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Hire a car in the USA to experience the Land of the Free the way it was meant to be seen. With vast open spaces, well-serviced highways, and an endless list of magnificent sights and interesting places, the United States of America is an ideal road trip destination. Compare USA car rental deals with GoSee and get exploring for less.
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Top tips on driving a car in the United States
Each of the 50 American states has its own laws, rules, and regulations, but there are a number of broad principles which apply nationwide.
- The United States drives on the right-hand side of the road.
- A full and valid driver’s licence is needed to rent a vehicle. Foreign licenses can be used, but some states will require an International Driving Permit in addition, especially for those licenses in languages other than English. It is best to check the requirements of the state or states you will be driving in, and if unsure, get an IDP before you leave.
- Road conditions can vary drastically depending on where in the United States you’re visiting, so make sure you adjust your driving to the conditions, which can be extreme in some parts of the country.
- Watch for speed limit signs while in your US car hire, as speed limits will vary from state to state, as well as from highway to suburban road.
- Toll roads are known as turnpikes and have various methods of charging for road usage depending on which state you’re in—check ahead to see if your route includes any toll roads and be prepared with an appropriate payment method on hand.
- Winter in the United States can be quite harsh, so have some forethought if planning a road trip in December, January or February, especially in the more northerly reaches of the country. Think about renting a 4WD vehicle. Beware of freezing in the engine, and don’t let the fuel tank run low.
- The emergency number for any kind of emergency in the United States is 911, and this should be called for any situation requiring urgent help including fire, crime, car crashes and medical emergencies. Be prepared to give your location and the nature of the emergency. Even if your phone is not set up to make calls in the US, it should be able to connect to 911.
- There are a lot of gas stations around the United States but it’s best to map out your fuel stops and confirm business hours before setting out, particularly in rural areas.
- The legal blood alcohol limit varies from state to state, and there are stiff penalties for drinking and driving.
- All-way stops or four-way stops are a notorious aspect of driving in the United States, also used in Canada and South Africa. They apply to intersections with multiple approaches, and the primary rule is that all approaching traffic must come to a stop before proceeding. After such a halt, motorists can make their way through the intersection in the order that they arrived, and if they arrived more or less simultaneously, they must yield to the right. Standard signage includes hexagonal STOP signs at all approaches, ALL WAY plaques, and often supplemental plaques stating the number of approaches in the intersection.
Popular road trips from the most visited cities in the USA
If you are travelling to one of the most-visited centres in the USA, add a classic American road trip to your itinerary.
New York has plenty of main centres within a day’s drive. You could get to Boston, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, Niagara Falls, Charlottesville or Pittsburgh with a leisurely day on the road. If you are willing to devote the entire day to driving your USA car rental with just short breaks, you could make it as far as Detroit or Cincinnati.
Visit Los Angeles in a car rental and see the land of sunshine and celebrity—and traffic. Once you hit the hotspots, you might as well hit the road to get to your next destination. Half a day is plenty of time to get to San Diego, and you could get to Las Vegas before lunchtime if you start early. Within a day you can easily reach Phoenix, San Francisco, Tucson and Yosemite. A very long day on the road will get you to Salt Lake City or even Denver.
Las Vegas is a tourist mecca, and the glitz and glam of the city contrast with the natural wonders that are within driving distance. Los Angeles is four hours away via the I-15, and the Grand Canyon the same distance in the opposite direction. The many national parks of Utah are easily accessible, and Yosemite too. At eleven hours of driving, the car hire journey from Las Vegas to Yellowstone is possible in a day.
Chicago is central to a huge range of Midwest centres. A few hours' drive in your Chicago airport car rental can see you in Detroit, Indianapolis or Milwaukee, and a morning or afternoon is enough to make the trek to St. Louis or Cincinnati if you really commit to it. Within a days’ drive lie Minneapolis, Kansas City, Nashville, Louisville, Pittsburgh, Niagara Falls, and Toronto.
