Car rental in the USA: documents, prices, instructions | Elena Kazantseva's blog


For our road trip on the USA West Coast,  we decided to rent a car. It’s convenient, it’s cheaper than buying guided tours, and we just like to travel by car and do it often! For the trip we rented car in Los Angeles. Today I will tell you how to rent a car in the USA, what documents are needed and what you need to pay attention to when traveling by car.


car rental in america

How to rent a car in the USA

Car rental in the United States, in fact, is no different from car rental in Europe. Here you can read my review of rental in Spain, here – in the Czech Republic.

Here are the main ways:

  1. To rent on the spot at any distributor – local or international. This can be done both at the Los Angeles airport (or any other), and in the city. You can find offices via the Internet at the request of rent car usa , rent car los angeles , etc. But renting a car might not be necessary for you, or the prices will be higher than if you had booked in advance. I generally do not like to solve such issues on the spot, therefore, I always book in advance.
  2. Book in advance through the distributor’s website, these are the international websites of Hertz, Avis, Sixt, etc. International companies always have international support, so renting directly is a good option. The most budget options are considered a car rental in the USA in Alamo, Dollar, National.
  3. Rent from private owners. Such a service has appeared relatively recently and works like Airbnb, only cars instead of apartments. I searched the Internet for car rental sites from private owners, that’s what happened:,, As I understand it, these are the largest and most popular. The price starts at an average of $ 22 per day, but, according to reviews, you can rent for $ 12 per day. However, pay attention to the service charge and mileage limitation. In principle, there are interesting options, especially in the luxury segment, and maybe next time I will try to rent a car through one of these services.
  4. Rent in advance with a discount of 30% through reliable services such as and . Both have international support and from time to time I contact them.

Since I did not have much time to prepare for the trip, I went along the standard path and looked for a car according to 4 options.

Initially, I wanted to rent an Ford Mustang “American”, but there were only gigs. In February, I did not dare to take a convertible car to travel such long distances.

I compared options, conditions and prices on two services, compared with prices on official websites and settled on Hertz’s Chevy Malibu through service . I used to think that they specialize specifically in European destinations, but they also have good conditions and prices for car rental in the USA.


Read also my California Travel Guide


Documents required to rent a car in the USA

There is nothing unusual in the documents, documents you need:

  1. Driving license. Also a driver’s license for a second driver. Our second driver was included in the price, but somewhere on the forums I read that in the USA there is a law under which a spouse can drive one car without any additional permissions.
  2. Driver ID (passport)
  3. Credit card in the name of the main driver. The husband provided his documents, the spelling of the name on the card and his license was the same, but was differente with the passport. There were no problems with this. I pay attention to this point, because once in France they did not give me a car because the spelling of the name in the passport and on the credit card did not match.
  4. Voucher if booked online. But, in my opinion, he was lying on the table in the office and nobody looked at him.

Car rental USA: what to look for

When renting a car in America, I recommend paying attention to such conditions:

  1. Minimum driver age, for a “young driver” (18-24 years old depending on the company), you may have to pay extra
  2. Driving experience (as a rule, the experience should be at least 1 year)
  3. Mileage limit. I did not see any options with a mileage limit on the services where I was looking for, but on a private car rental service, the mileage limit is often set to 600 miles, everything above must be paid extra (50-80 cents per mile). We drove about 1,500 miles, and if there was such a restriction, then for excess we would have paid 600-700 dollars.
  4. Fuel. Standard conditions for gasoline “Full – full”, i.e. you get a car with a full tank, but with a full one you return. We didn’t have enough until the tank was full upon receipt; we handed over with the same amount of gasoline.
  5. Travel abroad. It may be prohibited or pay extra for it. If in Europe we often visit several countries for a trip, then we were not going to leave the USA, therefore, I was not even interested in this issue.
  6. Deductible or damage excess (or non-refundable insurance amount). In the US, most cars are already issued with full insurance and no deductible.
  7. Security deposit. Since there is usually no deductible, deposits are minimal. We left only 200 dollars. Cash is not accepted, the deposit is held on the card . By the way, theyunblocked the deposit on the day the car was delivered.

My review on car rental in Los Angeles

As I already wrote, I did not have much time to prepare, therefore, I did not experiment with new services, but compared the prices for rentalcars and autoeurope with each other and with prices on the official websites of rental companies.

At autoeurope, renting a car in California was slightly cheaper than on, and it was possible to book to a specific Hertz office.

I was forced to get in touch with autoeurope support again because I originally planned to visit Yosemite and Sequoia Park. But in winter it is only possible on winter tires (and sometimes chains are also required). I literally made autoeurope support contact Hertz to learn about the possibility of renting a car on winter tires. I wrote to them that I do not speak English at a conversational level to call America on my own and that I use their service precisely because of the availability of Russian support. A few days later they answered that they contacted the American hertz, but Los Angeles is not a place with a pronounced winter season, so the car will be on summer tires.

