When you go to pick out a rental car, do you think about practicality or how “cool” you’ll look behind the driver’s seat? 

Most people walk into a car rental place with a budget mindset. They want to pay the least amount of money for a rental. It’s a rental, after all. But, really, here’s what you should be focused on when looking to hire a car in the States.

Here are our top tips for renting a rental car in America.


1. Transport Requirements

The first thing you should consider is your transportation requirements, not the cost of the vehicle. How many people will you be hauling around? Don’t be one of those people that chases discounts on car rentals at the expense of a practical rental car, given your needs.

If you need to carry 5 people, don’t rent an econobox with four seats, hoping to cram the fifth person in the middle of the back seat. It won’t work, and it’ll be uncomfortable for the unlucky passenger. Plus, it could be dangerous if you get into a car accident.


2. How Much Room Do You Need?

You undoubtedly will be taking along some supplies with you wherever you happen to be going. Maybe you’re going camping. Will a small grocery-getter work? Probably not. You’ll need an SUV with lots of space for a tent and other camping gear.

If you’re hiking Mt. Everest, ditto. You’ll need hiking gear. If you’re tooling around town, and you just need something to get you from “A” to “B”, then a small 2 or 4-door automobile might work.


3. Fuel Economy

Fuel economy is often associated with price. The cheaper rentals also tend to be more fuel efficient because they’re smaller. Is this important to you? It might be if you need to travel long distances.


4. Do You Need Rental Insurance?

Some insurance companies and credit card providers cover rental vehicles. Some don’t. Check your terms and conditions or policy declaration’s page. If you have to buy rental insurance, it’s a pricey add-on, so it pays to call your insurer.


5. What Features Do You need?

Do you need T.V.s in the back seat to keep the kids happy and occupied on an 8-hour drive? Then make sure that your rental has those features. If you don’t need that kind of luxury, don’t get it. If you’ll be traveling to an unfamiliar place, and you don’t have a GPS system (or a smartphone), then you’ll need a navigation system in the car.


6. The Transmission

In most American locales, the rental agency will only give you a vehicle with an automatic transmission. There’s a good reason why. It’s risky to let someone drive a manual when they’re just renting the car. There’s more risk of abuse - and sometimes it’s not intentional. Most Americans drive automatics these days.

They’re easier on the feet and they don’t require as much coordination. But, in Europe, and in other parts of the world, rental agencies offer manual transmissions. If you’re traveling outside of the country, and you prefer an automatic, say so. Otherwise, you might end up with a car you can’t drive.


View our USA adventure tours if you would like to travel overland without the hassle of renting your own car.