It’s great to be a young adult. You’re in the prime of life, and you have fewer responsibilities than you’ll have when you’re older. You can travel around, see the world, meet new people, and try out different vocations. It’s interesting to visit other parts of the country, and the world, and then decide where you might want to live. Unfortunately, even though you’re old enough to vote, join the armed forces, and pay taxes on your earnings, you don’t always qualify for many of the benefits that older adults take for granted. One of the most common troubles young adults face is car rental under 21 years of age.
Sorry, Everyone Under 25 Pays More
If you’re between the ages of 18 and 21, don’t assume that your troubles will be over when you hit the magic 21. While car rentals for under 21 drivers are hard to come by, you’re still going to be treated differently by car rental companies until you’re 25 or over. Here’s why:
Car Rentals Under 25 Are Riskier
Car rental companies worry about accidents. Their insurance rates are very high, and they’re always on the lookout for ways to lower them. Car insurance companies use statistics to set their rates, and drivers under the age of 25 are much more likely to have a car accident than older, more experienced drivers. Car rental for under 21 drivers is statistically even riskier for them.
The insurance companies don’t forbid car rental companies from offering underage car rental, but they do try to discourage it. Blanket insurance policies for rental car agencies make insurance rates higher across the board if underage car rentals are included. Most large car rental companies charge substantially more for car rental under 25, and simply forbid car rental under 21.
State Laws Don’t Help Underage Rental Car Customers
A few state legislatures have tried to help out younger drivers. Michigan and New York, for instance, require all car rental companies to offer rental cars for under 21 drivers. The federal government has also looked into regulating rental car fairness.
There’s a catch. While the state can force car rental agencies to rent the cars, they don’t set what the rental car companies can charge. If you’re over 18 but under 21, you might find yourself paying daily fees in excess of $100 to rent a car in states where it’s mandated. That’s usually far more than the rental itself costs. And that doesn’t count all the other fees involved. In practice, underage rental car laws don’t have a big effect on your ability to rent a car affordably.
Major Agencies Avoid Car Rental Under 21
If you shop around for rental cars for under 25 drivers, you’re bound to find conflicting information. This is especially true of major car rental companies like Advantage, Dollar, Enterprise, Avis, and others. While many of the policies for car rentals are set at a corporate level, a lot of details are left up to the operators of each car rental location. That included policies on under 21 car rental.
That’s why it’s important to check with the actual car rental location where you’ll be picking up and dropping off your car. If you rely on the information on a central corporate website, you might be turned away. It’s also possible that the requirements to rent a car are so strict that you’ll be unable to meet them.
How To Save Money on Under 21 Car Rental
Renting a car when you’re under 25 is expensive, and even pricier and harder to find when you’re under 21. That doesn’t mean you can’t find great deals. Smart shoppers do their homework, and look for companies who specialize in unusual rental situations. Because you’re not a typical customer, there are bound to be more rules and higher fees. Here are some smart strategies to offset some of the drawbacks of car rental under 21:
Avoid luxury vehicle and truck rentals
What you rent is as important as how old you are when it comes to car rental. Many young drivers see car rental as an exciting change from driving their parents humdrum minivans, or riding on public transportation. That’s understandable, but trying to rent high-powered sports cars, large trucks, and other luxury vehicles is going to be prohibitively expensive or impossible for young drivers.
That makes sense. More expensive cars need bigger insurance policies, and car rental agencies charge more to cover their potential liability. Be smart, and stick to renting regular vehicles at regular rates. You’re much more likely to be turned away at a rental counter if you try to rent a Porsche than a Toyota.
Don’t overlook corporate and organization rates
If you have a job with a big company, be sure to see if they have a corporate account with a major car rental firm before you shop around. Most corporate accounts require the rental car companies to treat every member the same, including young drivers. Not only will they rent to underage drivers, they’ll often waive all fees as well.
Exceptions for military members
You can join the military when you’re 18, so there’s really no reason you shouldn’t be able to rent a car at that age, too. Most car rental companies agree. If you’re a serving member of any military branch, you probably qualify for rental car service at reduced rates. Civilians who work for the federal government sometimes qualify as well. Membership in USAA may also help underage drivers to rent a car. Children of members often qualify for the same benefits as their parents.
Your insurance might be more important than your age
For young drivers, rental car companies will take a particular interest in your car insurance policy. If you’re fully insured to drive in the state where you want to rent a car, you’ll have a much easier time finding a good deal. If not, look into the benefits you get with your credit cards and other insurance. While it might not be enough to avoid big fees at the counter, it might make the difference between driving away or walking away from the counter.
How you pay affects what you can rent
If you have a major credit card with all the bells and whistles, you’ll have an easier time finding a rental car agency to work with you. Debit cards also work, but you’ll have to have a big balance available to cover any potential liability. If you’re too young to have good credit, it is possible to rent a car using a cash deposit. However, you should be prepared to pay a lot more, and to be able to prove your identity in several ways to rent a car. For all car rental under 21, you’ll need good insurance to get the best deals.
Independent Car Rental Agencies Are Your Best Bet
You’ll have an easier time with car rental under 21 years of age if you recognize that you’re an unusual customer for a regular car rental company. You’ll have an easier time dealing with independent car rental agencies who specialize in unusual car rental terms. Every city has small car rental companies with more flexible policies than the bigger brand names.
For Los Angeles car rental under 21, contact Value Rental Car in Inglewood and Pasadena. They have flexible policies and alternatives to traditional car rental policies that will have you driving in no time, even if you aren’t over the age of 25.