For car rental in Los Angeles, I chose the Hertz office in the Westwood area. Since we spent the first 4 days of our route in LA and only then drove off, I did not rent a car at the Los Angeles airport, traveled around the city by public transport, as well as Uber ( bonus for the first trip ) and Lyft ( bonus for the first trip ). On the fourth day, on the way from Santa Monica to the center, we picked up the car in the Westwood area, and on the last day we handed it in and checked into the Plaza la Reina  literally 5 minutes from the rental office.

Getting a car was standard. The only “but” was that there were no cars of our class and instead of the Chevy Malibu we were given a huge seven-seater van Dodge Grand Caravan. For two places, of course, a bit much.


car rental usa
Dodge Caravan – a real American car


There were pros and cons of such a replacement. Pros: he is very comfortable, even when traveling long distances (300-500 miles) his back did not get tired. Of course, it was interesting to drive a real American car and feel like an American on such a giant (in fact, compared to many cars, our van looked like some kind of kid).


rent a car usa
Compared to many cars in the USA, even a 7-seater multivan looks like a “kid”


Well, the car was scratched in places and did not attract much attention at all, therefore, we calmly left it in the parking lots.

But the main minus – it “ate” gasoline like an elephant, sometimes had to refuel twice a day. But due to the fact that gas prices are low ($ 3.2 -3.5 $ per gallon or about $ 1 per liter), the result is not as much as we imagined.

The car is equipped with everything necessary (rear parking sensors, rear view camera, gps, cruise control). Automatic transmission (in America, in my opinion, there are practically no cars on the mechanics).

Mileage upon receipt – 14,940 miles. In 8 days we drove 1,500 miles.

The cost of renting a car in the USA is $ 325 (about $ 40 per day), we spent about $ 220 on gasoline. Parking – only $ 35 (of which $ 30 for 2 days in the parking lot of the Paris Hotel in Vegas).

Car delivery was quick and easy, the same employee who issued, inspected the car, issued a receipt, asked how the rental went. The deposit was unlocked almost immediately.

We had a chip on the windshield (a stone flew in the Death Valley), the chip was visible, but no one told us anything or even asked.

Traffic regulations, speed limits and toll roads in the USA

Some information about traffic regulations in the USA.

Allowed Speed:

  • In residential areas: 25-35 miles per hour
  • Intercity roads: 50 miles per hour.
  • On highways: 70-85 miles per hour

Restrictions are indicated on the signs, therefore, I recommend that you focus on them.

Plus, do not forget that the speed is indicated in miles, therefore, let the limitation of 85 miles on the highway do not bother you, it’s 136 km / h!

Exceeding up to 10 mph is usually not punishable by a fine.

Features of traffic rules in the USA

  1. Turning right to “red” is allowed (unless the sign “NO TURN ON RED” is on). When turning, you need to make sure that you do not interfere with other vehicles and, of course, pedestrians.
  2. The STOP sign means you need to stop completely, even if there are no other cars at the intersection.
  3. Driving through unregulated intersections is regulated not like ours, by “interference on the right,” but by the principle of “whoever came first, that first went.” At such intersections, you must definitely stop at the STOP sign, let everyone who arrived at the intersection before you, and only then, making sure that everyone else is standing, drive through.
  4. You can cross solid and even double solid if you need to turn into the yard, at the gas station, to the supermarket. Two solid cross is strictly prohibited.
  5. There are CarPool lanes on highways; they are intended only for cars in which 2 or more people ride. If there is only a driver in the car, then you cannot call into this lane.

Markings and some road signs can be seen in this short video of mine.



And here is a short video of a trip along the Pacific Coast Highway (US highway No. 1)


Toll roads in the USA and parking

There are toll roads in the USA, and also toll roads on some bridges (for example, Golden Gate in San Francisco ). But in the 8 days of travel, we never stopped on the toll road.

Parking is also paid. There are street (marked with markings) and parking garages. The price is about $ 1 per hour, at night (from 21 to 9) some parking is free. The price of parking in garages is from $ 1 per hour. In the Paris Las Vegas hotel we parked for $ 15 per day, in some hotels the price goes up to $ 25-30 per day.


car rental usa
Parking at one of the motels


In the United States, the so-called Valet Parking is common. This is when you drive to a hotel or restaurant, give the key and park your car. Such a parking is naturally more expensive.

Gas stations and gasoline in the USA

US Gas Prices for March 2020:

State Regular Mid-Grade

California $ 3.146 $ 3.352

Colorado $ 2.051 $ 2.368

Connecticut $ 2.249 $ 2.655

District of Columbia $ 2.336 $ 2.870

The price is per gallon, about 3.8 liters per gallon.

Gas stations in the USA are not unusual, unless the fact that not a single gas station has read our cards and you had to go to the cash desk and pay for gas there.

They work on a prepaid basis, if, for example, you paid $ 50 from a card, and refuel only $ 40, $ 10 will be returned to your card within a few days when the operation takes place.

That’s all. I hope my article on car rental in the USA helps you choose a car to travel! Have a good trip!

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