How To Rent A Car When You're Under 25
This guest post is written by Nomad Member Brent Bovenzi. He is a software engineer transforming education through technology solutions at GoGuardian.
Traveling is awesome, but you can’t always hop between cities and towns on public transportation. You need a car. Problem is, a lot of people under 25 don’t think they can even rent a car (you can), but then all the fees tacked on still puts it out of reach.
Let’s fix this and see how much we can save. To demonstrate, let’s say I am 23-years-olf and I'm flying into Los Angeles for 6 days. Also, it’s a good idea to get some insurance too. With Hertz car rental, that comes out to $582.82 for a Corolla.
Look at all those fees. Oof!
Well, that definitely ruins the value in that cheap cross country flight I just booked. So let’s start tackling these fees.
Getting Rid of the Age Differential Fee
This was always the biggest limit for me to rent and explore the country until I happened to fall upon an pretty cool trick from USAA. One of the benefits of USAA, the insurance company for military members and their family, is the waiving of underage fees for rentals. Even better, this is one of the few perks you can get with USAA as a civilian, without any connection to the US military at all.
All you have to do is make a free USAA account online. Then begin your rental booking process through the USAA website under their travel section. It will add their discount code which will waive the Age Differential fee and may even give other discounts too.
Now that’s a bit better.
In this case, it also applied a discount onto the actual rental rate too which then trickled down to reduce the airport fee, state tourism fee, and the taxes. Awesome.
We have now saved $282.52, but we can do better.
Find Other Ways to Get Insurance
This is a pretty simple way to save, “Don’t buy the insurance”, but out of any add-on that feels like the one I should get. Sure, luggage insurance on a flight can seem superfluous but there are millions of accidents a year so you should be covered somehow.
You may still already be covered.
First, if you have a car insurance from a car back home, check the policy to see if it extends towards rentals.
Second, if you use a credit card to pay for the rental, you also could be covered. Look in the policy of the credit card for a primary Collision Damage Waiver (CDW). This is what the rental car company is selling you, but a good number of credit cards have this baked in already.
Just to note, there are both primary and secondary CDWs. This route really only works if your card offers a primary CDW. A secondary CDW still leaves you paying a deductible and other fees which could end up being a few hundred dollars.
Cool, with taxes that’s another $73.99 saved. $356.51 total. Let’s keep going.
A bunch of rental car companies now include a discount if you pay online now instead of when you arrive at the counter. The catch is that you are locked into those dates and will usually be charged a greater fee to cancel. But again, your credit card may come to save you if it has Trip Delay/Cancellation Reimbursement.
If the location doesn’t offer a Pay Now option check some other locations nearby too.
In this scenario we only save $9.43, but other times this can save you up to 35%.
Avoid Airport Fees
One of the last big items here is that pesky airport concession fee. Most rental places at airports charge them.
For this one, simply check if there are any other rental locations near, but not directly at the airport. Lots of hotels have a branch of rental car company.
It looks like there are four locations that are just as far as the actual airport rental center. Also, these hotels usually have a free shuttle from the terminal too so you don’t even have to worry about getting an Uber or walking a mile.
Even better, the rental fees themselves may be less at another location, like this time.
Our total from the previous step was $216.78. We saved another $56.81.
You should avoid nearly every other item they may try to upsell you online or at the counter. Prepaying gas is rarely worth it. Use your phone as a GPS. Download a ton of good music and podcasts beforehand so you don’t need Sirius XM.
Also, its always worth a look for any discounts offered through an airline miles program or simply deals on offer at the time. But in this case the ones that USAA found were better than any that I could find posted online.
A final note, this advice is mainly for travel in the US. The USAA underage waiver appears to only work in the states and a primary CDW from a credit card usually has a number of countries where it doesn’t apply.
The base setting for the rental was the same throughout the process. Flying in and out of LAX for a rental from January 4th to January 10th for a 23 year old.
We started at $582.82 and after everything,we ended up with the same exact rental costing us $159.97. Saving $422.85!