If you're looking for a rental car in your own backyard—maybe your car is getting repaired or you need a roomier ride for houseguests—it often pays to check rates at your local airport, too. Sometimes airport rentals can actually be cheaper than in-town rentals, and airport rental office hours are usually much more flexible than those at your neighborhood branch.
But if you live near an airport—typically within 100 miles or within the same state—you may encounter extra restrictions if you can't produce a plane ticket. Unfortunately, these terms and conditions are often buried in fine print, so you may not be alerted until the last minute and have an unwelcome surprise at the rental counter. Let's take a look at how rental car company policies stack up:
Airport Car Rental Restrictions for Local Residents
Remember, these policies impact you only if you live near an airport and are not arriving at the airport by plane.
Advantage's policy is as follows:
Customers wishing to rent who reside within 65-mile radius of location where rental transaction is to be opened must present a return flight segment of a roundtrip airline ticket or electronic ticket for a flight leaving from within the renting state.
Customers who reside within the 65 mile radius without a return airline ticket and wish to rent a car will be required to show: written proof of a current automobile liability insurance policy in renters name covering injury to third persons or property.
If the Advantage agent is unable to verify proof of insurance when calling the insurance company, the rental transaction will be declined. Renters traveling on official government business, on military leave, or with an approved CID number are exempt from the local renter policy.
In other words, if you don't have a plane ticket and proof of liability insurance, Advantage will refuse to rent to you. Obviously not something you want to find out when standing at the rental counter. Unfortunately, liability-only policies are hard to come by, and while credit card companies do offer collision insurance (CDW/LDW), they do not offer liability insurance.
Bottom line, if you live within 65 miles of an Advantage airport location, don't bother.
E-Z defines a local rental as a renter who has a driver's license issued from the same state in which the airport is located. Here's some typical verbiage form the Terms & Conditions at the Jacksonville airport location:
All rates and reservations listed for us are reserved for airline arriving passengers only. Posted rates do not apply to residents with FL & GA drivers license. Florida residents seeking unlimited mileage must present an airline ticket with proof of outbound return flight. Non-airline arriving customers and Florida residents will receive 150 free miles per day and 25 per additional mile. Airline arriving passengers traveling outside of FL will be subject to a $25.00 per day mileage surcharge. Reservations booked thru internet or GDS channels are responsible for the total amount reflected on the reservation. We reserve the right to refuse service or to honor a reservation booked thru an internet or GDS channel that is not an airline arriving passenger. Non-Qualified prepaid reservations will be given a credit voucher for future rental use and are not refundable.
If you have a Nevada driver's license and are renting in Las Vegas, E-Z caps your free mileage to 150 miles per day and then charges $0.39 per additional mile. Furthermore, if you live in-state and can't provide written proof of insurance, you will be required to purchase CDW from the rental company—even if your credit card offers this as a standard benefit.
Lastly, E-Z says: "Local renters cannot rent specialty vehicles, including luxury, premium, convertible, SUV and other premium car classes."
So to sum up, if you live locally—or even in a neighboring state in some cases—you can rent a basic car with limited mileage as long as you bring your own insurance along. No round-trip airline ticket? Then E-Z is anything but easy.
Payless tends to have some of the most aggressive rates around. While we're not huge fans of their pushy sales tactics at many locations, you can walk away with a really low rate if you're careful to review your rental contract before you leave the rental counter—except if you are renting locally at an airport location.
Here's the policy at the Payless airport location at Orlando International:
Local renters require a verification process which may include verifying personal information such as home phone number, address and/or employment. Supporting information can be a current utility bill, recent bank statement and /or pay stub.
From the get-go, Payless goes to great lengths to ensure that you are who you say you are.
While most locations don't impose mileage restrictions for local renters or force you to take CDW if you can't prove you have insurance elsewhere, some locations do hedge this a bit. Here's the verbiage at the Denver airport location: "We can elect not to rent to you if you do not present proof of auto liability and physical damage insurance coverage." Again, the magic round-trip airline ticket we keep talking about is your insurance to avoid having to buy overpriced insurance.
It always pays to read the terms and conditions when reserving your rental car. Unlike airplane tickets and hotels, which are pretty straightforward, there are often some "gotchas" with rental cars, and you can head off many unpleasant surprises if you spend a moment to familiarize yourself with the rules.
- Here's How to Beat a Pricey Airport Car Rental Rate
- There is No Such Thing as a Free Day on an Airport Rental Car