Houston, in the Lone Star state, is a little isolated. Everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes the distances between cities! The closest big centres are New Orleans, Austin and Dallas, all accessible in six hours or less. A day of car hire driving can get you to Memphis, into Florida’s most easterly reaches, or across the border into Mexico.
Orlando is a popular holiday destination, and is very central in Florida—you can reach any other city in the state in less than seven hours on your Orlando rental car, including Pensacola or Key West. That’s a lot of places to see and do nearby! If you want to leave the Sunshine State, Savannah, Charleston, Atlanta and Charlotte are less than a day away—and you could even get to Nashville if you really hustle.
Suggested car hire USA itineraries
Need inspiration? Refer to our road trip ideas below to get started, and head to our itineraries page when you’re ready for serious planning.
New York to Chicago
Make the trip between New York and Chicago in either direction and skirt Lake Erie, with stops at Toledo, Niagara Falls, Syracuse and more. This route takes in lovely lake scenery, beautiful upstate New York and is bookended with two of the States’ most exciting cities. Total driving time: 16 hours, which leaves plenty of time to explore as you go and also spend a day or two lakeside.
Roundtrip from San Diego
A round-trip from San Diego with your hire car is a great way to experience Southern California. Head up the coast through Los Angeles and many coastal towns, through the scenic Big Sur to San Francisco. Head back past Lake Tahoe and through Yosemite for a stunning drive and all the nature you can handle. Total driving time: 23 hours, which is totally reasonable for a week-long trip with plenty of scenery you can enjoy from the car.
Orlando to Washington
Head your US car rental to the coasts of Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. Get off to a great start with a visit to Disney World in Orlando, then hit the seaside and follow the Atlantic north through Daytona Beach, Jacksonville, and the stately southern cities of Savannah, Charleston and Wilmington. Enjoy Virginia Beach and the magical coastal landscapes before heading inland to finish up in attraction-rich Washington DC. Total driving time: 17 hours, which gives you plenty of time to relax on the sand.
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America car rental: Frequently asked questions
How much does it cost to hire a car in USA?
Car rental rates in the USA vary depending on factors such as location, length of rental, and time of year. Type your destination and dates into the search bar above to compare prices.
How old do I need to be to rent a car in USA?
Generally, 21 is the minimum driver age to secure a car rental in USA, but some suppliers will not rent to anyone under the age of 25. Others may charge an additional fee. Check the terms under each listing, and give us a call if you’re unsure.
What drivers license do I need to rent a car in USA?
You need a full, valid standard driver’s license to rent a car in the USA. If your license is not in English, you will also need an adequate translation or an international drivers permit.
What is the most popular rental car in the United States?
Generally, intermediate vehicle models are the most popular type of vehicle rentals in the USA.
Which car hire companies in the United States have updated their vehicle cleaning and safety policies because of coronavirus (COVID-19)?
Most of the major US car hire suppliers have updated their car rental health and safety policies due to COVID-19 to make sure vehicles are clean and disinfected. These hire car companies include Avis, Europcar, Budget, and Thrifty Car Rental.
What is the minimum rental period?
The minimum rental period is typically one day, but this can vary depending on location and time of year. Find out with a quick search of your desired destination and dates.
What types of cars can I rent in the USA?
You can rent all types of vehicles in the USA, including compact, economy, intermediate, standard, full size, SUV, luxury/premium, people movers, convertibles and cargo vans. Choose between top international brands like Enterprise Car Rental USA, National Car Rental, Alamo Car Rental, and many more. Supplies will vary from depot to depot. Type in your destination and dates at the top of the page to compare brands and prices in one easy search.
Can I add an additional driver?
An additional driver can be added to the rental agreement, as long as they have a full and valid license. This may incur additional fees.
Can I hire a car in one location and drop it off somewhere else?
Yes. It is possible to pick up a car rental at one depot and drop it off at another car hire location. Be aware that one-way rentals usually incur additional fees. Type in your desired destination into the search box to get an accurate estimate and compare rates.
What is the speed limit in USA?
Speed limits vary from state to state, as well as from highway to suburban road. Speed limits in the USA are set by each state or territory and posted in miles per hour (mph).