While it certainly looks like a big place to navigate, key sights across Florida are a lot closer than you may think, especially if you take to the state’s network of well-maintained roads. However, with a wealth of options available in terms of car rental, it can seem like a difficult undertaking with basic research. Hopefully, these top tips will help you overcome these worries and hit the open road in no time.
Who to trust
Trustworthy rental companies include:
- Dollar Rent-a-Car
When it comes to aggregators, these ones have our seal of approval:
- Travel Supermarket
As the home of modern capitalism, the US offers some truly fantastic deals with car hire. If you’re planning on renting, then check all of your options, especially on the aforementioned aggregators. While you’ll naturally prioritise the number of doors, boot space and style of car above other things, remember to keep a differential in your head of what to spend.
You see, the difference in price between a compact and a sedan may only be as little as $1. What’s more, you may find that one company may also lump in additional cover or a second driver for a small pay rise. Finally, remember that three-door and five-door cars will be listed separately on some aggregators, but the price difference is usually under $1 – and why would you have three when you could have five?
“Small” could be bigger than you think
While we’ll go into more detail on the types of car you’ll need in “Choosing the right car”, one thing is often overlooked by British and non-US drivers when renting: cars are generally bigger than you expect, especially when it comes to engine size.
Obviously, body shapes and sizes in the US are the same as they are elsewhere for non-US car manufacturers – e.g. Toyota, Volvo and Mercedes – so if you’re familiar with them here, not much will be different there. However, US manufacturers such as Chevrolet, Chrysler, Dodge and even Ford offer generally larger cars for their price.
What’s more, cars such as the Kia Rio – which sports a 1.4 to 1.6-litre engine in Europe – will start at a two-litre level, delivering more horsepower. If your goal is to travel a fair distance, you could save a lot more money by going with the “smaller” car, even if petrol prices are comparatively cheaper.
No international driver’s permit needed
In 2013, Florida became infamous for introducing something that not a lot of people knew about until their best-laid plans were scuppered by the quietly-introduced law: the compulsory international driver’s permit (IDP). It required all people who held an overseas licence to carry an IDP alongside their usual documentation.
However, the Governor of Florida later repealed the law, so you don’t have to worry about getting one. Despite this, the AA warns potential drivers that hire companies and insurance companies can and have imposed personal terms and conditions, so advise that people always check with their company of choice to see if they need an IDP, just as a precautionary measure.
Additional liability coverage, and under-25s
Sometimes, booking a car may not include a full range of insurance coverage. For example, if the car takes a scratch or a window is chipped by a flying piece of gravel – something all too common on the gritty hard shoulders of your standard US interstate – you could be charged for it, if you’re not on a fully-comp policy.
Furthermore, those between the ages of 21 and 25 will need additional coverage simply for having the gall to be in the prime of their lives. The Underage Fee is written in US law, while renting under the age of 21 isn’t possible. That said, some companies such as Alamo will offer a young driver’s discount if a whippersnapper wants to rent a car, so long as it’s for a certain period and from select pick-up and drop-off locations. Otherwise, expect to pay something in the region of $30 a day extra for cover.
Optional extras to consider
If you’re renting a car, there are a few optional extras worth thinking about; while some are pretty obvious, you’d be surprised at how many features may not be available in cars.
- Air conditioning. Florida’s hot, as we’re sure you’ll know, so make sure this features in your car of choice.
- Bluetooth connectivity. Most, if not all, cars now come with CD players, but Bluetooth connectivity may be your ticket to great tunes from your phone or tablet, if you want to stream some of your own songs or podcasts. It’s also handy for taking hands-free calls.
- Satnav. Not everyone’s an expert in navigation, but many companies offer satnavs as an additional extra. Make sure it’s worth your while, though; you can buy a pretty good TomTom for around $100 – bracket, charger and all – and it’s good for all of the US. If you find it’s going to cost you similar to rent one, just buy it; you could always sell it, or simply keep it for another trip.