Can I Rent a Car at 18? Only in Some States…

Everyone needs to rent a car from time to time, but it definitely gets easier as you get older! In fact, many states don’t allow you to rent a car until you are 21 or 25 depending on their individual laws.

What about teenagers? Can you rent a car at 18 in some states, even if it’s not all of them? Yes, but it may not always be the best idea. Today, let’s explore which states allow you to rent a car at 18 or older and break down why it might be wiser to wait until you are older if you can.

Which States Let You Rent a Car at 18?

At the time of this writing, only a handful of states let you rent a car at 18. These states are:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas
  • Hawaii
  • Michigan
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • South Dakota
  • Utah

However, just because it’s legal to rent a car at 18 in states like Arizona and New York doesn’t mean you’ll be able to do so. Individual car agencies have their own policies and rules regarding minimum rental ages. For example, you might find a rental company in New York but they may not allow you to rent a car at 18. Instead, the company’s rental age minimum might be 19.

The state age minimum for renting a car is just as low as companies are allowed to go. It doesn’t force them to rent vehicles to 18-year-olds. Therefore, if you live in one of these states and want to rent a car, be sure to call a rental agency ahead of time and make sure that they rent to your age group.

It’s much more common for both states and rental agencies to rent to you when you are 21 or 25.

Why Do Only Some States Let You Rent a Car at 18?

Simply put, because 18 is the age at which people become adults. When you turn 18, you can vote, enter the military, and get access to a variety of other privileges. Some states think that it’s fair to give 18-year-olds the ability to rent a car as well, especially considering that all states allow teenagers to get a valid driver’s license at 16 or even 15 ½ in some cases.

However, rental agencies in these states still recognize that 18-year-old renters don’t tend to be the safest or most worthwhile rental drivers. So even if you can rent a car at 18, it might not be the most financially wise decision.

How Old Do You Have to Be to Rent a Car in Other States?

That depends on the state in question. For example, Rhode Island requires you to be 21 or older to rent a car. That’s the same age requirement to legally drink alcohol. 21 is a very common age bracket for car rentals, which is why many car rental agencies mimic it and require you to be 21 to rent a car from their fleets.

Other states allow you to rent a car at 19. But very few, if any, car rental agencies will let you rent a car at 19 rather than 18. Bottom line: each state is different, so check your state’s rental age requirements before shopping around for a rental vehicle.

Do All Agencies Have the Same Rental Age Requirements?

No. Different car rental companies will have different rental age requirements. For example, Advantage Rent-a-Car has a minimum age requirement of 21 regardless of your state of residence. We don’t allow drivers under the age of 21 to rent any vehicle no matter their driving record or what car they wish to rent.

So if you want to rent a car at 18 or 19, you’ll need to first check your state requirements and then call individual rental locations such as Advantage Rent-a-Car, Hertz, Avid, and more. In most cases, agencies stick with the 21 or older rule. 21 is the most common age requirement for renting a car in most states.

Downsides to Renting a Car Under 25

Even though it can be frustrating to be unable to rent a car at 18 or 19, it might save you money in the long run. There are lots of downsides to renting a car under the age of 25.

Increased Rental Rates

For starters, drivers under the age of 25 have to pay increased rental rates. You can rent the exact same vehicle for the exact same time as a 25-year-old but will have to pay more because you are 18 to 24 thanks to common underage surcharges, especially if you pay by credit card.

That’s because drivers aged 18 to 24 years old are historically riskier drivers. They don’t have as much experience and are more likely to experiment with alcohol. All of this combines to mean that, statistically, young drivers are more likely to get into accidents, whether they are major accidents or minor fender benders.

To offset this increased risk, rental companies frequently charge a young driver surcharge. Even if a young driver doesn’t get into an accident, their higher rate helps to pay for the repairs needed for less responsible drivers in their age group.

Insurance Premiums

Furthermore, young drivers under the age of 25 face higher insurance premiums. For example, if you get into an accident with a rental vehicle at the age of 18, you’ll have to pay more because your premium will be higher than someone aged 25 or older who got into the same accident.

Again, this means renting a car at 18 is more expensive compared to renting the same car at 25.

Ancillary Fees

Lots of car rental companies will charge extra fees, collectively called “young drivers fees”, to drivers under 25. These young renter fees can be anything from $25 up to several hundred dollars for the total rental contract. Note that some government employees are exempt from the fees if (and only if) they are renting a car for job-related business.

Limited Car Selection

On top of all that, young drivers frequently have fewer available cars to rent compared to older drivers. For example, many rental agencies don’t let 18-year-old drivers rent luxury/premium cars or sports cars. These are oftentimes the most expensive cars in a rental company’s fleet, so they reserve them for drivers who have more of a proven driving history or those who are less statistically likely to get into an accident.

Instead, younger drivers can rent full-size cars or compact cars, like sedans or certain SUVs. Minivans, passenger vans, premium SUVs, and other specialty vehicles may still be out of reach.

Because of all these factors, you may wish to avoid renting a car at 18 if you can. If you need a set of wheels, you’ll be better off getting your own car and driving responsively or borrowing a car from a family member. Alternatively, take public transportation, like a plane or bus, to a distant destination.

Summary

While your options may be limited while you’re 18, as soon as you are 21, you’ll be able to rent much more flexibly. Advantage Rent-a-Car offers a variety of high-quality rental vehicles for anyone 21 and over – if that’s you, check out our fleet today and contact us if you have any more questions!

Sources:
How to Rent a Car When You’re Under 25 | US News & World
Teen Drivers – Get the Facts | CDC.gov
How to Avoid Paying the Under 25 Car Rental Fee | NerdWallet