Age to Rent a Car in California + What Else to Know Before Renting

Short Answer: In California, there is no state-mandated minimum or maximum age required for primary or additional rental car drivers. However, young drivers may be subject to a limited car selection and an underage driver surcharge. There are also some state-specific fees to consider, such as the California tourism tax and airport concession fees. Below, we explain what you need to know before renting a car in California.

Required Age to Rent a Car in California

California has not set a minimum or maximum age for renting a car in the California Civil Code. In California — as well as most states in the U.S. —  the required age is up to the car rental companies. Most companies will rent to individuals age 21 and over, but they will likely charge a young driver fee for renters under 25. Some companies will rent to drivers as young as 18, and no rental car companies in the U.S. impose a maximum age restriction.

If you also need lodging for your trip, consider Airbnb — the minimum renter age for most reservations is 18. You can get $35 toward your first Airbnb trip by using our referral link (credit amount subject to change).

Required Age for Additional Drivers

As with primary drivers, there is no required car rental age for additional drivers. In California, car rental agencies aren’t allowed to charge you a fee for adding an additional driver to your rental agreement, and your spouse is legally allowed to drive your rental car without being added to the contract. This is written into California’s Civil Code.

Car Rental Companies in California

ACE Rent a Car

Advantage Rent A Car

Alamo Rent A Car

Budget Car Rental

  • Minimum age to rent: 21 in most locations
  • Limitations: Renters age 21 to 24 must show a valid credit card and driver’s license. In most locations, renters age 21-24 can only rent from a limited selection of vehicles.
  • Underage driver fees: Most locations charge a per-day surcharge of anywhere from $10 to $27 (the $27 surcharge is the most common).
  • Find a Budget location
  • Rent a car with Budget Car Rental

Dollar Rent A Car

Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Note: If you are a Stanford student, there is an Enterprise location on campus that will rent to you if you are at least 18 years old and you have your valid Stanford ID, proof of full coverage insurance, and a major credit or debit card.

E-Z Rent a Car

  • Minimum age to rent: 21 in most locations; some will rent starting at age 18
  • Limitations: Drivers under 25 may be restricted to certain vehicle classes
  • Underage driver fees: Renters 21 to 24 can expect around $20 per day; renters under 21 can expect around $35 per day
  • Find an E-Z location
  • Reserve a rental car with E-Z Rent a Car

Firefly Car Rental

Fox Rent A Car

Getaround

Hertz

National Car Rental

Payless Car Rental

  • Minimum age to rent: 21
  • Limitations: Renters age 21 to 24 may only choose from Economy, Compact, Intermediate, Standard, Full-sized cars, and Minivans. Additional rental fees apply to young drivers.
  • Underage driver fees: $25 per day
  • Find a Payless location
  • Rent a car with Payless

Rent-A-Relic

Sixt

  • Minimum age to rent: 21
  • Limitations: Renters age 21 to 24 must have held a driver’s license for at least one year. Rental car choices for young drivers are restricted to certain vehicle categories.
  • Underage driver fees: $14.99 to $35 per day; maximum $279.98 per rental
  • Find a Sixt location
  • Rent a car with Sixt

Thrifty Car Rental

Turo

  • Minimum age to rent: 21
  • Limitations: Drivers under 25 can’t rent certain high-end or specialty vehicles
  • Underage driver fees: Either 30% of the trip price or up to $15 per day, whichever is greater, for renters under 25
  • Rent a car with Turo
  • Our article proves a comparison of Turo vs Getaround

Zipcar

To compare more features/policies and the rental prices at these companies, see our car rental selection tool.

California Car Rental Fees

The following are applicable car rental fees (besides underage surcharges) that you can expect to pay in California:

Airport Concession Fee + Facility Charge

If you are renting your vehicle at or near an airport, you may be subject to an airport concession fee. This is almost always $10, as required by California civil code. Facility charges can be added onto the airport concession fee, and are a standalone charge for non-airport facilities.

California Sales Tax

The statewide California sales tax rate is 7.25%. Depending on where you are renting your car, you may be subject to additional local sales tax as well. In certain areas, the rate can reach as high as 10.25%.

California Tourism Tax

California adds a tourism tax to the cost of car rentals (in addition to sales tax) for rentals at or near airports and hotels. The amount depends on the city in which you are renting. The rate in Los Angeles is 2.6%, according to Firefly’s website.

Vehicle License Recovery Fee

This fee is usually only a few dollars. The vehicle license recovery fee is essentially passing on the usual fees associated with owning a car — registration, title fees, etc. — to the customer, temporarily.

Extras

There are always optional add-ons for your car rental that can be useful but will cost extra. Availability varies by company and location, but typical offerings include:

  • Car seats
  • GPS navigation system
  • Sirius satellite radio
  • Ski rack

In Summary

The required age to rent a car in California is determined by individual rental companies rather than by state law; U.S. rental companies set minimum ages of 18 to 21, but no maximum age limit. In California, rental companies can’t charge you for adding an additional driver, and your spouse is automatically considered an additional driver with no extra paperwork. Also, rentals in California will be subject to both tourism and sales tax, which will increase your total rental costs.

If you’re young and planning to travel beyond California, our article covers the best car rental places for drivers 21 and younger. We also explain how to best avoid paying an under-25 rental fee.

4 comments

  • My father in law was driving a rental car in Pennsylvania, he is 88. He hit a parked police car going 70 mpg. Could I get an idea of what the penalty could be?

    • Rebecca Turley says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Sandy,

      Unfortunately, we can’t speak to individual cases because they all have a number of factors that are considered. I hope your father-in-law is doing well following such a scary incident.

  • Caio Matsui says:

    Sorry for my enlish, I’m brazilian.
    Me (age 29) and my girlfriend (age 23) are going to rent a car for a trip for California.
    She already has car insurance. So, if I rent the car with me being the driver, without put her as additional driver, to avoid the surcharges of the companies because his age is under 25 years old, could her drive the car? Will we doing something wrong or ilegal?

    • Hillary M. Miller says:
      First Quarter Finance logostaff

      Hi Caio,

      Anyone who is going to drive the car will need to be added to the rental policy as an additional driver. The only exception is usually for spouses, who are automatically considered an additional driver for their spouse’s rentals. Unfortunately, your girlfriend won’t be able to drive the car unless she’s added to the policy, and you pay for the additional driver fee as well as the young driver fee. I hope this helps and have a great trip!