How to avoid car rental additional driver fees

Tyler Wade
by Tyler Wade July 23, 2019 / No Comments

Off the plane, chatting with your partner at the car rental counter before getting on the road, and the agent asks, “Do you want to add an additional driver to the rental car?” It’s not fun making a last-minute decision under pressure, especially since you’ve planned all the other details already. How much is it? Are you really going to do all the driving for the whole trip? What if you’re in an accident in the rental and you’re not driving? What if you become incapacitated and can’t drive? The line up behind you is growing longer, the paperwork seems like so many pages, so what do you do?

The smart move is to add an additional driver to your rental car policy, but if it costs an extra $20 CAD a day for your week-long vacation, it’s not the smartest financial move. Most of the time, this decision is only made available at the counter. While it’s complicated, below, we make it easier for you to choose better. 

Can my spouse drive our car rental for free 

Yes, you can add a spouse, but you’ll need to pick the right agency. Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Fox, and Hertz offer free additional drivers for your spouse. But, that doesn’t mean any additional driver can drive the rental car. Because the additional driver policies vary slightly between agencies, we thought it best to unpack the details. 

For instance, some agencies charge for any additional driver, but the spouse can drive free. Car rental additional driver policies also vary by country, state or province, and even individual agency locations. 

If you have a corporate contract with an agency, and you’re on official business, the additional driver is often free. If you’re a member of CAA or a member of the agencies loyalty program, they will often waive the additional driver fee. 

Where your spouse can drive the rental car for free

In the US, there are some states that allow a spouse to be automatically added as an additional driver without paying any fees. They include California, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, and Wisconsin. In spite of this, many companies still want your spouse present at the car with photo ID and drivers license.

Rental Car Additional Driver Policies and Fees by Agency

Below, we break it down to see what each one charges or doesn’t, to help you make the best financial decision. 

Alamo additional driver fee

Alamo charges $12 per day on average for an additional driver, even if it’s your spouse or domestic partner. The additional driver fee is waived when a corporate contract is in place and the drivers are using the car for business. If you want to have your spouse drive for free, sign up for their loyalty program. 

Avis additional driver fee

Avis charges $10 CAD/per day, $50/per week, and up to a maximum of $60 for the duration of the rental. In the US, they charge $13 USD for an additional driver. The Avis Preferred loyalty program offers no additional drivers, but it doesn’t matter, your spouse or partner can drive for free. So, if it’s a buddy with whom you’re travelling, you either pretend or pay the fee. 

Budget additional driver fee

Budget charges $13 per day on average up to a maximum of $65 per rental. If you’re using the car for business, and have a corporate contract in place, the additional driver is free. Your spouse or lifemate, well, you can simply add them as an additional driver for free. If you’re travelling with friends, you’ll pay the additional driver fees.

Dollar additional driver fee

Dollar car rental charges $12/day on average for an additional driver. If you have a corporate account, and you’re on official business, the fee is waived. Your spouse will have to pay to be an additional driver, but the fee is waived if you sign up for the Dollar Express Rewards program. 

Enterprise additional driver fee

Enterprise charges $12 per day for an additional driver, but your spouse drives for free. A Corporate contract grants authority for a free additional driver should you be using the car for work. 

Fox additional driver fee

Fox is a relatively new addition to the rental car world. They were founded in 1989 as a discount brand for airport travellers. They charge on average $10 per day, but that varies by the city you’re in. Your spouse can drive for free. Corporate contract and on official business? Your colleague can be added for free. 

Hertz additional driver fee

Hertz, a global corporation, charges $13.50 per day for an additional driver, up to a maximum of $189 per additional driver. If you’d like a free additional driver, join the Hertz Gold rewards program. 

National additional driver fee

National rental car charges $12 per day on average for an additional driver, but the price will fluctuate based on the location from which you rent the car. While the corporate policy allows businesses to add an additional driver for free, your spouse will need to sign up for the Emerald Club loyalty program if you want the fee waived. 

