Avoiding Car Rental Additional Driver Fees

a man and woman in a car

A few months ago I was planning a roadtrip and looking for the cheapest rental car. Not just the cheapest daily rate, but also the company that would charge me the least for additional drivers. After all, leaf peeping in New England isn’t nearly as fun if you’re the one having to drive 6-8 hours in one go.

Ideally I would have been in an area with Silvercar, which does not charge for additional or underage drivers at any of their locations, but alas. And not surprisingly, many companies aren’t putting additional driver fees on their websites, so it was looking like I was going to have to call or wait til I got to the rental car desk. Both potentially a big waste of time.

Fortunately I found an article on AutoSlash with tips for avoiding additional driver fees.

What I found most interesting are the states where additional drivers are free.

If you rent cars only in the state of California, you can probably stop reading now since we have some great news for you. There are no additional driver fees in California at all by law. This goes for all companies, regardless of whether the additional driver is a spouse or someone unrelated to you. (You still need to list the additional driver on the contract, though.)

In addition to California, where all drivers are free, state law in Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, and Wisconsin allow the spouse to be an automatic authorized driver without a fee.

And if you’re wanting to add a spouse or domestic partner as your second driver in the United States, these rental car companies don’t charge:

  • Avis
  • Budget
  • Fox
  • Enterprise
  • Hertz (Hertz #1 Club members only)
  • National (Emerald Club members only)

Unfortunately none of this helped me as I was traveling with friends through New England.

But according to the AutoSlash article, various memberships can also cover or defray the costs of additional drivers. AAA, AARP, and Costco all offer free additional drivers at select rental car companies when you book with their rate.

I wound up booking the AAA rate at Hertz to get a free additional driver which was close to the lowest rate I’d found on their website. The only catch was you need to let them know up front that you’re using the AAA rate to get the free additional driver. Announcing the additional driver and assuming they can see the AAA code on their end won’t get you the discount.

So to recap, here are five ways to avoid the additional driver fees when renting a car in the United States:

  • Rent with Silvercar
  • Rent in California where all additional drivers are free
  • Rent in Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, and Wisconsin where spouses and domestic partners are free
  • Rent with Avis, Budget, Fox, Enterprise, Hertz (Hertz #1 Club members only), or National (Emerald Club members only) to add your spouse or domestic partner for free.
  • Book through AAA, AARP, or another membership to get free additional drivers at select companies.

Full Disclosure: I may receive affiliate credit from links in this post or on this site which will help fund my travels. Thank you for your support!

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  1. Don’t believe it’s accurat that the companies you have listed doesn’t charge additional driver fees outside of the US so you may want to clarify,,,

  2. Weird statement about New England. Its not like most of those companies rent cars in that area? Must have been another reason Hertz was the choice. Great post though.

    1. Me and my phrasing 🙂 Just meant I wasn’t in California or a Silvercar location (and was with friends not a spouse).

      1. Nope, just as me. In both instances, the Alamo agent askef me about additional drivers and after saying that I would NOT pay extra for my wife, they said to me that there was NO extra charge for a spouse. For my satisfaction, I write the agent name on the contract.

        When I return a car, I take photos of all sides and the top in case a parking lot jockey damages the car that I just returned.

      2. Informative article, thank you. But here is more – Car Rental Additional Driver Fees Depend on Location
        Renting a car in California, there are no additional driver fees, regardless of whether the additional driver is a spouse or someone unrelated to you. (You still need to list the additional driver on the contract, though.)
        In addition to California, where all additional drivers are free, some states allow the main driver’s spouse to be an automatic authorized additional driver without a fee. (But check local laws. In NY State you can be charged 2.50 for the first day, then 1.00 p.day after).These include:
        New York

  3. Any ideas on if the return location is not in one of those state?
    Thinking of renting in Cali and returning in Washington.

  4. Absolutely wrong information, just got back from Phoenix sky Harbour, Budget would not put spouse on contract, as additional driver for free, They would ,, for a CHARGE. Please inform your readers

    1. I would contact customer service for a refund. The Budget website indicates there should not be a fee for locations within the US:

      “The following are exempt from the fee but must meet all other driver requirements: the renter’s employer or fellow employee when on company business and renting under a corporate account; the renter’s spouse or domestic partner; the companion driver of a renter with a disability who has completed the non-licensed renter form; for insurance replacement rentals, company employees or family members who are designated on the insurance policy.”

      1. I also rented from Budget recently and was charged for spouse. I also booked a rental car for next month with Budget and I called to ask if there was a charge for spouse and they said yes so I told them to cancel my reservation.

  5. Costco’s policy.

    Alamo and Enterprise, the additional driver fee is waived for rental in the U.S., Canada, UK, France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands and Spain. For Avis and Budget, the fee is waived for rentals in the U.S.

    The additional driver must meet all renter requirements, appear at the rental counter with the primary renter, present a valid driver’s license and present a major credit card in their name at the time of rental (they do not need a valid membership card).

  6. I’ve had a few qualms with SixT. Their website specifically states and differentiates between additional driver and authorized driver which is where spouses belong. BUT in DFW I have to open the website for them everytime to validate that spouses are authorized drivers and are thus free. Everytime they charge us and everytime we ask for a refund post travel. Until they change their policy in writing, we will do this all the time. Checkout paragraph 8 here: https://www.sixt.com/fileadmin/sys/agb/sixt_US_en.pdf states “Additional
    Driver” means a person we list on the Face Page of this Agreement. “Authorized Driver” means the renter,
    any Additional Driver, or any individual permitted by state law to operate the Vehicle. For rentals with pick-
    up locations in California, Illinois, Nevada, Oregon, Texas, New York, and Utah, “Authorized Driver” includes
    your spouse.

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