A commonly asked question concerns renting cars to ‘under age’ drivers. That generally means drivers under 21 but could be under 25 or 23 in some countries. As most countries allow young people to pass a test and drive at 17 or 18 years old, it would seem logical that it would also be easy to rent car and drive abroad at this age. Unfortunately thats not usually the case.
Contrary to popular belief though, it generally isn’t illegal to rent a car under the age of 21. The fact is that rental companies see young drivers as more of a risk and therefore often choose to apply a blanket ban on young drivers.
Don’t despair though. Its often not impossible to rent a car abroad, it will just be more difficult and will undoubtably cost more. I first rented a car in Spain when I was just 18 and had passed my test only 5 months before. The car was an old fiat panda rented from a small back street company but it served its purpose for myself and 4 friends crammed into it!
Some hints and tips –
- Though generally its always a good idea to book your rental car before your trip, this may not be possible for young drivers. Its likely you’ll have more chance with a ‘walk in’ booking, particularly at quiet times when the company may be more likely to take a risk on a young driver than have cars standing idle. This is especially true in holiday resorts where there are often multiple small companies competing with each other who may be desperate for some business.
- Try smaller companies rather than the big internationals. A small ‘one man band’ can make his own rules and isn’t tied to regulations set by head office. Most of the big companies seem to have an ‘over 21’ policy, though Hertz seem more flexible than the others at some locations and often have an ‘over 20’ policy.
- Look at specialist brokers who may be able to help search out a company who will rent you a car. The rental companies who rent to young drivers will change regularly but these brokers maintain contacts with the relevant companies so will save you making multiple enquiries yourself.(See list below)
- Go for the smallest, cheapest car available. Companies are more likely to take a gamble on a car which is worth less to them.
- Expect to pay more for insurance – you may have to take 3rd party insurance only. Check the small print carefully and make sure you have the minimum insurance required by law. Remember you’ll need a credit card to cover a deposit, but if using a small company they may want you to leave cash.
- Check out whether someone could rent the car for you eg your company, college or a parent, and name you as an under age driver.
These are companies who can help arrange rental for young drivers-
In Europe, I’ve found the AutoEurope broker site is often able to locate a rental company for young drivers in many countries.
This company say they can arrange vehicles for under 21s in USA, UK and most major European countries-
This company can arrange self drive for under 21s in South Africa-
This company cover New Zealand-
These companies cover most US States
This company rent cars and campervans in Australia and specialise in renting to backpackers and have a minimum age of 18.
in May 2013 Hertz had a promotion aimed at students over 19 years of age, so obviously they do rent to under 21’s in some locations.