How To Rent A Car In The United States

Has the time come to rent a car in the United States for your road trip but you don’t know where to start?

Today we will tell you everything you need to know: rental companies, insurance, and supplements … And a lot of advice so that you only have to worry about enjoying the route. Hands-on the wheel!


First things first: book your car in advance online. Not only will it be much cheaper, but you will also make sure that they are not sold out (something that, especially after the pandemic, usually happens).

Once we know what companies are in the area, we consult their websites directly for several reasons:

  • Sometimes, renting on the company’s website is cheaper than doing it on search engines.
  • If you have a problem with the reservation, in our experience, it is easier to manage it directly with the rental company than through a third party.
  • On the company website, you will see all its offices in the city. Many times, renting at the airport is more expensive than renting in downtown US cities, so it may pay to pick up the car at another office.


Choosing the type of car can be a headache since you will find dozens of options with prices that vary greatly.

The choice will depend a lot on your road trip: how many people are you, how many hours will you drive per day, and on what type of roads?

  • On routes where we are going to drive a lot on the highway and in urban areas, we usually opt for a medium or intermediate car.
  • But, on routes like the West Coast, where you will be driving on all kinds of roads, an SUV seems like the best option to us.
  • They are spacious cars inside (much more comfortable when you spend several hours driving), taller than a normal car (so you don’t have to worry about scraping the bottom on certain roads or paths) and have good visibility.

Because the United States is the paradise of SUVs and pick-up trucks and, in many areas of the country, everyone has one even if they only use it to drive from home to the supermarket.


The requirements and documentation to rent a car in the United States depend on the company, so read your conditions of yours very carefully. But, in general, all of them will ask you:

  • Be over 21 years old. And not only that but also, if you are under 25 years old, they usually charge you an extra supplement and do not let you choose certain car models. So the idea is that the main driver is over 25 years old.
  • A valid driver’s license. It can be the one of your country, but it has to be in force.
  • The international driving license. To drive in some states of the United States, you will be required to have the International Driving Permit (IDP), the international driver’s license.
    It is a little book with the translation of your permit into several languages.
    We recommend you take it off since they could ask you for it both at the rental company and on the road.
  • A credit card. To rent a car in the United States, 99% of companies will ask you for a credit card (not a debit card) and will make a temporary charge for the rental deposit, which they will cancel at the end of the trip if everything is correct.
    In some cases, companies accept debit cards at airport offices as long as you present the return ticket and they can make a temporary charge for the rental price + deposit. Check with your company.
  • A passport is a form of identification.


Insurance is one of the most confusing and frustrating parts of renting a car in the United States. Although, well… the insistence of rental companies on selling you all possible insurance is universal!

And it is that, although normally when you book you will already have some insurance included, when you arrive at the office counter the bombardment will begin to sell you In addition, each insurance is paid per day, so they end up making the price much more expensive. The most common are:

  • TPL (Third-Party Liability Insurance) – Mandatory. In almost all states, companies are required to offer liability insurance that covers you up to a certain amount in the event that you cause an accident and cause physical or material damage to a third party.
    You can pay an SPL (Supplemental Liability Protection) to increase coverage.
  • DW (Damage Waiver) – Optional. If you take out this insurance (in reality, it is a liability waiver), the company is responsible for the amount of damage due to a collision or accident as long as they are not due to the driver’s recklessness.
    Be careful, because it does not usually cover the wheels, windows, underbody, glass, mirrors, engine, or the loss of keys.
    Depending on the company, it may have an excess (deductible or excess): for example, if the repair costs $1,500 and you take out insurance with an excess of $500, you will have to pay $500 and, from then on, the company takes care of the costs. Remaining $1000
    some variants of this insurance are CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) or LDW (Loss Damage Waiver).
  • TP (Theft Protection) – Optional. With theft protection, in the event that your car is stolen or damaged while someone tries to steal it, it is the company that bears the costs (although not what was inside the car, such as your luggage). . Depending on the company, it may or may not be franchised.
  • PEC (Personal Effects Coverage) – Optional. It is the insurance that covers the value of the objects you carry inside the vehicle. Be careful, because with electronics (which are usually the most valuable objects that we transport) there are many exceptions and it is possible that this is already included in your travel insurance package.
  • PAI (Personal Accident Insurance) – Optional. This insurance covers medical, hospital, or repatriation expenses in the event of an accident or death.
    But, if you travel with health insurance with good coverage (which you should do yes or yes, as we tell you below), you don’t need it.