Rules of Renting a Car
Car rental companies must contend with enormous insurance liability issues, and for that reason they adhere to some hard and fast rules when renting out their vehicles. These rules apply to all of the national dealers. If you don't qualify to rent a car from one of these national agencies, smaller car-rental agencies often operate under more relaxed standards. They typically rent out older model vehicles to those aged 21 and over with a valid driver’s license and credit card at the time of rental. The larger rental locations often have a minimum age requirement of 25 instead and higher rates or a surcharge for younger drivers.
The nationally known car-rental agencies require that their customers be licensed drivers who are 25 years of age or older. They must have a driver's license issued by the country where they claim residence. The license must be valid and remain valid for the entire time they wish to rent the vehicle. The renter must also have a valid credit card. Some agencies make an exception and rent to drivers who are under age 25, but at least 21 years old; however, there are higher rates for these rentals. Some car rental agencies check your driving record when you present your driver's license, and people with bad driving records can be denied due to the rental agreement policies of their insurance company.
There are two options for rental car insurance. If your car insurance policy covers you for any vehicle you drive, you don't have to purchase the rental car agency's liability insurance. However you must present a certificate of insurance at the time you pick up your vehicle. If you have forgotten to bring it with you, call your insurance agency (provided it is within the agency's business hours) and ask them to fax a proof of insurance certificate to the car-rental agency. Note that you will have to pay up to your deductible to get coverage.
If you cannot provide proof of insurance, the car rental agency requires you to purchase the insurance coverage from them. Their insurance generally includes a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or a Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) that show that the rental company will pay for damages, property damage, and personal injury that occur to your car during the rental period.
Sometimes your credit card company will offer rental car insurance, so check to see if they do before purchasing it from the rental car company.
Rental car companies charge you extra fees or higher rental rates for adding an additional driver to your contract. The agency verifies the driver's license and insurance for the second driver as well. There are also additional fees if you require a car seat or child seat or GPS. You will be charged an extra day's rental if you return the car late, although most agencies allow an hour's grace period. So be sure you plan out your road trip well and know when you’ll be returning! Some rental agencies charge fees for returning the car at drop-off with the gas tank empty. Be sure to clarify with the rental agent as well as get it in writing exactly what the policy is for returning the car with a full or empty gas tank. If you want to purchase a better insurance policy with roadside assistance for your rental vehicle, that may cost extra.