Young adults, particularly those below age 25, may run into challenges when traveling through the United States. Renting a car is especially tricky, as many car rental agencies set a minimum age requirement of 25. Policies often vary from state to state and even from rental agency branch to branch, making it essential to contact the office of choice well in advance of a trip.

The legal age of majority in every state is 18. Younger travelers are not legally able to sign a contract, which would put the car rental agency at risk if the renter decided not to pay. Additionally, the rental agency could be liable if a younger renter was injured in an accident or injured someone else. Consequently, no car rental agency in the United States will rent to a driver under 18.

Rental Agency Discretion

As of publication, only New York and Michigan have state laws requiring car rental agencies to rent to drivers age 18 and over. All other states allow rental car companies the discretion to set their minimum age requirement, which is typically but not always 25. Most rental agencies in New York and Michigan apply graduated surcharges to younger drivers, with the most substantial fees charged to those between 18 and 21. Some rental agencies in other states allow drivers below 25 to rent cars with a daily surcharge. Drivers under age 25 may not be eligible to rent higher-value vehicles such as luxury cars, SUVs or vans. You may be required to present a valid credit card, even if the rental location accepts typically debit cards or cash deposits.

Military, Government and Business Use

Most major car rental agencies, including Budget and Alamo, allow drivers as young as 18 to rent a car without a surcharge when traveling on official military or government orders. Some agencies extend this privilege to private rentals for military and government employees, while others do not. Some corporations have exclusive agreements with one or more rental agencies for their young employees traveling on business. Speak with the travel coordinator at a local office before the scheduled business trip.

Older Drivers

Car rental agencies in the United States do not typically impose a maximum age limit on rentals. In some countries, however, a maximum age limit is common. Age limits vary between rental agencies and from country to country, but often fall between age 75 and 80. Over age 70, check with the rental agency before finalizing the reservation.