Renting A Car Legally: Everything You Need To Know

Renting A Car Legally

Before renting a car, there are a couple of things that you should put into consideration.

It is imperative you check out rules, regulations, policies, and requirements before getting into an agreement with any car rental agency.

You know the saying “ignorance is not an excuse”? It applies here too.

While most of the things that will be mentioned here cuts across all car rental companies, there could be slight operations – additions and subtractions that could occur based on location or the type of rental company.

Car rental agencies usually have strict guidelines which they stick to doggedly, and if you’re wondering why?

It’s simply because they have a lot of people holding them accountable as well, for example, insurance companies.

However, all you need is to make sure you’re on the right side of the law.

You have to, and should do all that is required, then you’ll be able to flow through the process seamlessly.

So now, what are the things you should take into consideration so you can rent a car legally in the USA?

The basic categories to take note of are license, age, insurance, payment options, restrictions, penalties, and extra fees.

Let’s break them down.

With or Without a License?

Usually, the biggest question people have when it comes to license is if you can rent a car with license from a foreign country.

And the answer is yes.

First of all, you CANNOT rent a car without a valid license, and when it comes to this, here are the things that you need to check out:

Your license must be valid

This means that it must be legally issued from the right authorities and belong to you.

  • Time of expiry

You will not be permitted to rent a car beyond the time of expiry of your license. Your car rental can only last as long as your current license can.

  • Language

If your license is written in another language other than English, you will be required to get an International Drivers Permit and you might also need to submit some other documents like your passport and visa for verification.

  • Temporary License

Temporary licenses are not accepted by car rental companies in the USA.

Basically, you simply want to make sure you have a valid license that captures your details right and gives you as much time as you need and you’re good to go.

  • Age

Age is one other factor that gives a lot of concern and has legal implications. And as we’ve noted, it’s better to be safe with the law than to be sorry.

Legally, drivers under 20 are not permitted to partake in car rental services, but that’s not where it ends.

In the car rental industry, the advised age for car rental is 25, and some agencies, especially national agencies do not bulge on that age requirement.

However, some other small scale or private owned rental agencies permit drivers from 21-24 to rent, albeit with extra fees. These fees usually cost $5-$35, depending on the company.

It is very unlikely to find a car rental company that permits anyone aged 20 and below.

Another thing to note is that for drivers aged under 25, there are certain types of vehicles that will not be made available to them.

There is hardly a maximum age limit for car rentals, but for those that have, it’s usually an average of 70 years.

Senior couple receive a car key

Rental Insurance

All car rental agencies have legal insurance obligations and that translates into the same thing for their clients or drivers.

Insurance is required for every car rented and the rental company doesn’t take it upon themselves.

That means each driver is required to have insurance for the car rented.

Here’s the good news though, you are given the choice to use your own insurance or use that of the company you choose to do business with.

If you decide to use yours, you will be required to provide a valid car insurance certificate.

However, if you use that of the agency, you will simply be charged an extra cost.

The extra cost will be included in your total charge and the cost differs per company. In other words, you must not bypass insurance, according to the law.

Understand the Extra Fees

Before you sign the dotted line of any agreement with a rental company, this is one part you have to take cognizance of.

There could be hidden fees that are attached to your car rental and you don’t want to be caught unaware.

The first thing you need to remember regarding this is to always request for a policy document and you should take your time to go through it.

Different rental companies have different policies so don’t get tired of going through this process.

Some of the extra fees that cut across most car rental companies are age, adding a second driver, accessories that you want in the vehicle, refuel or recharge fee, cleaning fee (depending on the state of return), mileage fee (determined by the distance traveled with the vehicle), collection fee, and some others.

Simply take your time to confirm the extra fees embedded to avoid unforeseen charges to your account.

Restrictions, Policies, and Penalties

Like the extra fees, the restrictions, policies, and penalties for renting cars legally differ based on the company involved.

However, there are basic legal regulations and also a range of policies and penalties that most car rental agencies make use of.

General penalties charged for include late return of vehicle, traffic fines, driving toddlers without car seat, and much more.

Some legal restrictions that you must avoid include using rented vehicles for public transport, sub-renting vehicles to third party, using rented vehicles as collateral, remodeling rented vehicles in any way, using rented vehicles to tow other vehicles, taking rented cars out of the country, and so on.

These restrictions and penalties exist for a reason, however, in many cases, you can request for permission from the company to perform some of these activities.

Permission from the company absolves you from whatever penalties you would have received otherwise.

Payment Method

Last but not the least, before choosing the car rental service to use, you might want to take note of their accepted methods of payment.

Generally, the possibilities include debit cards, credit cards, check cards, prepaid cards, and cash.

Different companies have different peculiarities and acceptable modes.

However, irrespective of which company, you cannot use another person’s card, and you cannot use two different cards for your transaction.

Some companies like Budget also have special cards for a category of their customers that can be used.

Most car companies that take cash only take it for final payment after using your credit or debit card at collection.

However, there are some that take cash for the entire transaction; it all depends on where you look, what you prefer and what works for your situation.

Car driver exchange key for cash


You definitely do not want to be caught on the other side of the law when renting cars.

This article has given you all you need to know before renting a car legally in the USA, so you can save yourself the stress of going back and forth to sort out requirement, make enquiries, or get disappointed when trying to rent your car.

All you need to do now is get ready, conclude on the car rental service you want to make use of, and get your vehicle.