Turning 18 is an exciting milestone, but does it mean you can finally rent a car in California? Getting behind the wheel of your own rental car can offer a sense of independence and adventure. However, renting a car under 25 comes with restrictions. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick answer to your question: In most cases, you cannot rent a car until age 21 in California, and you’ll pay extra fees if under 25. However, there are a few exceptions that may allow you to rent at 18.

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know about renting a car under 25 in California, including:

Minimum Rental Age in California

When it comes to renting a car in California, the minimum age requirement varies depending on the company you choose. Generally, the standard minimum age to rent a car in California is 21 years old. However, there are some companies that offer limited options for renters between the ages of 18 and 20.

The Standard Minimum Age is 21

Most car rental companies in California require renters to be at least 21 years old. This age requirement is in place to ensure that the person renting the car has a valid driver’s license and sufficient driving experience.

Additionally, it is also a way for rental companies to mitigate the risks associated with younger and less experienced drivers.

Limited Options for Renters 18-20

Unfortunately, if you are between the ages of 18 and 20, your options for renting a car in California are limited. Many major car rental companies do not allow renters under the age of 21, and some even have higher age requirements.

However, there are a few companies that do offer rental options for younger drivers, although they may have additional restrictions or requirements.

One example of a car rental company that allows renters as young as 18 in California is *company name*. They have specific rental policies and may charge higher fees or require additional documentation compared to renting as a driver over 21.

Additional Fees for Underage Renters

If you are able to find a car rental company that allows renters between the ages of 18 and 20, be prepared to pay additional fees. Many rental companies charge underage fees for drivers under the age of 25, and these fees can vary depending on the company and the location.

It’s important to factor in these extra costs when budgeting for your rental.

It’s worth noting that these policies and fees are subject to change, so it’s always a good idea to check with the specific car rental company or visit their website for the most up-to-date information regarding age requirements and fees.

Exceptions: When You Can Rent at 18

Generally, the minimum age to rent a car in California is 21. However, there are some exceptions that allow individuals as young as 18 to rent a car under certain circumstances. These exceptions include:

Renting with a Cosigner 21+

If you are 18 or 19 years old and want to rent a car in California, you may be able to do so by having a cosigner who is at least 21 years old. The cosigner will be responsible for the rental agreement and any potential damages or fees incurred during the rental period.

This option provides an opportunity for younger drivers to access rental cars for their transportation needs.

Booking with Specialty Companies

Another option for 18-year-olds looking to rent a car in California is to book with specialty car rental companies that cater to younger drivers. These companies understand the unique needs and challenges faced by younger drivers and offer rental options specifically designed for them.

While these companies may have some restrictions, such as limited vehicle choices or higher rental rates, they provide an avenue for young adults to rent a car when necessary.

Renting a U-Haul Truck

While not a traditional car rental, 18-year-olds in California can rent a U-Haul truck for moving purposes. U-Haul allows individuals as young as 18 to rent their trucks, as long as they meet the necessary requirements and have a valid driver’s license.

This option can be convenient for young adults who need to transport their belongings during a move or other similar situations.

It’s important to note that these exceptions may vary depending on the rental company and location within California. It’s always a good idea to contact the rental company directly or visit their website for specific age restrictions and requirements.

Tips for Renting a Car Under 25

Compare Quotes Carefully

If you’re under 25 and looking to rent a car in California, it’s important to compare quotes from different rental companies. Prices and policies can vary significantly, so taking the time to research and compare options can save you money and ensure you find the best deal.

Check out websites like Kayak or Hotwire for a wide range of options and competitive prices. Keep in mind that some rental companies may have age restrictions or additional fees for drivers under 25, so be sure to read the fine print before making a decision.

Consider Insurance Needs

When renting a car, it’s important to consider your insurance needs. Many rental companies offer insurance options that can protect you in case of an accident or damage to the vehicle. While these additional insurance policies can add to the overall cost of renting a car, they can also provide peace of mind.

If you already have car insurance, check with your provider to see if it covers rental cars. Additionally, some credit cards offer rental car insurance as a cardholder benefit, so be sure to check if you’re eligible for that coverage.

