In most parts of the United States, a car is a basic necessity. You can either own a car or rent a car. Of course, if you are going to be traveling to the USA for a short duration, you will most likely want to rent a car. Car rental is available on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. Of course, it will cost more money to rent a car for longer periods of time, but if you need it, you need it.
When you rent a car, you will not receive a driver. You will have to drive the car yourself.
Most car rental companies have locations at airports, and many of them also have several locations within the city or at hotels. It is possible to pick up a car at one location and drop it off at another location, as long as you specify this in advance. However, there may be extra charges for that.
In order to rent a car, you will have to first visit a car rental location. Enterprise-Rent-A-Car is particularly useful if you are not able to go to the rental agency. Especially if you’re not flying into an airport and do not have other means of transportation, they would be a great choice. They will come to your place and pick you up when you’re ready to rent the car.
You can make reservations over the phone, on the internet (either at the car rental company’s web site or at independent travel websites like Expedia), or at the office itself.
You will need a valid driver’s license and credit card to rent a car. Most companies won’t let you rent a car if you don’t have a credit card. Others might ask you to make a monetary deposit.
Most companies require that all drivers are at least 25 years old. Some companies (like Budget) allow people under the age of 25 to rent a car, but they charge more. Some companies like Avis simply require that all drivers be at least 25. Every person that will drive the car must be registered with the company. No one that is not registered should drive the car. Each person must independently qualify for the car rental by age and by having a driver’s license. However, only one person needs a credit card.
You are responsible for any damage to or loss of the vehicle while driving the rental car. You are also responsible for any property damage or personal injury that you may cause while you are driving the rental car. Therefore, before you rent a car, you should buy car insurance. You should purchase liability insurance, at the minimum, in case you are in an accident. It is also advisable to buy comprehensive insurance (also called CDW/Collision Damage Waiver or LDW/Loss Damage Waiver) in case you cause any damage to the rental car itself. Some car insurance companies like GEICO will cover you for the same coverage amounts when you rent a car, if you have regular car insurance through them for your own car. Some credit cards like American Express will provide some kind of car insurance if you use that card to pay for the charges. In these cases, make sure the rental car company doesn’t automatically add CDW/LDW to the bill.
Exception: The state of New York requires car rental companies to provide at least the liability insurance along with the car rental itself. Therefore, you don’t have to separately buy it.
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When you rent a car, the gas tank will be full and you are expected to return it full. If the gas tank is not full, it will be noted in the paperwork that it is 3/4 full, half full, etc., and you will return the car with the same tank level. Regarding gas, there are various options available. You can either prepay a full tank of gas, you can fill the tank yourself before returning it, or you can ask them to fill whatever amount of gas you used. The last option should be used only if you have don’t have time because you may miss your flight, or if you can afford it, because for the last option, they will charge more than double the actual gas cost, which can range anywhere from $8 to $10 per gallon.
Some rental agencies allow you to drive the car only within the state where it was rented. Others might allow to you drive it to other states, but may require you to register the state names with them in advance. Others may not have any restrictions.
Generally, many types of cars are available: subcompact, compact, medium, large, full-size, premium, SUV, minivan, van, convertible, etc. There may be several different types of cars available in a given category, and if there is availability, you may be able to choose your own car. They may vary in seating capacity and in overall size.
Car rental prices may vary a lot depending on the company, the season, whether it is a weekday or weekend, whether there are any major events going on in the city, or how many days you will rent it.
Car rental companies maintain the cars well and generally provide newer cars with low miles.
Some car rental companies provide a GPS navigation system in the car for extra charge, e.g., NeverLost from Hertz is $10 extra per day. If you get a rental car with this device, you can simply enter the address, and it will give you turn-by-turn instructions and directions, both spoken and displayed on the device. If you get lost, it will automatically recalculate the directions and help you reach your destination. In addition to entering the address, you may also be able to use the GPS to search the Yellow Pages for restaurants, shopping, gas stations, etc., if you don’t know the exact address. It is a very useful option for those who can afford it.
Alternatively, you can just use the maps application in your smartphone. Some rental cars may also have services such as CarPlay or Android Auto that allow you to stream maps information from your phone into the screen of the car as well as certain features like music.
Rental Car Companies
The following are major car rental companies:
Alamo – (800) GO-ALAMO
Avis – (800) 230-4898
Budget – (800) 527-0700
Dollar – (800) 800-3665
Enterprise Rent-A-Car – (800) 261-7331
Hertz – (800) 654-3131
National – (888) 227-7368
Thrifty – (800) 847-4389