How to Rent a Car while Visiting the U.S.

If you’re visiting the United States for a short vacation or a work trip, you’ll want to consider renting a car. The U.S. is a big country, and roads are what connect it from north to south and east to west, with many sightworthy stops along the way. Road trips are one of the most popular forms of vacationing for Americans and visitors alike. Even if you’re only staying in a single city, renting a car helps you get from place to place and make the most out of your vacation.

Follow these 7 steps to renting a car for your trip to the United States:

1. Obtain a Valid Drivers License. Everyone who drives in the U.S. must have a driver’s license — this includes out-of-country visitors. Make sure you have a valid license from your home country’s department of motor vehicles. The rental car agency you use will want to see your license, as well as any traffic officers should you happen to be stopped.

2. Obtain an International Driver’s Permit (IDP). Though not required by all states, it’s best to get this permit in case if you plan to visit multiple states during your stay. Be sure to check what each state you’ll be visiting requires; some want both a drivers license and IDP. Certain rental car companies will also want to see an IDP.

The IDP must be issued by the motor vehicle department where you received your driver’s license in your home country. You cannot pick up one in the United States. It’s best to obtain an IDP through official sources — avoid cheaper-sounding options as they tend to be scams.

3. Be Familiar with Car Rental Company Requirements. Consider several factors when looking at rental car agencies:

  • Fees: Know how much the entire rental will cost, including additional fees for insurance, fuel, mileage, taxes, multiple drivers, or equipment rentals.
  • Driving Record: Does the rental company check driving records? You could be turned away if there are issues with on your driving record.
  • Damages: Inspect the car rented to you for dents and scuffs, as well as the tire condition. Let the renting agency record anything you notice in your rental agreement to avoid being charged wrongly for it later. When returning the car, arrive during normal business hours so possible damages can be verified.
  • Fuel: Refuel the car before returning it or be prepared to pay for the rental company’s fuel policy.

4. Have Rental Insurance Coverage. Make sure you have insurance when renting a car. Should anything happen, rental companies can charge extensively for a number of issues. Many states require liability insurance, but not always, and you don’t want to duplicate coverage by buying rental car insurance as well. Your personal auto insurance from your home country may work, but it can also be provided through a credit card, motor club membership, or your employer if visiting for work.

You should also buy the Collisions Damage Waiver (CDW) offered by rental car companies. This waiver covers the cost of repairs from damage done to the rental car — taking care of areas your other insurance provider may leave out or struggle to reimburse you for. This includes most damage repairs, loss of use costs, towing, diminished value from damages, and any administrative fees. The waiver may cost more than the daily rental charge, but it can protect you from heavy out-of-pocket fees later.

5. Pay with a Credit Card. The majority of rental car companies require a credit card to rent the vehicle. A debit card may hold funds in your checking account, and not all agencies will accept one. You may also be able to get rental car insurance from your credit card if you use the same card to rent the car. The card must be in the name of the renter.

A few rental car companies will let you take out a car without a credit card, but they typically ask for a cash deposit in its pace on top of the rental car cost. Unless severe damages occur, the cash is usually refundable upon returning the vehicle.

6. Be Aware of Age Requirements. Most rental car companies in the U.S. won’t rent out cars to people under the age of 25. If you find one that does, be aware of a surcharge. Few will accommodate underage renters without heightening the cost.

7. Familiarize Yourself with Road Laws. Driving laws may vary slightly by state, or even significantly compared to your home country. Additionally, nearly all rental cars in the United States have automatic transmissions — so you don’t need to worry about shifting with a different hand. By knowing the laws, you avoid the risk of accidents, and damage to yourself and the rental car.


