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Rentals & Driving in the USA

U.S. guide to vehicle rentals and driving tips

Rent a car to gain unparalleled freedom in your travels. A road trip gives you the flexibility to make unplanned stops, see roadside attractions and small towns. There are 75,439 km of interstate highway across the country, providing many stops and adventures.

Highways & Tolls

The USA also has a robust highway system that snakes across the country. Some of the high-speed roadways and bridges are free and some have tolls, which can add up quickly. The method of payment for these fees vary by system, but often they can be paid by cash, credit card or a pass, which electronically charges your credit card and allows you to bypass the toll booths. Many rental companies offer electronic passes. In such cases, you are charged the total fees you accumulated in your travels when you return the vehicle.

Renting a Vehicle

Rental car locations are conveniently located at most airports and throughout major cities and tourist destinations. Book your rental car in advance for the best rates.

Major U.S. car rental companies:

RV Rentals

Recreational vehicles, or RVs, are an increasingly popular way for tourists to see the USA. An RV is like a home away from home, typically loaded with a bathroom and kitchen as well as beds. They give you the ability to pack a lot more on your road trip such as food and travel gear. There are thousands of RV parks and campgrounds where you can stay overnight, which cuts down on accommodation costs. You often need a reservation, especially at campsites in or near National Parks.

Traveling by RV has become popular due to the convenience and flexibility it offers. Check out rental options if you choose to see the USA by RV. Popular RV rental companies include:

Motorcycle Rentals

A few companies also offer motorcycle rentals. EagleRider and Harley-Davidson offer motorcycle rentals as well as tours across the country. Most states have some sort of motorcyclist helmet law, so be sure to research such laws in advance.

Remember the following tips when renting a vehicle in the U.S.:

  • Check with an individual company for its regulations for international drivers. Some require you to have had a driver’s license for at least a year before being permitted to drive in the U.S. Some companies require proof of your return trip to your resident country or the reservation rate will change.
  • Book early online and pay in advance to save money. Please note the costs of car rentals vary for each location and often include different rates for the time of the week. Weekends can be cheaper.
  • Check that your rental company offers unlimited mileage on vehicles to avoid fees.
  • Try to plan for a round trip. Picking up a car at one location and returning at another can significantly increase your rates.
  • Be sure you have auto insurance coverage, which is legally required to operate a vehicle in the USA.

Once you have rented a vehicle, here are a few tips to remember:

  • Driving: Remember, when driving in the U.S. stay on the right side of the road.
  • Fuel: In the U.S., gas is sold by the gallon (3.79 liters) and is offered in three levels of octane: regular, plus and premium. Most car rental companies only require the use of regular gas. Often international debit or credit cards don’t work at the payment machines at the gas pump because they require a U.S. ZIP code (or postal code) for security verification. In such cases, you will need to pay inside the station.
  • Disabled parking: Every state in the U.S. has its own regulations governing parking permits for people with disabilities. In some cases, international disabled parking permits will suffice, while others require a temporary permit. Check with the Department of Motor Vehicles of each state you will be visiting to get more information.
  • Hitchhikers: It is illegal to hitchhike on the interstate highway system.
  • Wildlife: Watch out for wildlife, particularly deer, in rural areas.
  • School buses: You cannot pass a school bus when its lights are flashing red.