Thrifty additional driver fee

Thrifty is a subsidiary of Hertz and so their policies are similar. $12 per day charged for an additional driver, and that varies by location. Corporate contracts get a free additional driver for their colleagues while they are on business. If you want your spouse to drive for free, you’ll need to sign up for the Thrifty Blue Chip loyalty program. 

Car Rental Additional By Agency

 

Additional Driver Fee How to get a free additional driver
Alamo $12/day 

(average, varies by location)

  • Alamo Insiders Loyalty Program
  • Business (corporate contract)
Avis $10/day (average, varies by location, max $60 per rental)
  • Business (corporate contract)
  • Renter’s Spouse or domestic partner
Budget $13/day (max $65 per rental)
  • Business (corporate contract)
  • Renter’s spouse or domestic partner
Dollar $12/day (average, varies by location)
  • Dollar Express Loyalty Program
  • Business (corporate contract)
Enterprise Additional Driver Free: $12/day
  • Business (corporate contract)
  • Renter’s spouse or domestic partner
Fox $10/day (average, varies by city)
  • Business (corporate contract)
  • Renter’s spouse or domestic partner
Hertz $13.50/day (max $189)
  • Gold Plus Rewards program
  • Business (corporate contract)
National $12/day (average, varies by location>
  • Emerald club loyalty program
  • Business (corporate contract)
Thrifty $12/day (average, varies by location)
  • Thrift Blue Chip program
  • Business (corporate contract)

 

Important things to know about rental car additional drivers. 

Requirements

You can always add an additional driver, however, they need to meet the following conditions: 

  • All additional drivers must:
    • meet all age requirements (25 or older)
    • appear at the rental counter with the primary renter
    • present a valid driver’s license

An additional daily fee may apply for additional drivers who do not meet these conditions. 

State laws

Again, some rental car agencies in the US automatically allow for a spouse to be authorized based on state law, they are California, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, Oregon, and Wisconsin. In New York State, an additional driver fee is capped at $3 per day. 

Beware of booking through a third-party 

Anytime you book through a third-party travel website, you may be giving up these privileges. This could mean being charged for the additional driver despite being a loyalty program member. You may also not be eligible for any loyalty program points if you booked through a travel website. 

That said, Costco Members can take advantage of the Costco travel agency. If you’re a Costco member and book a rental car with Alamo or Enterprise in the U.S., Canada, and most of Europe, the additional driver fee is waived. If you’re only travelling in the US, you can also use Avis or Budget to have your fee waived. 

Read your contract

Some agencies are licensee owned locations, some are owned by their parent companies, so be sure to read your contract and the fine print about additional drivers. For instance, if you specifically list them on the contract, you could be paying for an additional driver despite them being allowed to drive for free by state law or company policy. 

Check your credit card

We’ve mentioned Costco members, with their membership number, can often get the additional driver fee waived. The CAA Rewards National Bank Mastercard waives the additional driver fee with Alamo, Enterprise, and National car rental. 

The bottom line

If you rent from Avis, Budget, Enterprise, or Fox – your spouse drives for free. If you find a better deal with Alamo, Hertz, Dollar, Thrifty, or National – join their loyalty program to waive the additional driver fee. 

Be sure to calculate all costs before booking so you’re not surprised at the counter. You’ll need an estimate of your kilometres driven – some agencies offer unlimited, some are per km, it’s an important factor when looking at car rentals. Also, check your car insurance. You’ll need to make sure you have specific endorsements on your policy to drive a non-owned automobile. In Ontario, ask your provider if you have the OPCF 27 endorsement which covers you for Liability for Damage to Non-Owned Automobiles. It covers vehicles you drive that aren’t yours, including rental cars. If you don’t have it, you can add it. If it increases your insurance too much, shop for new Ontario car insurance quotes from providers that will off you a better deal. 

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