Can you rent a car without a driver’s license? Yes and no – there’s a lot to unpack.
Can You Rent A Car Without a Driver’s License?
You can rent a car without a driver’s license but a number of additional requirements must be met. Generally speaking, if you are not qualified to rent a car due to the lack of a valid driver’s license at the time of rental, the answer is no. This includes expired licenses and in some cases, licenses issued outside of the country. There a few caveats but the key is that the driver should normally be able to drive a car legally but for one extenuating reason or another, they do not have their driver’s license present.
One notable exception is for disabled renters who have a surrogate driver. The renter is not required to present a valid driver’s license but the surrogate is.
It may have happened to you or someone you know – you lost your license on the plane, in the airport, somewhere between boarding a flight and the rental agency. This situation may be an exception. If you are renting with an agency for which you have a valid license on file, they may be able to make an exception.
You may also be able to rent with a picture of your license if it lost. The agency can verify its authenticity a number of ways to allow a customer to rent a car without a license. Presenting an image of the license on your phone may suffice in extreme situations. Other cases may require a renter to first obtain a police report claiming its loss or theft.
Ultimately, the case of a lost license comes down to the decision of car rental companies.
International Driver’s Permit
One reason a customer may not be able to rent a vehicle is when traveling outside their home country. In the United States, AAA Motor Clubs offer an International Driver’s Permit for about $50 with proof of a valid issued driver’s license in the US. This paper document certifies its validity outside of the US and usually requires the US license as well if presenting to authorities.
I’ve personally done this prior to a trip for which I expected to drive outside of the US, however, I was never required to present it. Other travelers have indicated that it’s not needed by in large.
There are additional forms of identification that are often presented to rental car agents that may or may not qualify. Here are two of those IDs.
All service people (and sometimes their family members) are issued a military identification card that states who they are, their branch of armed service, and various other information such as pay level and rank. Notably missing from that list is whether the person has permission to operate a vehicle.
Military IDs can be used to board airplanes, corroborate identity for other documents, and prove age, but they do not indicate whether a person is authorized to operate a motor vehicle. This can be confusing for both rental car agents and the renter who may have used the ID for other means as a stand-in for a license.
Particularly frustrating to members of the military are cases in which they operate motor vehicles in conjunction with their ID (it’s their job in the armed services.) However, their job role (which may otherwise prove they have permission to operate a vehicle) is not indicated on the document.
Military IDs alone are an unacceptable driver’s license replacement.
However, Military IDs still hold a special role in one exception to the age requirements held by car rental agencies. If a service person is traveling on official orders (should have paperwork to support this), most agencies will lower the minimum driver age threshold from 21 to 18. Most agencies also waive the young renter’s fee in this instance and few will ask for the official orders but are well within their rights to do so.
A learner’s permit has a couple of caveats accompanied with it. The first is that the driver may be allowed to operate the vehicle with a learner’s permit but must meet other criteria. For example:
- Renters under the age of 25 must pay a per-day young renters fee which is often $25/day. This is to account for the lack of driving experience, financial resources, and damage to vehicles of similar driver profiles.
- The minimum age to rent a car for most agencies is 21 (except in the above example)
- The renter cannot hold a learner’s permit but they can allow the learner to drive the vehicle with them in it under the normal circumstances of the permit so long as the renter has verified its validity.
To be clear, a customer cannot rent a vehicle with a learner’s permit but they may be able to drive the car assuming the other conditions are met.
There are some manners by which a person can rent a car without a driver’s license but they all require the renter to have had one in the past or otherwise prove that their ability to operate a vehicle is legal and authorized. This can be particularly tough for city dwellers who do not otherwise have a need to obtain a license normally but require one for a trip. If you have questions about your particular situation, contact the agency in the city for which you’re renting to ensure there are not additional complications or requirements.
What do you think? Have you had to rent a car without your driver’s license before? How difficult was it to achieve?