If you rent a car in the US, can you add another driver to your contract?
In general, yes, you can, but it might cost you – plenty.
Not too long ago, you would have expected, perhaps, to pay a fee to add an additional authorized driver to your rental car contract, unless that extra driver happened to be your spouse or domestic partner. Companions of disabled renters were also exempt from additional authorized driver charges.
The situation is a little more complicated today. Some rental car companies allow renters to add spouses and domestic partners to their contracts free of charge. Others charge for domestic partners but not spouses or companion drivers. A few rental car companies charge to add even spouses as additional authorized drivers – except in certain states.
How to Avoid Paying for Another Driver on Your Rental Car Contract
The best way to avoid paying for additional authorized drivers is to do your homework early, well before you go to pick up your rental car. You can get information from the rental car company's website or call a customer service representative, but the answers you receive may not be accurate for your rental location. The best way to know what you will be charged is to read your rental car contract carefully before you sign it. Because rental car company policies vary from state to state and even from office to office, be sure to review the entire contract.
Let's take a look at the major US. rental car companies' additional authorized driver policies. (Note: All information, while current as of this writing, is subject to change without notice. Consult your rental car company for location-specific policies and fee information.)
- Alamo charges a fee for all additional drivers, including spouses, except if the car is being rented under a corporate contract. Spouses of renters in California, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon and Wisconsin do not have to pay the additional driver fee. Loyal reader Chip reports that members of Alamo Insiders do not have to pay for an additional driver.
- Avis does not charge a fee to add spouses, domestic partners, additional drivers in California, employers on official business, employees on official business or companion drivers for disabled renters to your rental contract, as long as they are over 25 years of age.
- Budget does not charge a fee to add spouses, domestic partners, employers or employees renting through a company account for official business, additional drivers in California or surrogate drivers for renters with disabilities to your contract. This policy may not apply at licensee-owned locations.
- Dollar charges a fee to add spouses and domestic partners to contracts as additional authorized drivers. Companion drivers for disabled renters, corporate renters paying via a corporate account and government renters traveling on official orders and using a government rate plan do not have to pay a fee. Local policies may also apply. Check with your rental office for more information.
- Enterprise does not charge to add spouses, domestic partners or companion drivers for persons with disabilities to rental contracts, but may charge a fee to add other authorized drivers.
- Hertz has changed its additional driver policy and now allows you to add as many drivers as can fit in your rental car. If your rental car has five seats, you may add up to four additional drivers. Drivers over 21 but under 25 years of age may be asked to pay an age differential fee.
- National's website says that additional drivers, including spouses, will be charged a daily fee, unless the primary renter is an Emerald Club member or is renting the car under a corporate contract. Surrogate drivers for renters with disabilities and renters' spouses in California, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon and Wisconsin will not be charged a fee.
- Thrifty allows you to add as many additional drivers as can fit in your rental car. Age differential fees will apply for drivers age 21 through 24.
Another way to avoid paying an additional driver fee is to join your car rental company's loyalty program. This strategy will not work in all cases, but it will help you avoid additional driver fees if you rent from National or Hertz.
Some car rental companies waive additional driver fees for members of certain organizations, such as AARP or AAA, or who have automobile insurance through USAA.
Costco Travel members who rent from Avis, Budget, Alamo or Enterprise will not be charged a fee for the first additional driver added to their contract.
The Bottom Line
If you need to add an additional authorized driver to your US rental car contract, investigate additional driver policies and fees before you make your reservation. When you pick up your rental car, carefully review your contract before you sign it.