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What are Renter Requirements in the US and Canada?

Whether it's your first time renting a car or you're visiting from another country, it's essential to know what documents you'll need to show when you get up to the counter. 

Not meeting specific requirements may prevent you from picking up the vehicle or lead to unnecessary fees. And, even if you have everything you need, you may worry that you don't if you aren't familiar with the process. 

In this article, we'll review all the requirements for renting a car in the US and Canada. After reading, you'll feel at ease and ready to select the perfect rental car for your next big adventure!



What Do You Need to Rent a Car?

The car rental requirements vary from agency to agency since some are more strict. Usually, more prominent companies ask drivers for less than smaller companies who have more to lose if their cars are damaged or stolen. Thus, looking at the rental agency's policies before booking a car is best. 

Nevertheless, the basic requirements for renting a car are usually the same. We'll consider those and then look at some information you may need in specific situations, such as renting a car as a foreign national or without a credit card.

Car Rental Requirements

As mentioned, the requirements for renting a vehicle can vary depending on the rental car company. However, in most cases, they'll ask you for the following: 

Driver’s License

Without a valid driver's license, you cannot rent a car. Make sure yours is current, and if it's close to the expiration date, renew it before your trip. 

If you're from the US and plan on renting a car in Canada (or vice-versa), you don't need an international driver's license. But if you are from any other country, it's best to check with the rental company upfront and ask if you need an international driving permit.

Credit Card

While you may be able to get by without a credit card, it's best to have one when renting a car. The process will go a lot smoother, and you won't have to leave an extra deposit at the time of rental. 

Plus, even though a lot of companies will let you pay with cash when you drop off the vehicle, you'll likely need a credit card to make the car reservation. Typically, agencies require the card to match the name on your driver's license, so you can't borrow one from a friend to book your rental. 

Make sure the card you use to book the car with has enough credit to cover the rental and any holds the company puts on your card. If the amount isn't clear, you can ask the rental agency before making the reservation. 

Another thing to verify is whether the rental location accepts your credit card. The most widely accepted issuers in the US and Canada are Mastercard and Visa, so if you have one of these cards, it's best to bring it along.

Car Insurance 

Insurance coverage is essential anytime you get behind the wheel, but especially when you are driving a car that isn't yours. Any damage to the vehicle is your responsibility unless you sign a waiver. Worse yet, if there is an accident, you may be liable for the damage to the other parties' vehicles or medical bills if you are at fault. 

Before renting a car, check your personal auto insurance policy's coverage and whether it extends to a rental car. Make sure you have liability insurance and collision coverage. Also, you should ask what your deductible is since this is the amount you'll need to pay out of pocket in the event of an accident.

Your credit card company may also offer insurance on rental cars you book. If not, you can usually purchase rental insurance when booking or picking up the car. Another alternative is purchasing a policy from a third-party insurance company, which is sometimes cheaper.

Clean Driving Record

Most rental car companies reserve the right to refuse rentals to anyone with infractions on their driving record. When you book, they may contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to verify that your record is clean. So you may not be able to rent a car if you have a history of:

  • DUIs

  • Reckless driving

  • Auto theft

  • Multiple incidents in the past few years

If you have any of these on your record, someone else will need to drive on your road trip. 

Confirmation Number

Another thing to have on hand when it's time to pick up the car is the confirmation number. You likely have this information on your phone, but be sure to screenshot it or print it just in case there's no service when you get up to the rental counter. 

Additional Car Rental Information 

In some scenarios, rental car companies may be more strict when it comes to requirements. You may need to meet additional conditions if you are:

So, what other documents may they ask you for? Let's take a look at a few examples.

Additional Forms of ID

If you pay with a debit card, the rental company may ask to see another form of identification other than your driver's license. Acceptable forms include:

  • Passports

  • Military IDs

  • Insurance card

  • Round-trip airline ticket (at airport locations)

  • Utility bills

Make sure you bring along one or two of these if you plan on paying with cash or a debit card.

International Driver's License

If you're traveling internationally to the US or Canada, you'll likely need an international driving permit. Travelers from some areas are exempt, such as residents of the European Union in possession of an EU driver's license. 

However, most travelers find it best to come prepared, just in case. So, if possible, try to bring an international driver's license even if you think you may not need it.

Personal References

If you're paying with cash, some rental companies ask you for personal references. These individuals should be able to verify your identity and address since the agency may call them.

Top Tips for Renting a Car in the US and Canada

Now you know about the required documents for renting a car in the US and Canada! But, take it a step further by learning tips for getting a good deal on your rental vehicle.

Avoid Secondary Drivers

If possible, choose just one driver for the rental vehicle. Although it may be nice to share the driving on a long trip, it can complicate the rental process since you'll need to provide double the documentation. It'll also lead to expensive surcharges since an additional driver is rarely free.

Check Age Requirements

In most car rental locations, drivers under 25 are subject to underage driver fees. These can be up to $50 per day and tend to be more expensive when drivers are under 21. 

Be sure to check the car rental companies' minimum age for young drivers since some companies don't rent to people under 21. If they do, double-check if you need to meet any additional requirements to rent the car, especially if you’re opting for a larger car, such as an SUV rental.

Don't Forget Discounts

Everyone likes to get a good deal, so don't forget to research offers and discounts you may be eligible for when renting a car. For example, USAA Insurance and AAA car rental discounts are common. 

Prepare For Your Next Rental with AVR

The first time you rent a car, it's normal to feel overwhelmed with all the requirements. Fortunately, you know what to expect after reading this article. So, gather the needed information and get to work looking for deals on rental cars!

Airport Van Rental offers great prices on vehicles, even if you're traveling with a large group. Check out our rental passenger vans today!

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