Just how old do you need to be to rent a car, and what are the surcharges if you are under a certain age. We have investigated the options among various rental suppliers.
Although the legal driving age is 17 in the UK, the majority of car hire companies place restrictions and surcharges when renting vehicles out to anybody under the age of 25. The bulk of the companies that do rent vehicles to those under 25 add surcharges that can double the cost of the daily fee. It pays to shop around to get the best deals on car hire for young drivers.
Hire firms do not always want to add-on extra fees as this might inflate the cost significantly compared to a competitor. But insurance cover is always an important component of the total hire package, so you need to examine the full cost of hiring a vehicle that is covered by insurance. The rental company’s hands are tied by the insurance companies who claim young drivers are not road-savvy and are more prone to speeding or having accidents. This assertion isn’t arbitrary either, it’s based on plenty of data of road accidents or incidents correlated with demographics of the driver responsible.
Car rental suppliers understand that not all young drivers are boy racers and have introduced some flexibility into their policies regarding who they will rent to. Some suppliers such as Hertz run their own programmes specifically geared towards students which give discounts of up to 20 per cent on the cost of standard rates.
Although the minimum age to rent is generally 21 in the UK, this requirement is not standard in other parts of the world. Some of the major global firms in countries like France and Switzerland will rent cars to 19 and 20 year-olds, but do restrict vehicles to basic models.
Another common stipulation is that the renter has to have held a full driving licence for the 12 months prior to the pick-up date. Penalty points on licences also make it harder for younger UK licence-holders to rent. One or two offences is considered okay but any more will disqualify the driver from renting.
Front-desk clerks at the depots are easily able to check for up-to-date information on the renter’s driving offences via Share my Driving Licence. Renters obtain a one-use code from the DVLA webpage which enables the clerk to access the driver’s records.
Choosing a car hire aggregator such as Car Rentals UK takes the hard work out of ascertaining how old you have be to rent a car. All you have to do is specify your age on the search engine. As a general guideline we have included the specifications each major car rentals supplier applies to young drivers below.
Suppliers Young Driver Specifications
Alamo in the US allows drivers from 21 to 25 to rent, but tacks on a US$3 (£2) daily surcharge. They are also prohibited from renting larger or premium vehicles. In the UK, Alamo says it will rent to drivers aged between 21 and 24 but surcharges apply.
Avis restrictions on young drivers vary from country to country. In the UK, the minimum age is 23 years old for small-engined cars and 25 for the group’s Prestige models. In the US, the standard is 21 years old but exceptions apply in New York State and Michigan where drivers can rent vehicles at 18. There is a minimum US$41 (£27) a day surcharge.
Budget comes under the Avis umbrella and its minimum age in the UK is 23 too. In most US states, Budget allows 21 to 24 year olds to rent, but only economy and compact vehicles.
Enterprise requires drivers to be 25 years old or over in the UK and 21 in the US.
Europcar will rent to motorists of 22 and above in the UK, but drivers under 25 have to pay a surcharge which is currently £32.50 a day. Drivers are required to have held a full licence for 12 months except in seven Southwestern pick-up locations where this increases to two years. (these are Plymouth, Exeter, Taunton, Carmarthan, Pembroke, Aberystwyth and Llanelli)
Green Motion rents its environmentally friendly vehicles to drivers between 21 and 75 years old. Drivers between 21 and 24 are restricted to manual gearbox models equivalent in size to Peugeot 308s. They also need to have held a driving licence for 24 months or over. Green Motion adds a hefty £38.50 young driver fee for each day’s rental.
Hertz goes out of its way to make car hire for young drivers easy, but in the UK renters need to be 23 or above here whereas in locations like mainland Spain the age limit drops to 19. The minimum licence requirement is 12 months.
Interrent is the low cost arm of Europcar and offers rental services for young drivers. The minimum full licence requirement is 12 months and minimum ages are 22 years old in the UK, 21 in Spain, 19 in France and Portugal, and 18 in Germany.
National Car Rental in the US requires drivers to be 21 or over and have held their licences for at least one year. (in the UK, the lower limit is 25 for cars and vans. It is 30 for people wishing to rent minibuses of nine seats and above)
Sixt Rent A Car requires its renters to be over 21 for standard vehicles and imposes a surcharge of £36 per day in the UK.
Thrifty UK allows young drivers between 21 and 24 years old to rent economy and compact models as well as small vans with a VAT inclusive surcharge of £25 per day. The lower age limit for its premium models is 30.
Thrifty-Dollar outlets in the US generally set a minimum age of 21 to rent vehicles and specify there is a surcharge for those under 25. In other locations around the world, the age requirements vary with each country.
If you're under 25 years old, always ensure that you check the age policy in the suppliers Terms & Conditions before booking. This is easy to find with most suppliers, only takes a few seconds & could save you from any unexpected costs.