Avoiding underage driver fees

For drivers under the age of 25, young renter fees charged by rental car companies are a constant source of frustration and can push your rates sky high. The good news is that AutoSlash has your back. We can help you easily avoid young renter fees and make sure you don't overpay for a rental car.

Note that at the outset of the coronavirus pandemic last spring, several rental car companies stepped up with temporary promotions to waive young renter fees. This is a big deal, since young renter fees can be $30 per day.

While some of those waivers expired at the end of May and June, Avis and Budget have extended their young driver fee waivers until the end of July and Hertz has extended its waiver through August. This makes these three companies the best bets for college-age drivers this summer.

Car Rental Fees for Drivers Under 25

A Young Renter Fee (also called an Under-25 Fee or Underage Fee) is a daily fee that compensates the rental car company for the extra risk when young renters drive their vehicles. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have all concluded that drivers under the age of 25 are a riskier class of drivers. Accident rates decrease substantially for drivers after the age of 25, and rental car companies (and insurers) have data from hundreds of millions of drivers to support charging additional fees.

Young renter fees are not cheap, ranging from $15 to $57 per day, depending on the rental car company. In many cases, the young renter fee can cost more than the rate itself. This daily fee is then subjected to taxes, which makes it a fee we always hope to avoid.


Car Rental Fees for Drivers Ages 18 to 24


Most rental car companies only rent to drivers age 21 years and up, but there are exceptions. Dollar and Thrifty car rental brands set the minimum age to rent a car at 20 years old, and Fox Rent a Car requires drivers to be 19 or older. The youngest minimum of all? Hertz recently lowered its minimum age to 18 in the U.S., except Alabama and Nebraska where the minimum age to rent is 19.

Two states, Michigan and New York, require companies to rent to drivers 18 and older, yet car rental companies still have discretion on the young driver fee. At Alamo, for example, the fee for drivers under 21 is a hefty $57 per day, plus tax, in addition to the rental car cost. So a 20-year old renting an Alamo vehicle at New York LaGuardia Airport (LGA) is going to pay $75.91 in young renter fees (and associated taxes) per day, in addition to the cost of the rental.

One of the few certainties in the rental car industry is that no rental car company will issue a contract to a driver under the age of 18 due to issues of driver risk as well as contract law. Most companies won’t even rent to drivers between the ages of 18 and 20 unless required by law.

The exceptions are Michigan and New York, where the minimum age to rent is 18 years of age as mandated by state law. The other exception is that United States Government Employees and military personnel can rent at 18 years of age if they are able to show official orders at the rental location.


What Rental Cars Are Off-Limits for Young Drivers?


Along with the fees and restrictions, young renters truly want to read the fine print to ensure the ability to drive off the lot with their desired vehicle. For drivers under the age of 25, it’s common to find car categories that are off-limits. Default car categories (economy, compact, intermediate, standard, and full-size) are usually permissible while sports cars, exotic cars, premium, and luxury vehicles are typically off-limits. Only two companies (Payless and Sixt) explicitly allow young renters to rent minivans.

Be sure to read the rules of your rental.


What Does a Young Driver Need to Rent a Car?


To rent a car, you need to meet all of the rental car company’s driver qualifications. This includes having a valid driver's license, credit card in the driver’s name with enough credit available for the vehicle along with any deposits, and authorizations for additional services. Procuring a credit card is a challenge for the youngest renters after the Credit CARD Act of 2009 placed restrictions on issuing credit cards to those under the age of 21. Paying for a rental car with a debit card may be possible but comes with a multitude of restrictions and requirements.


How to Avoid Young Renter Fees on Rental Cars


Rental car companies are in the business of making a profit, so if a customer isn’t exempt from a fee, the company will impose it. The single best method for minimizing a rental car bill is avoiding these fees through memberships.

AAA Membership

Hertz created a Young Driver Fee Waiver for AAA members aged 20 to 24. In addition to waiving the Young Renter Fee with rentals from Hertz, AAA membership also provides the Roadside Protection Services and offers family rates where younger drivers can be added for a minimal cost. The reservation must be booked under the AAA rate code to be eligible for the fee waiver. This fee waiver is not global; it’s available only in the U.S. and Canada.

Better yet, Hertz recently lowered the minimum age to rent a vehicle to 18 in the U.S., except Alabama and Nebraska where the minimum age to rent is 19. Hertz also lowered the minimum age for enrollment for its Gold Plus Rewards Program to 18 years old. This means it makes even more sense for 20 year olds to rent through Hertz since they can both avoid the underage fee and also skip the counter.

USAA Membership

USAA has been consistently good for service members (and family members of service members) between the ages of 18 and 24. (USAA has been cracking down on members who are not in the U.S. military.) The fee waivers at Avis, Budget and Hertz for USAA members starts at age 18, while the fee waiver at Enterprise starts at the age of 21.

USAA provides for fee waivers for a wide array of rental car companies.

As with the AAA rate, a reservation must be booked under the USAA rate to be eligible for the fee waiver; membership alone isn’t enough, USAA benefits are also only valid within the United States. USAA rates may not be the lowest available for a specific rental — contact us if you must be booked under a USAA rate.

Federal Employees and Active-Duty Military

Active duty military and federal employees on orders may rent at Alamo, Avis, National, and Enterprise starting at the age of 18 without a Young Renter fee. However, vehicles booked by an individual on government orders is likely booked through a service like Defense Travel System (DTS).

Active-duty military not traveling on orders? Join USAA immediately. You’ll be entitled to a young renter fee waiver starting at age 18 (with Hertz) and with four different companies once reaching the age of 21. USAA members also receive an insurance benefit on their rentals at the four main providers.

Insurance Replacement Rentals

Some rental car companies will waive fees for young renters when the vehicle is an insurance replacement after an accident. However, the insurance companies paying for those replacement rentals have already negotiated rates with the rental car companies.

Employer Negotiated Rates

Many large corporations offer rates that remove the young renter fee for staff members on company business. The rules and eligibility of those reservations are controlled by agreements between corporations and individual rental car companies.

Limited-Time and Uncertain Exceptions

From time-to-time, limited-time exceptions to the young rental fee also arise. Dollar and Hertz have both been known to cut down fees temporarily, especially at the beginning of calendar years. In addition, the Hertz Gold Family program (as of January 2017) appears to waive the underage fee on rentals in Canada. A caveat: The ability to waive the underage fee on U.S. rentals was recently removed, so we fear the dissolution of this program.


Recap on How to Avoid Young Renter Fees


Underage fees for car rentals are expensive, and AutoSlash wants to help young renters avoid them whenever possible. Our handy chart explains the basics.

Age Program Rental Car Company
Under 18 Not Possible None
18 USAA Avis, Budget, Hertz
19 USAA Avis, Budget, Hertz
20 USAA Avis, Budget, Hertz
20 AAA Hertz
21 - 24 AAA Hertz
21 - 24 USAA Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Hertz

There’s no such thing as a cheap rental car if you're paying a daily underage fee. With membership in AAA or USAA, many young drivers can avoid this needless fee completely.

Looking to avoid an underage fee? Submit a quote request and we’ll send you the best possible offers within minutes.


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