While drivers can get their license at age 16, it’s almost another decade before renting a car is a seamless process. But it is possible for young adults under the age of 25 to rent a car at some car rental agencies. In general, most major car rental agencies will rent to drivers 21 and up, and some will rent to even younger drivers, but these rentals come with surcharges and added restrictions.
Why It’s Harder to Rent a Car Under Age 25
It comes down to statistics: Drivers who are younger than 25 are significantly more likely to get into accidents than older drivers, according to National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data that's cited on rental car websites. After drivers reach the age of 25, the crash rate declines dramatically. Given the higher risk of accidents, most rental agencies tack on a “young renter" fee or surcharge for those who are under age 25.
In general, drivers must be at least 20 or 21 years of age to rent a car. There are some exceptions: In Michigan and New York, the minimum age to rent a car is 18 years, as mandated by the states, but the surcharges tend to be even higher for drivers in the 18- to 20-year-old age brackets.
Car Rental Policies at Major Agencies
Hertz will rent cars to individuals who are at least 20 years old – with some rules. The renter must have a valid driver’s license that’s been in good standing for at least a year, have a valid debit or credit card and pay a “Young Renter Daily Fee.” But it’s possible to avoid the fee through membership programs. As a AAA member, drivers ages 21 to 24 might not need to pay the surcharge if they meet rental qualifications. The surcharge can vary by location. Hertz also limits the types of cars young drivers can rent, precluding them from sports cars and luxury vehicles that come from the “Dream Cars,” “Prestige” and “Adrenaline” collections.
At Enterprise, the minimum age to rent a car is 21 years, and a young renter fee might be applied for those ages 21 to 24. The average fee is $20 per day, but it can be higher based on the rental location. While it’s allowable for young renters ages 18 to 20 to rent cars in Michigan and New York, those who fall in this age range are subject to even higher surcharges – $57 per day in New York and $40 per day in Michigan. Under Enterprise’s policy, those 18 and up who are U.S. government employees can rent cars by showing official orders.
Similarly, Alamo will rent to drivers 21 and up, and the rates could be higher for those in the 21- to 24-year-old age bracket. Certain specialty and larger-sized vehicles might not be rented to drivers under the age of 25. U.S. military and government employees ages 18 and older won’t have to pay the driver surcharge if they can show they’re on government orders. Drivers in New York ages 18 to 20 pay an additional $57 per day in rental fees, and drivers in Michigan in the same age range pay an extra $34 per day.
According to Dollar, each car rental office has its own rules. The rental company suggests trying to offset the extra surcharges by researching specials and checking to see if membership organizations like alumni associations and professional associations offer car rental discounts.
Budget rents to drivers under 25 in some cities, and the surcharges vary. As an example, younger renters in Santa Barbara, California, are charged an extra $5 a day, while younger renters in New York cities pay an extra $35 per day. Also, those under 25 are required to use a valid credit card, as debit cards aren’t permitted.