If you're renting 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 to 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 include 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 and ask, hoping you'll receive an accurate answer. The only true way to know what you'll be charged, however, 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 take the time to review your 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 wrote to tell me 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, employers, employees 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, employees or companion drivers for disabled renters to your contract. This policy may not apply at licensee-owned rental locations.
- Dollar charges a fee to add spouses and domestic partners to contracts as additional authorized drivers. Companion drivers for disabled renters do not have to pay a fee. Local policies may also apply, so it's important to check with your rental car office for more information.
- Enterprise does not charge to add spouses or domestic partners to rental contracts, but may charge a fee to add other authorized drivers. In California, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon and Wisconsin, spouses are automatically considered to be authorized drivers and do not have to present driver's licenses, credit cards or other documentation to Enterprise.
- Hertz has extremely complicated policies. In most cases, you will pay a fee to add an additional driver to your contract. However, you need to check the "Qualifications and Requirements" section of the "Reservations" page for your rental location to determine which policies apply to you. Typically, employers and employees of renters qualify as authorized renters. Spouses of Gold Plus Rewards Members also qualify. You can avoid paying the daily fee if both the renter and the additional driver are AAA, USAA or AARP members and identify themselves as such when the booking is made. Be sure to check Hertz' policies for your location when you book your rental car to avoid last-minute surprises.
- 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. Renters' spouses in California, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon and Wisconsin will not be charged a fee.
- Thrifty charges a fee to add additional authorized drivers, including spouses, to rental contracts. Companion drivers for disabled customers, government personnel traveling on orders and corporate employees renting on their companies' rate plans are exempt from this fee.
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 members who book their U. S. rental car through Costco Travel and 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 think you will need to add an additional authorized driver, spouse or otherwise, 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.