We’ve covered on a national level how to rent a car when you’re younger than 21. But can a state set its own rental age requirements? And what kind of fees should you expect? Let’s discover the minimum age to rent a car in one of America’s most popular destinations: California. In this article, we’ll provide everything you need to know before booking your California rental car. Whether you’re bound for San Diego, San Francisco, or anywhere in between, here’s what you need to know about renting a car in California.
What Is the Necessary Age to Rent a Car in California?
So how old to rent a car in California? There is no California car rental age according to its civil code regarding renting cars, but leaves it up to the respective rental company’s minimum age requirement. So if a rental car company will rent to you – California is okay with it. This is great because many rental car companies rent to drivers as young as 18. So asking how old to rent a car a car in California is akin to asking how old to rent a car anywhere in the US. Knowing how old to rent a car in California shouldn’t be a concern.
What About the California Car Rental Age for Additional Drivers?
Car rental agencies cannot charge you a fee for adding a driver to your rental agreement, and your spouse is automatically legally allowed to drive your rental car without adding them to the contract. California’s civil code regarding car rentals states:
“Authorized driver” means (A) the renter, (B) the renter’s spouse if that person is a licensed driver and satisfies the rental company’s minimum age requirement, (C) the renter’s employer or coworker if he or she is engaged in business activity with the renter, is a licensed driver, and satisfies the rental company’s minimum age requirement, and (D) a person expressly listed by the rental company on the renter’s contract as an authorized driver.
Should You Rent with a National Company or a Local California Company?
Now that you know how old you must be to rent a car in California (same as virtually anywhere which is most often 21 years old), it’s now best to examine where you can go for the lowest cost and best service. Sometimes you can have a little better luck with regional car rental agencies, as opposed to national/international chains, but if you are going to rent a car at all it is much simpler to do so from a national chain. If you are willing to put the work into it and maybe do some phone haggling then a regional company is usually going to be a bit more lax. Let’s take a look at a few national car rental chains before we dive into some local agencies’ policies for comparison.
National Car Rental Agency Options in California
Here are a few national car rental agencies and their respective minimum age requirements. There is a more in depth list of general age requirements/fees/hurdles in our article here, but here is a rundown of state-specific information.
- You are required to be at least 25 years of age, except in cities listed here
- In the listed cities, you can rent from a limited selection of vehicles if you are age 21-24, but most locations charge a per-day surcharge of anywhere from $10-27, with the $27 surcharge being most common
- You have to be at least 21 to rent a car
- If you are 21-25, there is a limited selection of vehicles you can rent, and you will be subject to a relatively expensive young renter’s fee, depending on your rental location
- If you happen to be a Stanford student, there is an Enterprise on campus that will rent to you if you are 18-20 as long as you have your valid Stanford ID, proof of full coverage insurance, and a major credit or debit card
- You must be at least 20 to rent a car, but there is an Age Differential Charge [per day] if you are 20-24. The surcharge is $27 for most basic cars, $30 for other vehicles, and a mandatory minimum age of 25 for most high performance vehicles. Here is what the website says:
On most retail rentals at corporate locations and participating licensee locations in the US, the minimum age is 25 without an additional Age Differential Charge, and 20 with an additional Age Differential Charge.
Fox Rent A Car
- Minimum age is 19
- If you are under 25, you will be subject to an underage surcharge of $20-30 per day
- As a thank you for reading First Quarter Finance, get 12% off when you prepay. Valid now through October 31st, 2016.
- Zipcar’s minimum age is 21, unless you are a college student, (expand the eligibility requirements) for most campuses
- It is pretty cheap, but there is an annual fee
- Minimum age of 19, unless you are trying to rent a specialty vehicle, in which case the minimum age is 25
- Can rent hourly or daily, as needed
- Only offered in select cities
E-Z Rent a Car
- Minimum age of 18, but the surcharge is HUGE if you are 18-20, and still a big deal if you are 21-24
- There are many coupons available, and if you try to exit off the page while making a reservation they will probably give you some sort of a discount to get you to stay on the page
- Minimum ages are here about halfway down the page
Car Rental Agencies Local to California
Going with a smaller, regionalized car rental company may have fewer car and location options, but it can be really cost effective as well as potentially more policy lenient, if you are a smooth talker. And with these companies, there’s definitely no confusion between state and national car renting rules. The age to rent a car in California is the only age they ever need to consider (while many other companies have to think on an international level).
Los Angeles Rent-A-Car
- Minimum age to rent a car is 21
- If you are 21-24, you have to have a major credit card in your name, full coverage insurance (with proof), and are subject to a $5 per day surcharge
- Downside: you cannot leave Southern California, and you have a per day mileage limit, with additional miles being $.35/ mile
Firefly Car Rental
- Firefly actually has locations all over the world, but there are only a few in the US, and only two in California
- If you are 20-24, there is a surcharge of $20 or $30 per day, depending on what kind of car you are renting
- Rent-a-Relic is local to Oakland
- The minimum age to rent a car is 21 with no exceptions. Ages 21-24 are subject to a surcharge
- You cannot take the car out of California without permission
Fees to Expect When Renting a Car in California
You picked your car rental agency; you found a good rate; and you go to check out online. All of a sudden, your car rental is more expensive than what you had expected! What happened? Note that your age to rent a car in California has nothing to do with the following fees no matter if you’re worried about the minimum age to rent a car or the maximum age.
Airport Concession Fee + Facility Charge
If you are renting your vehicle at [or near, in some cases] an airport, you are subject to an airport concession fee. This is almost always $10, as required by California civil code. Facility charges can be tacked on to the airport concession fee, and are a standalone charge for non-airport facilities.
California Tourism Tax
There is a California tourism tax added to the cost of your rental. It depends on what city you rent your car- Las Angeles is 2.6%, according to Firefly’s website that also lists other potential fees that may be assessed. So you get to pay normal taxes plus a tax for renting a car in the first place.
According to Hertz’ website:
Car rental companies are required by law to pay monthly assessments to the California Travel and Tourism Commission on revenue generated at either airport or hotel rental locations. This fee has been calculated to recover such assessment on an applicable rental basis.
Vehicle License Recovery Fee
This fee is usually only a few dollars. The vehicle license recovery fee is just a way for car rental companies to pass on the usual fees of owning a car (registration and title fees, etc) to you, the customer.
…And of Course, California Sales Tax
Because sales tax is never included in anything in the U.S. The state sales tax in California is 9%. Depending on where you are renting your car, you may be subject to a city tax as well.
There are always fun ad-ons that you obviously have to pay for, but can be useful! Just ask your car rental agency if they offer these things and what they cost. If you think of other things you might want – it never hurts to ask!
- GPS navigation system. This could be especially useful if you are from another country and need wi-fi to be able to use your phone. It’s also great if you don’t have much data on your American cell phone!
- Car seats. If you have a kid and limited packing space, a car seat is a must.
- Sirius satellite radio. Because sometimes you just need to listen to your favorite stuff and not worry about the local radio stations.
- Ski rack. In case you want to hit up some Tahoe skiing.
Knowing how old to rent a car in California gets the same answer as to rent anywhere in the US since car rental age requirements are determined by the rental car company and not the state (in most cities/states). So there is no California car rental age which is handy since you can use your newly acquired knowledge to rent a car in other states. Good luck renting your car in California, and enjoy the beautiful and varied scenery this incredible state has to offer!