Next Step

Schedule Oil Change

The most popular service booked by readers of this article is Oil Change. YourMechanic’s technicians bring the dealership to you by performing this job at your home or office 7-days a week between 7AM-9PM. We currently cover over 2,000 cities and have 100k+ 5-star reviews... LEARN MORE

SEE PRICING & SCHEDULING

The statements expressed above are only for informational purposes and should be independently verified. Please see our terms of service for more details

Recent Oil Change reviews

Excellent Rating

(21,699)

Rating Summary
20,382
845
179
87
206
20,382
845
179
87
206

Matthew

33 years of experience
991 reviews
Matthew
33 years of experience
Volkswagen Passat - Oil Change - Hampton, Virginia
Matt always does a great job. Very professional. I look forward to my next appointment.... A++++++
Ford Expedition - Oil Change - Hampton, Virginia
I am so please to have Matt work on my vehicle, he is very friendly and personable, and always does a great job.

Greg

22 years of experience
37 reviews
Greg
22 years of experience
Audi A3 - Oil Change - Queen Creek, Arizona
Job well done! Greg was on time and professional. He treated my vehicle with care. He completed the job smoothly and so far so good. First time using Your mechanic and it was a pleasant experience. I will be looking into them again. Thanks Greg!
Ford Explorer - Oil Change - Scottsdale, Arizona
Greg was very friendly and professional. Communication was great, he let me know what he was doing. He went above and beyond to make sure everything was running smoothly. I would 100% recommend Greg!

LAVELL

27 years of experience
93 reviews
LAVELL
27 years of experience
Buick Encore - Oil Change - Oakland, California
Another home run! Really appreciate the flexibility regarding my service appointment. Due to my work schedule I desperately needed a late appointment. So grateful my car is receiving top shelf professional service. Replaced a oil pan drain plug that was seriously damaged and stripped by a competitor that will NEVER get my business again! All services were quickly completed. Thank you so much for another great experience with my.... Your Mechanic Lavell 5 ⭐️ Service consistently.

Brian

23 years of experience
483 reviews
Brian
23 years of experience
Porsche 911 - Oil Change - Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida
Brian is extremely knowledgeable and very personable and has taken very good care on my 911. I would recommend Brian to any one who has mechanical car challenges. I would recommend Brian to all My friends and family

Need Help With Your Car?

Our certified mobile mechanics make house calls in over 2,000 U.S. cities. Fast, free online quotes for your car repair.

GET A QUOTE

Related articles

Top 10 Tips for Buying a Car in College
Although Although college students may be known for attributes like drive, determination, and intelligence, one thing they aren’t known for is having disposable cash. So, when it comes time for a college guy or gal to buy a car, it’s...
Insurance Requirements for Car Registration in Iowa
Iowa Iowa is a rare state that does not specifically require vehicle insurance in order to legally register a car. You can operate a vehicle on the roads in Iowa without any car insurance if you wish. However, if you...
How to Get a Car Insurance Quote
Car insurance is one of the most important aspects of owning a vehicle. An insurance policy helps protect you in case you get in an accident, or in case your vehicle is damaged when you are not in it. Not...

Related questions

Can an accident cause the alignment to be off and the front left strut to leak even when only the body was damaged visually?

If the speed at time of impact was over 10 MPH and you jumped the curb, the alignment can easily be disturbed not to mention the possibility, indeed likelihood if the speed was high enough, of damage to the unibody...

My 2003 Subaru WRX crashed and my insurance is giving me two options.

I would recommend taking the $6000 and getting another car with the money. The body damage is only an estimate of the damages the body shop can see and estimate. There is always hidden damage the body shop cannot see...

My park 2003 Cadillac Escalade was hit on the front driver side knock a foot from where it was parked and back up on the center is.

Due to the collusion on the vehicle, the exhaust system was damaged and causing excessive air to get into the exhaust before the oxygen sensors. If the engine light was not on before the accident and now it is on,...

How can we help?

Our service team is available 7 days a week, Monday - Friday from 6 AM to 5 PM PST, Saturday - Sunday 7 AM - 4 PM PST.

1 (855) 347-2779 · hi@yourmechanic.com