Planning to rent a car for an adventurous cross-country road trip or a spontaneous weekend getaway, and you’re not sure where you’ll end up or how many state lines you might cross to get there? Not to rain on your parade, but you’ll want to zoom in on the fine print of your car rental agreement first, as some companies may prohibit out-of-state driving or impose stipulations and additional fees.
The good news is that it’s generally regional and small rental chain companies that prohibit drivers from taking their rental cars out of state. As small enterprises with limited locations, they are not equipped to offer drop-off outposts or roadside assistance in emergencies once customers cross state lines.
For the most part, larger companies (e.g. Hertz, Avis and Enterprise) will allow you to drive your rental car out of state. Before you do, however, there are a few things you need to keep in mind to avoid unwanted surprises.
Here we outline what you should look for when renting a car to avoid fees and restrictions, as well as alternative rental options in case you decide that a traditional car rental does not make sense for your trip.
First and foremost, if you want to avoid additional fees, check if your car rental company offers unlimited mileage, meaning there is no limit on the distance you can drive during your reservation period.
Typically, major national chains with multiple locations throughout the country offer drivers unlimited mileage, but with a caveat if you plan to drive out of state. When available, they may require you to book a “one-way rental.” For example, you will rent the car in one state, say New York, and drop it off in another, perhaps Florida. Sounds simple enough, right? Except that most companies include what’s called a car rental drop charge for this convenience. These one-way drop-off fees vary depending on locations and the time of year, and they can be anywhere from $20 to more than $100.
Another thing you’ll want to review carefully is the fine print associated with car rental deals. These low rates usually come with restrictions, such as mileage limits. So if you snagged a sweet weekend rate or a special offer on your rental, double-check that it includes unlimited mileage so you won’t incur additional costs on your trip.
Lastly, even large rental companies have state-specific restrictions or “territorial restrictions.” For example, car rentals in Hawaii must stay on the island where you rented (i.e., you may not be able to bring the rental onto a ferry). And if you rent in Alaska, you’ll likely have to remain in the state. Some companies even restrict out-of-state travel to certain states. Let’s say you rent a car in Las Vegas; you might only be able to drive to Arizona, California and Utah in your rental.
It may seem trivial, but identifying exactly how you plan to use your rental car can save you both money and hassle. If you anticipate spending the majority of your trip on the open road, driving your rental car through multiple states, then the extra costs for unlimited mileage and a one-way rental probably make sense.
Of course, for some people, long-distance travel — like being stuck behind the wheel of their rental — doesn’t sound like a vacation. What if your ideal getaway is discovering a new destination, using your rental car to reach local points of interest or taking day trips to the surrounding areas? Or maybe you plan to use your rental car for airport and hotel transport, with a few stops in between? Well then, you don’t need to worry about your rental plan having a mileage cap or out-of-state driving restrictions. In fact, if you’re just looking for a convenient and affordable way to get around town and beyond, then car sharing might be a better option.
When you use Avail, you’ll rent a quality car that is owned by a local driver. We have car sharing locations around the U.S., including at major airports, with express check-in and easy drop-off. That means skipping the long lines and the lengthy paperwork at car rental counters. Plus, our all-inclusive fees ensure you won’t encounter unwanted surcharges.
Whether or not you end up crossing state lines in your rental on your next trip, remember this: getaways are meant to be relaxing. They shouldn’t leave you with additional expenses or avoidable stress. With Avail’s upfront pricing and convenient locations throughout Chicago and Denver, you can borrow a car when and where you need it, with no strings attached. Plus, every booking is protected by insurance coverage from Allstate and 24/7 roadside assistance, so you have peace of mind wherever your trip takes you.