under 21 an additional daily fee of more than $50. The age penalties in Michigan usually aren’t as high, averaging around $40 a day.
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 company. You may also want to check and see if you are eligible for corporate or organizational rates that may include underage fee waivers. For example, Hertz waives its Young Renter Fee for AAA members between the ages of 20 and 24, while Avis doesn’t charge underage driver fees for USAA members between the ages of 18 and 24.
If you’re under 20, you can try browsing online to find independent car rental agencies in your area or destination that may rent to you. You’ll have to call each location or visit its website to find out what its policies are.
One further exception to the under-21 rule is rentals to U.S. government or military personnel. Members of the military or government workers as young as 18 who are traveling on official business can rent from most agencies at special government/military rates.
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.
Overall, renting a car is going to be expensive until you’re 25 and difficult or impossible until you’re 21. Having your own vehicle may be convenient, but the expense may not be worth it if there are other transportation options such as public transit or ridesharing services. You’ll have to calculate the cost of the base daily rental fee plus the daily underage fees, the daily insurance fees (unless you already have coverage), and other mandatory taxes and fees, and then measure that total against the costs of other travel options. Once you’ve tallied the numbers, taking the bus or hopping in an Uber or Lyft might not seem like such a bad idea. You can always put the money you’ve saved towards buying your own car.
More from SmarterTravel:
- 10 Clever Car Rental Hacks That’ll Save You Money
- 10 Things Not to Do When Renting a Car
- 9 Nasty Truths About Car Rental Insurance
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2015. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.