A commonly asked question concerns renting cars to ‘under age’ drivers. That generally means drivers under 21 but could be under 25 or 23 in some countries. As most countries allow young people to pass a test and drive at 17 or 18 years old, it would seem logical that it would also be easy to rent car and drive abroad at this age. Unfortunately that’s often not the case, thought the situation has improved greatly since I set up Driverabroad.com in 2011. At that point finding a company who would rent to an under 21 year old was almost impossible.
The main problem is that rental companies see young drivers as more of a risk and therefore can choose to apply a blanket ban on young drivers.
Don’t despair though. Its often not impossible to rent a car abroad, it will just be more difficult and will probably cost more. I first rented a car in Spain when I was just 18 and had passed my test only 5 months before. The car was an old fiat panda rented from a small back street company but it served its purpose for myself and 4 friends crammed into it!
Hints and Tips for Renting a car Under 21 years old
- Though generally its always a good idea to book your rental car before your trip, this may not be possible for young drivers. Its likely you’ll have more chance with a ‘walk in’ booking, particularly at quiet times when the company may be more likely to take a risk on a young driver than have cars standing idle. This is especially true in holiday resorts where there are often multiple small companies competing with each other who may be desperate for some business.
- Try smaller companies rather than the big internationals. A small ‘one man band’ can make his own rules and isn’t tied to regulations set by head office. Most of the big companies seem to have a ’20 and over’ policy, though Hertz seem more flexible than the others at some locations and often have an ‘over 18’ policy on a restricted list of vehicles. https://www.hertz.com/rentacar/reservation/
- Go for the smallest, cheapest car available. Companies are more likely to take a gamble on a car which is worth less to them.
- Expect to pay more for insurance – you may have to take 3rd party insurance only. Check the small print carefully and make sure you have the minimum insurance required by law. Remember you’ll need a credit card to cover a deposit, but if using a small company they may want you to leave cash.
- Check out whether someone could rent the car for you eg your company, college or a parent, and name you as an under age driver. In the USA, companies seem to have less restrictions on young drivers who are in the military so if you have a friend who is serving, maybe ask them if they can rent the vehicle.
In Europe, I’ve found RentalCars.com and AutoEurope broker sites generally allow under 21 year old drivers.
A campervan tour of Australia or New Zealand is a popular gap year adventure and luckily there are companies which rent campervans to young drivers of 18 and above.