USA car rentals are fairly simple and straight-forward, even for international travelers. Most of the larger companies are international, so you will find the same companies in the USA as in the rest of the world, with similar rental terms and conditions, subject to local laws and regulations. International travelers do not need an international driver’s license in for USA car rentals.
The cars, however, will be somewhat different. Most USA car rentals are equipped with automatic transmissions, and the most commonly available models are 4-5 passenger economy, mid-sized and full-sized cars, with some minivans, and a limited selection of SUVs. Unlike in Europe, higher end USA car rentals are harder to find. The larger companies may have some luxury cars available, mostly in the Cadillac or Lincoln Town Car models, but a full range of selections may only be available at specialty companies in large cities. GPS units are available on some USA car rentals as either standard equipment on higher-end models or as optional portable units..
Most states require child seating, but USA car rental companies do not provide them. If you are traveling with small children, check the laws in the states in which you will be traveling and bring your own approved child restraint system. As in other countries, there are age limits on USA car rentals. Generally, 25 years is the lower limit, and the upper age limit varies by company or state. Insurance coverage is optional, but travelers should make sure their own policies will cover car rental if declining the coverage offered by the rental company.
In addition to optional insurance coverages, the traveler must choose between “wet” or “dry” fuel plans on USA car rentals. The choice is mostly a matter of convenience for the renter. In the first option, the first tank of fuel is added to the price at the time the car is checked out, and the car is returned with a partial tank, with no need to stop before returning the car to top off the tank. In the second option, a refueling charge is added at check-in, depending on the fuel gauge level.
The fuel cost per gallon is considerably cheaper when purchasing the first tank initially, since most cars are returned with a partial tank. If the car will be driven more than 200 miles, it is cheaper and much more convenient to pre-purchase the fuel. On longer trips, enough fuel should be added to permit returning to the check-in point with plenty of reserve. If the “dry” plan is elected, the fuel tank should be topped off within 30 miles of the check-in point to avoid a refueling charge. Most states in the USA, except New Jersey and Oregon, have self-service refueling, and it may be difficult to find a full-service station in an unfamiliar city. Usually, it is best to avoid the stress and potential mess of refueling an unfamiliar vehicle, so it is advised to either pay the refueling charge or pre-pay for the full tank.