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

Short Answer: Some states have their own regulations that affect the minimum car rental age and applicable young driver fees. In California, there is no state-set minimum required age 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 tourism tax and airport concession fees. Below, we’ll explain what you need to know before booking a rental car in the state of California.

In This Article

What Is the Minimum Age to Rent a Car in California?

California has not set a minimum rental age in the California Civil Code. In essence, the minimum required age is up to the car rental companies. If a rental car company will rent to you, California is okay with it. Asking how old you need to be to rent a car in California is the same as asking how old to rent a car anywhere in the U.S. There are many locations where you can rent a car as young as 18.

What Is the California Car Rental Age for Additional Drivers?

Much like for 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. 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?

Sometimes you can have better luck with regional car rental agencies, as opposed to national or 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, a regional company is usually going to be a bit laxer. 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 Companies That Operate in California

Our recommendation: We recommend using Turo if you’re 25 and older. Turo is basically the Airbnb of car rentals. Prices are about 35% lower than traditional rental companies, and you can also get $25 off your first rental by using our Turo referral link. More details about Turo can be found later in the article. Also, if you’re traveling, you can get $55 off your first Airbnb trip by using our Airbnb referral link.

1. Budget Car Rental

  • Minimum age to rent: 21 in most locations
  • Limitations: In most locations, renters age 21-24 can only rent an economy, compact, intermediate, standard, full-size or premium car or an intermediate or standard SUV.
  • Underage driver fees: Most locations charge a per-day surcharge of anywhere from $10-$27, with the $27 surcharge being most common
  • Reserve a rental car with Budget Car Rental

2. Enterprise Rent-A-Car

  • Minimum age to rent: 21 in most locations
  • Limitations: Renters age 21-24 are only permitted to rent from a limited selection of vehicles.
  • Underage driver fees: Around $20 per day for renters age 21-24, but exact fees vary by location.
  • If you are 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.
  • Reserve a rental car with Enterprise Rent-A-Car

See our article for details on the Enterprise student discount.

3. 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 21-24 can expect around $20 per day; renters under 21 can expect around $35 per day
  • Reserve a rental car with E-Z Rent a Car

4. Fox Rent A Car

  • Minimum age to rent: 19
  • Limitations: Drivers under 25 may be restricted to certain vehicle classes
  • Underage driver fees: Renters under 25 can expect surcharges of around $20-$30 per day
  • Reserve a rental car with Fox Rent A Car

5. Getaround

  • Minimum age to rent: 19
  • Limitations: You must be at least 25 to rent a “Specialty” vehicle. Drivers under 21 must have a clean driving record for the last three years.
  • Underage driver fees: None
  • Note: Can rent hourly or daily, as needed. Getaround currently operates in Atlanta, Berkeley, Boston, Chicago, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, New Jersey, Oakland, Philadelphia, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.
  • Reserve a car with Getaround

6. Hertz

  • Minimum age to rent: 20
  • Limitations: Drivers under 25 cannot rent from the Prestige or Adrenaline Collections
  • Underage driver fees: Around $35 per day for drivers under 25, though this can vary by location. Hertz will waive the underage driver fee for AAA members age 20-24. For other places where you can get a AAA rental discount, see our article.
  • Note: Hertz has a credit check policy. See our article for details.
  • Reserve a car at Hertz

7. 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
  • Get $25 off your first Turo by using our Turo referral link

If you’re interested in a comparison of Turo vs Getaround, see our article.

8. Zipcar

  • Minimum age to rent: 18 for students; 21 for non-students
  • Limitations: To rent, you’ll need to first apply for membership and wait for your Zipcard in the mail
  • Underage driver fees: Membership plans cost around $7 per month; teachers and students get a discount
  • Reserve a car with Zipcar

We also explain the details of Zipcar’s eligibility restrictions in our article.

Car Rental Agencies Local to California

Going with a smaller car rental company may have fewer car and location options, but it can be cost effective as well as potentially more lenient on policy. And with these companies, there’s no confusion between state and national car renting rules. The age to rent a car in California is the only age these companies ever need to consider, while many other larger companies have to think on an international level.

1. Firefly Car Rental

  • Minimum age to rent: 20
  • Limitations: Drivers under 25 may not rent from Prestige, Adrenaline, or select specialty vehicle classes
  • Underage driver fees: Around $20-$30 per day, depending on what kind of car you are renting
  • Reserve a car with Firefly Car Rental

2. Rent-A-Relic

  • Minimum age to rent: 21
  • Limitations: You cannot take the car out of California without permission
  • Underage driver fees: Drivers age 21-24 are subject to a daily surcharge
  • Note: Rent-a-Relic is local to Oakland
  • Reserve a car with Rent-a-Relic

Fees to Expect When Renting a Car in California

The following are applicable car rental fees (besides underage surcharges) that you could be stuck paying in California.

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

California adds a tourism tax to the cost of your rental. The amount depends on what city you rent your car in. Los Angeles is 2.6%, according to Firefly’s website. So expect 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

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% total.

Extras

There are always fun ad-ons that you’ll 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: Sometimes you just need to listen to your favorite music and not worry about the local radio stations.
  • Ski rack: In case you want to hit up some Tahoe skiing.

In Summary

The minimum age to rent a car in California is the same as everywhere else in the U.S. It depends on the car rental company rather than state law. California does have any laws on the books about car rental fees. 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. And, rentals in California will be subject to both tourism and sales tax, which will up your end costs a bit.

If you’re young and your travels are taking you 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.

Leave a Comment

We respond within 24 hours.

Terms of Use

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!