Can Someone Under 21 Rent a Car?

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Being a young adult comes with many responsibilities, and also many privileges. For the first time in many people’s lives, you can consider yourself truly independent. While many aspects of modern life become easier as you enter young adulthood, some are still painfully difficult. For instance, once you’ve got a debit or credit card and a bank account, it can be fairly easy to rent an apartment. However, even if you’re old enough to graduate from college, it’s still pretty common to ask the question, “Can someone under 21 rent a car?”

The short answer to the question is: it depends. Your ability to rent a car if you’re 21 or younger depends on where you’re traveling. It also matters who you’re renting a car from. The rules for car rental at LAX in Los Angeles are a lot different than at a rental counter in Europe. The rules are much different in Australia than in New York. Some rules are set by the country or state you’re in. Other rules are set by the companies that rent cars. Even these rules can vary depending on which particular car rental counter you’re standing at.

So, can someone under 21 rent a car? Here’s a detailed rundown:

How Old Is Old Enough for Car Rental?

Find out what the law says first

There are legal minimum age requirements at the local, state, and federal level in many countries and regions. Some countries like Australia set the minimum age to rent a car at 21. Some states like new York and Michigan put laws on the books to direct car rental agencies to rent to drivers as young as 18. You will of course need a valid driver’s license, and a debit or credit card might be required no matter what. However, it’s nearly impossible to rent a car if you’re under 18 years old anywhere in the world.

Then check with the car rental companies

Before you try to rent a car, find out the age requirements of the car rental companies in the places you want to visit. Don’t depend on nationwide policies to be available everywhere. Most traditional car rental companies will rent to you if you’re at least 20 years old. Others set the age at 21. Many local, discount, or independent car rental agencies will rent to drivers as young as 18 years old.  Car sharing services are all over the map, but many will allow drivers as young as 18 to use their service.

Your occupation might get you a car rental

If you’re at least 18 years old, and a member of the military or another government agency, you can rent a car for official government business. You’ll have to do more than just say you’re on a mission for the government. You’ll need a copy of your orders if you’re in the military. Other proof of official use of the vehicle might also be required.

Many corporations have blanket car rental contracts for travel in the United States and overseas. If you’re an intern or young employee of a participating company, you may rent a car even if you’re as young as 18. Check the policies through your employer to make sure.


How To Book a Rental Car for Young Drivers

Make sure your driver’s license is in good standing

You’re going to need a valid driver’s license to rent a car. Don’t try to game the system on this one, or you might get left standing at the counter without a car. Don’t try to get a long term car rental with a license that will expire during the rental period.

“In good standing” means different things to different auto rental agencies. If your license isn’t canceled, revoked due to traffic infractions, or suspended, some companies will rent a car to you if you’re under 21. Other car rental agencies require that your driving license be at least a year old, with no suspensions or other problems during that period.

Make sure your driver’s license is valid where you’ll be driving, not just where you make your reservation. If you rent a car online in the United States, but you’ll be driving overseas where your license isn’t valid, you could be out of luck and stranded without transportation.

Be prepared to pay a young driver fee

When you asked yourself, “Can someone under 21 rent a car,” you might have been asking the wrong question. Car rental under 25 years old can be much more difficult than it is for someone older. Big, traditional car rental agencies love to advertise young driver policies, including young driver discounts. However, they load on so many fees and have so many requirements that it becomes nearly impossible to rent a car at an affordable price. They also might limit the types of cars they’ll rent to you (sorry, no muscle cars).

Young driver fees aren’t the only extra charges that depend on where you’re traveling. Lots of states and municipalities have all sorts of fees you should know about. Check all the car rental rules that apply before renting.

Try membership discounts

Some car rental companies waive young driver fees if you’re a member of travel  organizations like AAA. This is usually a safe bet for them, as many young drivers use their parents’ AAA coverage, and can’t claim the discount on their own. Corporate accounts likewise qualify young drivers for fee-free rentals.

Don’t Complicate Things

To avoid hiccups at the car rental counter as a young driver, keep your rental details simple. Use the exact same debit card or credit card you used to make the reservation. Make sure your name is on the card. Have multiple methods of identification on you when you walk up to the rental counter.

Try Independent Car Rental Agencies

Small, independent, and family-owned car rental agencies are usually much better at overlooking small details for young drivers. Big companies have policies that they strictly enforce, and the desk clerks usually have no way to override them. At independent car rental companies, the person behind the counter might be an owner, and can work with you to get you in a car even if you’re 21 years old, or younger.

Can someone under 21 rent a car in Los Angeles?

Sure! Value Rental Car wants to help you get a rental car and get to your destination quickly and safely. We offer clean and affordable rental cars for local driving in Los Angeles and Pasadena, with complimentary pickup and drop off service within seven miles of our two locations. If you’re a college student, we want to help you get on the road. We rent to drivers under the age of 21, and we offer cash and debit card car rentals. Check out some of our other articles to learn more about how car rental works!

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