A Beginner's Guide to Hiring a Car in the USA & Canada

For the uninitiated, hiring a car can seem like a daunting task. But the sense of freedom you'll gain cruising down America’s famous open roads is unmatched – and our booking process could hardly be simpler. Discover everything you need to know about hiring with Alamo Rent A Car with our handy guide.

A Beginner's Guide to Hiring a Car in the USA & Canada

By Sarah
23 February 2018

Who can rent a car?

Hiring a car is one of the easiest ways to explore the USA and Canada, allowing you to explore away from the limitations of public transportation and feel the true American road trip experience. Alamo car rental is available to anyone aged 21 and over with a valid full UK driving licence in 48 of the 50 states. In Michigan and New York State, the minimum age is 18.

When renting with Alamo, a 'Young Driver Fee' will also apply to any primary or additional driver who is under the age of 25; and certain vehicles, such as specialty or larger models, may not be rented. There are no upper age limits for driving in North America.

How to select the right vehicle

You can choose from a large range of vehicles when you rent with Alamo. Our Economy option is generally the cheapest, but you can opt for a more spacious or sporty car for just a few pounds extra.

It's worth bearing in mind that while a small car may be the best option for fuel consumption, a medium car may be a more comfortable option for those embarking on a longer journey. You'll be shown all of the available options at any pick-up branch when you start your online booking.

Don't forget – we also have plenty of specialty options such as family cars, including safety seats for all ages, and convertibles for that classic American road trip feel. If you do want to hire a special car, we recommend that you book ahead to ensure that the branch can cater for your needs.

Protecting your rental

All fundamental insurance and protection services are included with every rental. This includes all taxes, fees and surcharges, as well as basic insurance for you and an additional driver. You can choose to include additional cover for around £30 extra with Alamo Gold – this covers 24/7 roadside assistance, replacing lost keys, jumpstarts and fuel delivered straight to you if you run out.

Another reason you may prefer Alamo Gold is that you won't have to pay any excess if you do make an insurance claim. Generally in the event of damage or theft, the excess charge would be around £1,200 for standard vehicles. You can reduce the amount you pay by taking out Excess Protection on any rental for a daily fee – or opting for Alamo Gold allows you the freedom to roam worry-free.

What documentation do I need?

All you need to drive in North America is a valid driving licence from your country of residence, as well as an International Driver's Permit if your licence is not in English. In some cases, you may be asked to provide additional valid government-issued documentation, such as a passport, so it’s always a good idea to bring more than one form of identification. Photocopies or restricted licences are not accepted.

What happens at pick-up?

If you haven't already prepaid for your rental, you can pay by credit or debit card on arrival . Once your identification has been verified and the rental finalised, you'll be given documentation that you should hang onto – you'll need it again when you drop your car off.

The car will be ready with a full tank of fuel which can be added to your payment – or else you can simply return the car with a full tank so you don't pay for more than you use. Alternatively, get it on us with the Alamo Gold package. You'll be handed the keys and shown to your car – then you're off on the open road.

If you're arriving by plane and your flight is delayed, your rental will be held for 12 hours, or until the end of the business day. That's why it's always a good idea to include your flight details when booking – that way we can monitor your arrival and provide you with the best option.

Preparing your car for drop-off

The car should be ready to be rented out again as soon as it's returned to the branch. So if you've been testing one of our 4x4s on off-road routes, or any furry friends have been keeping you company on your journey, you should consider getting a car wash before returning it to remove any mud or pet hair. If you don't have time to do this, an additional cleaning fee will be charged. Remember to return the car with a full tank if you didn't pay for your fuel on departure.

How do I drop off my rental car?

Once you've prepared your car, it's as easy as rolling into your chosen branch and following the signs to the "drop off" point. Then simply hand over the keys and documentation you were given at the rental point, and ensure that you've removed all of your belongings. We'll do a quick check of the car's condition, which generally takes just a few minutes, and then you'll be given a returns receipt.

Remember that you should drop your car off at the branch that you selected during the rental process – otherwise you'll be charged an additional fee for pick-up.

Ready to hit the road?

So whether you're planning a short break, or a longer road trip, you can find everything you need to know about hiring a car with Alamo Rent A Car in our helpful frequently asked questions.