How to Rent a Car for the First Time


Renting a car for the first time is a big milestone! Sure, it may not seem quite as exciting as going to college or turning 21, but it is a rite of passage in itself. If you’re thinking of renting a car but never have before, check out our guide on how to rent a car for the first time below.

What is the minimum age to rent a car?

The minimum age to rent a car in the US is 25. However, some rental car companies will allow you to rent a car before you turn 25 if you pay an underage driver fee and meet other requirements. Typically, rental companies will allow you to rent a car at 21 with these restrictions.

You may (or may not) need to add their insurance

When you rent a car, the company will usually give you the option to add their insurance plan to your rental. This may or may not be worth it in some cases. For one, you may already have rental car insurance covered on your personal car insurance plan. Before you rent a car, check your insurance to see if you have that option.

Another lesser-known option: many credit cards provide rental insurance of some kind. If you pay for the rental car with the credit card and decline the insurance the company offers you, it may be available. Check with your credit card company to see if this is another option before you accept the company’s plan.

Book in advance

Just like with flights and hotels, rental car rates go up the closer you get to your dates. Don’t wait to book a rental car until you get to your destination! Avoid paying high rates and fees by booking as far in advance as you can.

You’ll (probably) need a credit card

Most rental car companies require you to make your reservation with a credit card. If you think about it, renting a car is a lot like a loan. You’re paying to use their car, and they need to trust that you can pay for it. Companies want to see that you have good standing credit, so many will require that you book with a credit card. (If you’re still working on building your credit, don’t worry! Check out our article on how to start building credit here.)

One-way rentals can cost more

A one-way car rental means you pick up the car in one location and drop it off in another. Though you may not always be able to avoid this, it will cost some potentially high fees to do this. Try to pick up your car and drop it back off to the same location whenever possible to save money.

There may be mileage limits

Many rental car companies have a limit to how many miles you can drive (either per day or over the total trip). However, you can choose a plan that includes unlimited miles. If you think you’re going to be driving a lot, compare the two carefully to make sure you won’t go over the mileage limit.

Make sure you return it on time

If you return your car late, you’ll be hit with some hefty late fees. Some have a small grace period, but it’s better not to chance it. In most cases, you’ll have to pay for every hour you’re late returning the car.