Do you hate getting nickeled and dimed? Many renters overlook car rental additional driver fees. Whether you plan on sharing the driving or just want additional flexibility, it can be convenient to add another driver your rental contract. But at $10 per day or more, this charge adds up quickly—unless you find a way to avoid it altogether.
Be sure to add all potential drivers to your rental contract. If you skip this step and a non-listed driver gets into an accident, then your insurance or damage waiver will be voided. It’s not worth taking the risk of getting hit with a huge bill if there’s an accident.
There are times when car rental additional driver fees don’t apply:
The End of the California Exception
If you haven’t rented a car in California lately, you should be aware of a change in the law. Rental car companies were once prohibited from charging additional driver fees in the Golden State.
But since January 1, 2022, car rental companies in California are allowed to charge for additional drivers, provided that the additional driver isn’t a parent, spouse, co-worker, child, sibling, or grandparent.
Also, remember, not just anyone can take the wheel. The additional driver needs to present a valid driver’s license and in addition be listed on the contract.
The New York Reprieve
The State of New York gives renters a bit of a break by capping the additional driver fee at $5 per additional driver per day. That’s about half of what rental companies charge in other states. It will get even better in mid-2023 when the latest law limits the maximum amount rental companies can charge to $5 in total per rental for an additional driver.
The Exception for Spouses in Some States
Some states allow the primary driver’s spouse to be an automatic authorized additional driver without a fee. When a spouse is legally authorized as an additional driver by state law, it is not necessary to explicitly list them on the rental contract. In fact, by doing so, the rental company may pressure you to pay an additional driver fee when it is unnecessary to do so.
States where the primary driver’s spouse is automatically listed as an extra driver include:
In Nevada, the fee is capped by law, but adjusts annually based on inflation.
In every other state, there are no legal limitations on car rental additional driver fees, so it pays to try to avoid the charge using one of the strategies below.
Additional Driver Fee Policies by Car Rental Company
It’s important to keep in mind the policies of each company, since not all are created equal:
There is no additional driver fee for a spouse, domestic partner or business partner. For other additional drivers, there is a charge of $15 per day for each additional authorized driver.
There is no additional driver fee for a spouse or domestic partner. Other individuals will incur a per-day fee. Avis and Budget currently charge $13 per day at most locations but cap the fee at $65 per rental.
Both companies typically charge per day for all additional drivers (including spouses). The exception to this rule is that spouses can drive for free for members of Dollar’s Express and Thrifty’s Blue Chip programs.
There is a daily charge for all additional drivers, but if you are a member of Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, the fee is waived for a spouse or domestic partner. At corporate and participating licensee locations, the additional fee is approximately $13.50 per day with a maximum of $189.00 per rental for each additional driver.
The fee is always waived for a spouse or domestic partner of the renter. In addition, family members sharing the same address as a renter who is also a National’s Emerald Club member can also drive for free.
Silvercar does not charge for any additional driver who meets rental requirements. It’s a very customer-friendly policy, but then again, you often pay significantly more for the privilege of driving their Audis.
There is a daily charge for all additional drivers including spouses.
For other companies, contact the company directly to confirm the policy on additional drivers. Any savings you get from a discount brand may be wiped out by a fee for an additional driver.
Memberships That Cover Additional Driver Fees
Another way to get around the additional driver fee is to use a membership discount code. The following organizations permit an additional driver at no charge if booked with a membership discount:
AARP: Members get a free additional driver at Avis and Budget when booked with the AARP discount code at participating locations.
Costco: Members get a free additional driver at Alamo and Enterprise when booked with the Costco discount code at locations in the U.S., Canada, U.K., France, Germany, Ireland, Netherlands, and Spain. At Avis and Budget, the Costco code only kills the additional driver fee in the United States.
USAA: At Hertz, USAA members can use a discount code to avoid the fee for a spouse or adult children. At Enterprise, there’s no charge for adding spouses and USAA family members to the rental agreement. With Avis and Budget, there’s no charge for spouses or other USAA members.
Many exemptions are automatic and don’t require listing the qualifying additional driver on the rental agreement. In fact, specifically listing someone on the contract may end up backfiring and triggering an additional driver fee that you are actually entitled to waive. If you’re unclear, always ask the rental agent for confirmation.
The Takeaway on Additional Driver Fees
With a little bit of planning, you can avoid paying a fee when you need to add a second driver to your rental contract. Renters in California get a free pass regardless of company, as do customers of Silvercar, and spouses or domestic partners when renting from Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Alamo, or Fox, and in numerous states by law. If none of these situations apply, then you can often avoid the fee by joining a frequent renter program or using a membership discount code. Be sure to calculate all costs before booking.
If an additional driver can’t be present when you pick up the car, you can visit any of the brand’s locations and make the change later.