How Old Do You Have To Be To Rent a Car in California?
Young drivers don’t always have their own sets of wheels. In fact, they may have to get around using driving services like Uber, or they may instead decide to rent a vehicle when they need to drive a significant distance or have a car for several days in a row.
But each state only allows drivers of a certain age to rent a vehicle. Just how old do you have to be to rent a car in California? Let’s find out now.
California’s Minimum Age Requirement
California, like all other states, has a minimum age requirement for car rentals. If you’re 18 or older, you can technically be rented a car through an authorized agency. This age limit makes sense as the minimum driving age in California is 15 ½, provided you have a permit or an early license.
However, this minimum age requirement does not necessarily mean that all 18-year-olds can rent a car. While rental companies have to adhere to this age minimum, they are also free to raise the minimum age requirements if they so choose.
Age Minimums for Rental Companies
All rental car agencies must balance risk carefully if they are to turn a profit. Because of this, the majority of rental companies have a higher minimum age requirement than the state-mandated 18 year-minimum.
Why? Simply put, because younger drivers have less experience and are more likely to get into an accident. For a car rental company, this directly translates to higher long-term costs to maintain their fleets, to pay for insurance, and so on.
Because of this increased risk, most rental companies will not rent vehicles to individuals who are only 18. More common age minimums are 20, 21, or even 24. It all depends on the rental agency you choose.
Therefore, if you are a Californian and want to rent a car, but you’re under the age of 24, you should ask around and investigate multiple car rental companies to make sure they will accept your application before wasting your time.
Do Age Minimums Vary by Company or Place?
You might find different age minimums between locations at the same company. That’s sometimes because of local insurance rates, which can affect how much an individual branch has to pay each month in insurance premiums. Or it may be due to that location’s history with young drivers.
As a result, you can’t assume that one company will have the flat best prices when renting a car under the age of 21. Instead, it’s a better idea to call up each individual branch that you may wish to rent from and ask what their age minimums are, what fees they have, and so on. It’s the best way to determine what you’ll actually pay at the end of your rental contract when all is said and done.
What To Consider if Renting Under 21
So, while many rental car companies will technically allow you to rent a vehicle if you are under 21, those agencies may also take steps to offset the increased risk they accept for signing drivers of that age.
These steps could include:
- Increased fees, often packaged under young driver’s fees (more on those below)
- A higher per day cost for renting a vehicle. That’s right; you could simply be charged more to rent a vehicle if you are under the age of 21 since the car rental company assumes your driving is riskier
- A high cost for insurance. All rental drivers should get insurance if they don’t have personal insurance, but young drivers may face especially high premiums or rates
- Limitations on how long you may rent a vehicle for or what types of cars you can rent. For example, many car rental companies don’t allow young drivers to rent luxury or sports vehicles. They are limited to basic sedans, midsized and standard SUVs, and a few pickup trucks. This protects the more expensive vehicles in a company’s fleet from the increased risk associated with younger drivers
As a result, while you can rent a car in California under the age of 21, it’s not always the best idea. Furthermore, you won’t have nearly as much flexibility and freedom as you would if you were a little older.
What’s the Young Driver’s Fee?
Almost all car rental companies have young driver’s fees. These fees kick in as long as you are 25 or younger and they are applied to your total rental bill upfront. The fees are usually a flat cost, rather than a direct rate increase, although this can vary from agency to agency.
In a nutshell, drivers under the age of 25 are statistically more likely to get into an accident. Because of this, car rental agencies charge young drivers extra in order to offset this statistical cost. It doesn’t matter if you have an impeccable driving record or if you have been driving for several years when you decide to rent a car. If you are under 25, it’ll be more expensive, plain and simple.
This is true in California as it is across the United States.
Should You Rent a Car Under 21 in California?
Due to the increased costs and reduced flexibility inherent in renting a car under 21, it may not always be wise to do so.
Instead, you might consider renting a car with an older adult, such as a friend or family member, then being signed on as a secondary driver. A lot of car rental companies will not add a young driver fee if the primary renter is over the age of 25. Then, even if you are legally allowed to drive the vehicle, you won’t face some of the fees or restrictions mentioned above.
Keep in mind, however, that adding another driver to your car rental contract increases the price by a certain amount each time.
If you have to rent a car, you’ll have to accept these restrictions. Alternatively, you could try to purchase your own car, which may save you more money in the long term. Advantage Rent-a-Car doesn’t just rent vehicles to people like you: we also sell cars if you are looking for a permanent ride you can rely on.
Bottom line: in California, you have to be 18 or older to rent a car. However, the majority of car rental companies will require you to be a little older, usually between 20 and 21 at minimum. The older you are, the easier you’ll be able to get a rental, and the cheaper the rental will be on average.
That’s not always the case, however, such as when you rent with Advantage. Advantage has an excellent fleet of cars that are appropriate for young drivers, just like you. Even better, lots of these cars are available at airport car lots. Contact us today to find out about rentals for young drivers.