Car rental in the USA

Because of the distances in the USA it is necessary to rent a car. Car rentals are there on every corner, the selection is really great. Normally and locally, they borrow cars when they go on vacation to make sure everything is safe and in case of problems the rental will take care of them. Moreover, it’s also good because you do not waste your car because of the long distances (regular holidays in Florida are about 4,500 km from Chicago).

It is cost effective if you make your order at least two months in advance. You can book your car even from home through some of the car rental web sites.

I recommend choosing a large car rental company that has its branches all over the USA. In case of problems, you can easily visit a branch office in another city or state and do everything conveniently on the spot. In addition, cars from large car rentals are usually newer and in a much better condition.

Among the best-known car rentals are Enterprise, Avis, Alamo, Budget or Hertz. We rent the car from the Enterprise car rental because it was close and had the best price and conditions.

An overwhelming majority of cars have automatic transmissions and gas engines in the US. The standard equipment of the cars is air conditioning and radio, at a surcharge, for example, GPS.

If you are at least 25 years, you can rent a car at no extra cost. If you are 21-24 years, a surcharge of $10 – $30 per day is added to the price due to the low age. If you are 18 to 20 years, it may happen that you will not borrow a car at all.

Drivers younger than 25 years pay a supplement for a low age.

Driving license

Probably it will be enough to have the classic European driving license. However, I would highly recommend that you arrange for an International Driving License (MIP) under the Geneva Convention. This card is valid for one year and is issued for a fee of 50 CZK. This is a paper brochure.

Payment for rent

Renting a car is only paid when it is returned. However, when picking up a car, it is necessary to read the credit card details. And it is because of the fact that the rent is payable retrospectively on the return, but it is necessary to own a credit card, not the debit card, which is the most widespread in the Czech Republic and the banks automatically issue them to the accounts. Therefore, before the trip, you need to apply for a credit card at the bank, because without it you will not borrow your car. This is very important and with this we also met when borrowing a car, since at that time I did not have a credit card, only two debit cards, and none of the rents was willing to accept it. Fortunately, our friend, who has been living in the US for a long time, had a credit card and managed to tell us that we can use his card. A fee of $10 per day is normally charged, but we have managed to persuade the operator not to charge the fee.

A credit card is required to rent a car, not a debit card.

Vehicle categories

Car rentals usually offer many categories of cars, which vary in size, equipment and, of course, price. I recommend considering what category you choose because the cheapest choice may not be appropriate because you probably spend a lot of time in your car, and driving a small and inconvenient car without air conditioning could become a hardship.

The second option is to order a lower category, and when you pass a car you can say about upgrading to a higher category. In most cases, it is possible to agree on a lower price than the direct booking via the internet. If the ordered category was not available at the agreed delivery date, ask for a higher-end vehicle at the original price. That’s what happened to us because we originally ordered a standard Ford (Ford Focus) car, but because it was not available anymore, we got a Full Size (Nissan Altima) at the original price. The car was beautiful and practically completely new, it was only 1,700 miles. It’s a long way to go with us 🙂

Returning the car

Beforehand, think about how long you will be on the road, as the return of your car on another day or another place is very expensive. For example, we borrowed a car at Illionois and if we wanted to go back to California instead of the original location where we picked the car, we would pay extra $700 (for carriage back).


Gas stations work in the US differently than in the Czech Republic. Perhaps all petrol stations are unattended. Even the oldest stations somewhere in the villages are unattended. It works by choosing the type of payment first (usually a credit card even if we have a regular debit card), then inserting the credit card into the reader on the stand and pulling it out again. If you do not do it quickly, the machine probably will not be able to read it, and you will have to repeat the procedure. Then we put the nozzle into the tank and choose the type of fuel we want to refuel. Typically, Regular (or Unleaded 87, equivalent of our Natural 95), Plus (or Unleaded 89, Natural 98 equivalent) and Premium (Unleaded 91-93, the equivalent of Natural 100) are available. Diesel is not always available, as the vast majority of US cars run on gasoline and diesel cars are just trucks. After completing the refueling, we return the nozzle to the stand, we will take out the account and we can leave.

Refueling looks complicated, but it’s really very simple and especially fast and efficient. Mostly, each gas station has instructions on how to operate it.

More tips on renting a car

Prices on the Internet are not final. Only the basic rate is shown and, moreover, tax-free. To do so, you have to add the tax and for the foreigners also insurance. And if you are less than 25 years of age, then the supplement for a low age.

Large car rentals usually do not limit mileage. It is good to keep an eye on it because the price for one mile above the set limit is very high and the distance to the US is incomparably higher than in the Czech Republic or Europe.

At the car rental they will definitely try to impose surcharges that you do not need. For example, GPS navigation, even if you have your own. Personal accident insurance, even if you have a personal insurance.

The car must be returned with the same fuel level in the tank as you borrow it. The fuel condition should also be marked on the handover protocol.

It is also good to pass the car and leave all the faults in the handover protocol. These are, for example, paint scratches, missing equipment or any other defects.

When picking up the car, the driver signing the contract and the owner of the card is always the same. If the car is driven by someone else, it is necessary to enter his/her into the contract. But the extra driver always costs something extra. On the other hand, if the car is driven by someone who is not listed in the contract and there is a problem, it does not cover the other driver’s insurance and he will have to pay all the damage.