How to Rent a Car: A Step-By-Step Process

Being able to rent a car opens up a world of possibilities when you’re traveling. Not only does it give you the flexibility to move around comfortably, but it also allows you to travel at your own pace and without restrictions. If this is the first time you’re getting behind the wheel at a different destination other than your hometown, the following process shows you how to rent a car successfully.

1. Have a valid driver’s license

You can’t rent a car unless you have a valid, unexpired driver’s license. Be sure to check your state-issued license’s expiration date before traveling abroad. Renew it if necessary to avoid headaches.

Photocopies are not accepted; neither are learner’s permits. Consider getting an international driver’s permit (IDP) in addition to your state one if you’re planning to travel overseas. Most European countries require these international permits along with your U.S. driver's license.

2. Verify age restrictions

Every country has different age limitations. While rental car companies in the United States allow drivers to rent a car at the age of 21, it comes with an additional daily fee. There may also be vehicle model restrictions if you’re under the age of 25.

Rental car companies are more lenient in Europe and countries like Iceland allow to rent a car when you’re 20 years old.

Pay close attention to these restrictions before you begin the process of renting your first vehicle.

3. Pick a rental car company

Most companies keep similar limitations and requirements on their rental fees. However, it’s always important to verify that you can drive an unlimited amount of miles/kilometers with your rental car before you sign any agreements. Having a mileage cap may be an advantage if you only drive short distances each day. However, if you’re planning a road trip, having unlimited miles is always beneficial to save money.

Check the rental car company’s website to see if there are any restrictions and don’t hesitate to contact them if you have questions.

4. Select the vehicle of your choice

Rental car companies have a wide variety of vehicles you can choose from. Keep your budget and driving style in mind before selecting the right car for you.

Inspect the vehicle before signing any documents. Do you see any scratches or dents? Does the interior look clean or are the seats worn out and dirty? Run a thorough inspection with your agent and document any items with them as you complete your vehicle’s walk-through.

Take a look at the miles showing at the odometer and write them down, especially if you have a daily mileage cap.

5. Have a valid form of payment

Credit and debit cards are the accepted payment forms. Most companies don’t accept cash or checks and require renters to leave a deposit for security purposes. Read through the rental agreement and have enough funds in your account if you choose to pay with a debit card.

Some credit cards offer rental insurance free of charge. If yours does, you can forego daily insurance fees and save on your rental car costs. If it isn’t covered and your auto policy doesn’t include rental car insurance, always get the one the rental car company offers. Vehicle repairs caused by incidents are expensive and not having insurance for your rental vehicle could put a damper on your otherwise perfect road trip.

Don’t forget to keep the receipt as well as the agreement with you until you return the vehicle. This document is proof of the miles the car had before you rented it and it also keeps a record of any scratches and/or dents you saw during your inspection.

6. Return your vehicle on time

Avoid late penalty charges by returning your car on-time. Some rental car companies have a window and are more lenient. But if you don’t drop off your vehicle on-time, you may be charged another full day’s rental.

Extend your grace period if you’re unsure of the time you expect to arrive at the rental car company. You can always cancel the reservation up to 24 hours before your pick-up time, or speak to the agent and extend the time if needed.

Learning how to rent a car for the first time isn’t difficult if you follow these steps. If you need assistance with personal auto insurance, call us at 1-855-478-3705.

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