Prepare Required Documents

Before renting a car in California, make sure you have all the necessary documents. You will typically need a valid driver’s license, a credit card in your name, and proof of insurance. If you’re an international traveler, you may also need an international driving permit.

It’s always a good idea to call the rental company ahead of time to confirm their specific requirements and to avoid any last-minute surprises.

Alternatives to Renting

If you’re under 21 and looking to get around in California, renting a car might not be an option. However, there are several alternatives that can still help you get where you need to go. Let’s explore some of these alternatives:

Rideshares and Delivery

Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft have become increasingly popular in recent years, and for good reason. They offer a convenient and affordable way to get from point A to point B without having to worry about driving or parking.

All you need is a smartphone and a valid payment method, and you’re good to go. These services are available to people of all ages, so if you’re 18 or older, you can use them to get around California.

In addition to rideshares, there are also delivery services like Postmates and DoorDash that can bring food, groceries, and other essentials right to your doorstep. This can be especially helpful if you don’t have access to a car and need to get items delivered to your location.

Public Transportation

California has a well-developed public transportation system that can be a great alternative to renting a car. Cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco have extensive bus and train networks that can take you to various destinations within the city and even to neighboring towns and cities.

Public transportation is not only convenient but also more environmentally friendly, as it helps reduce traffic congestion and carbon emissions.

Many cities also have bike-sharing programs that allow you to rent a bike for a short period of time, which can be a fun and healthy way to get around while exploring your surroundings.

Borrowing a Vehicle

If you have friends or family in California who own a car, you may be able to borrow their vehicle for your transportation needs. This can be a cost-effective option, as you won’t have to worry about rental fees or additional expenses like insurance.

However, it’s important to make sure you have proper permission and insurance coverage before borrowing someone else’s car.

Another option is to join a car-sharing service like Zipcar or Turo, which allow you to rent a car for a short period of time. These services often have age restrictions, but some may allow drivers as young as 18 with additional requirements or fees.

While renting a car may not be possible for those under 21 in California, there are still plenty of alternatives available. Whether it’s rideshares, public transportation, or borrowing a vehicle, you can find a solution that suits your needs and helps you get around the Golden State.

The Bottom Line: Is It Possible to Rent a Car at 18 in California?

Many young adults in California wonder if they can rent a car at the age of 18. The answer is both yes and no. While most major car rental companies have a minimum age requirement of 21, there are a few exceptions that allow 18-year-olds to rent a car.

Car Rental Companies That Allow 18-Year-Olds

Two of the major car rental companies that rent to 18-year-olds in California are Enterprise and Hertz. These companies understand that not all young adults under the age of 21 should be excluded from renting a car, especially if they have a valid driver’s license and a clean driving record.

It’s important to note that even though these companies allow 18-year-olds to rent a car, they may impose additional fees or restrictions. For example, there may be a young driver fee, which can range from $20 to $35 per day, and the availability of certain car models may be limited.

Requirements for Renting a Car at 18

If you’re an 18-year-old looking to rent a car in California, there are a few requirements you’ll need to meet. These requirements may vary slightly depending on the rental company, but generally include the following:

  • A valid driver’s license
  • A major credit card in your name
  • Proof of insurance coverage
  • Meeting the rental company’s minimum age requirement

It’s always a good idea to call the rental company in advance to confirm their specific requirements and any additional fees that may apply.

Considerations for 18-Year-Old Renters

While it may be exciting to have the freedom to rent a car at 18, there are a few things to consider before making a reservation. First, take into account the additional fees that may be associated with renting as a young driver. These fees can quickly add up and impact your overall budget.

Additionally, keep in mind that some car rental companies may have restrictions on the types of cars available for rent to 18-year-olds. This means you may not have access to luxury or high-end vehicles.

Lastly, it’s essential to drive responsibly and within the terms of your rental agreement. Any violations or damages can not only result in fines but can also impact your ability to rent a car in the future.


Although most major rental companies set 21 as the minimum age, there are some situations where drivers aged 18-20 may be able to rent a car in California. Understanding the restrictions, fees, and alternatives like rideshares can help you strategize your transportation at 18. With some preparation and research, renting under 25 is possible in special cases. But in general, it’s easier and more affordable to wait until 21 to enjoy the freedom of cruising in your own rental car.

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