Minimum Age for Car Rentals

Are you planning to go on a trip? Looking for a way of transportation to get to your destination? Well, if you’re under 25 and don’t have a car, driving is certainly not an option for you unless that you want to spend lots of extra money in surcharges.

                                                     Picture taken by Omar De La Hoz on 04/20/2016

Rental car companies require you to be at least 25 years old to rent cars from them. Also, if you want to rent a car and you’re under this age some companies offer the possibility to rent a car from them by paying underage surcharges that can get up to 60 dollars per day.

The justification for the extra fee is to insure against accidents. A costumer service agent (who refused to be named) from Avis Car Rental: "people under the age of 25 are more likely to be involved in accidents than people over this age." But the data doesn't seem to support this claim.

Verifying the claims

In order to verify the claim made by rental car companies, data from the National Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) was analyzed to see if age was a factor in road accidents.

Based on the data from 2014, in the New York state, drivers aged 19 had the biggest number of accidents in 2014. 

However,  by dividing the drivers in different age groups; it is evident that drivers under 25 were not the ones involved in the most of accidents in 2014. In fact, drivers under the age of 25 were only involved in 19%  of the accidents, while the age group between 25-50 were the ones involved in accidents, adding up to 43% of total accidents in 2014.

Percentage of crashes caused by each age group in 2014

Data for New York State in 2014 obtained from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System of the NHTSA on

What does this mean?

In other words, for every five crashes, a person under the age of 25 will cause only one. Meanwhile, out of the same five crashes, a person between the age of 25 and 50 will be involved in two of the five accidents. But still, car rental companies are willing to charge fees to drivers under this age even though data shows that they’re safer drivers.

While age discrimination for car rentals is prohibited in New York State, companies are still allowed to charge a surcharge to drivers under the age of 25.  However, there are few exceptions that will get you these surcharges waived. 

For instance, Avis Car Rental in the Great Rochester Airport, would waive the surcharge fee if the renter was part of the Avis honored credit card group or government personnel not using the government leisure plans, according to one of Avis representatives.

Number of crashes per age group

Only one crash out of five will be caused by a person under 25, while a person between 25 and 50 will cause two. (Graphics created by Omar De La Hoz, data acquired from NHTSA)

A "fee less" alternative

Picture taken by Omar De La Hoz on 04/20/2016

Students searching for car rental options without surcharges can try out membership car sharing service called Zipcar. This service allows members to reserve vehicles by the hour or by the day, also enrolls members under the age of 25.

Lindsay Wester, public relations manager for Zipcar, described the company as “an alternative to car ownership, and very different than car rental. We know that university students greatly value having access to a vehicle over the cost and hassle of having to bring a car to campus, which is why we have made the program open to students 18 and older who join through an affiliated university.”

Since Zipcar shares cars to people older than 18, even in places where the common minimum renting age is 25, the company runs background checks on its members. Wester explained that since “Zipcar is also a membership service and those who use our vehicles must first be approved.”

When asked about the high-risk age group for Zipcar in terms of road accidents, Wester declined to provide information as the company "do not publicly share accident information."

Talking to young renters

From the students’ perspective, their renting experiences tend to vary. Natalia Cabrera a twenty-year old student from RIT doing double major in Criminal Justice and Psychology had rented from Hertz when she was 19 and “had to pay an additional of $124 for 5 days for a compact car.”

When asking about her safety as a driver, she stated that she was not involved in an accident during her rent but that she has only been involved in one accident that she was mistakenly found as the cause of the accident. "The guy on the truck said I'm sorry I will take responsibility, but as soon as police came, he denied everything".

Similarly, Tanner (last name not disclosed by petition), a 19 year old freshman had reserved a car from Zipcar this year but did not need to pay additional fees for being under 25 because the company doesn't charge any.

Also, when asked about his safety as a driver, he stated that he was not involved in an accident during his reservation with Zipcar and that he has never been involved in an accident while driving.

Reason behind the fees

When asking several car rental agencies if they charged fees to drivers under the age of twenty five, and they did, they were asked for a reason why these fees were charged. Like in the case of Avis, their response was: "There is a reason behind the fees, but that is information that we don't disclose to the public."

However, we could find other car rental agencies like FOX Rent a Car, that rents vehicles to drivers over the age of 19 and Silvercar, a luxury vehicle renting agency that rents cars to drivers over the age of 22, without charging any additional fees. In the case of Silvercar, the agency runs a background check on the driver before approving his first rental. Through this, it seems that only recognized chain car rental agencies are the ones that charge additional fees to drivers under the age of 25.

Even though the reason why most car rental companies charge fees to underage drivers remains unknown, these are factors that should be completely taking into account at the time of looking for a vehicle to move around. Because although car rental companies state that young drivers are more likely to be involved in accidents, the data shows that young drivers can also be safe drivers.

About the Author

Omar De La Hoz is a first year Computer Science BS student at Rochester Institute of Technology. He's 19 years old and is very passionate for programming and technology overall. Being from Colombia, he also enjoys reading and writing about social diversity and culture clashes. His favorite quote is "A goal is a dream with a deadline" - Napoleon Hill, and tries to apply it on his daily basis.