Driving a rental car out of state or crossing national borders is typically possible with a one way rental with unlimited mileage, but different rules apply across regions.
Can you drive out of state?
When you rent a car with the intention of driving across state or national borders, you have to keep a few things in mind. There are different rules for rental car border crossing depending on the provider, car category and region.
Rules in the US
In the US, most major national rental car companies don’t restrict driving across state lines. The table below includes three of the major car rental provider groups that all allow cross country car rentals. You can book a cross country car rental with unlimited mileage from any of these providers and head to your destination without worrying about incremental fees. However, some providers may require that you book a one-way rental since you’ll be dropping the car off far from your original pick-up location, and this requires a one-time fee. This is the cheapest cross country car rental option in the US. As the name suggests, an unlimited mileage rental car has no limit on the distance you can drive, so this option makes the most sense for your trips out of state.
|Avis Budget Group||Avis, Budget, Payless|
|Hertz Global Holdings||Hertz, Dollar, Thrifty|
|Enterprise Holdings||Enterprise, National, Alamo|
You won’t be able to drive out of state if you rent from some regional or smaller national chains because they don’t have the network to accept drop-offs that are far from the original pick-up location, or assist renters in roadside emergencies. Some of these companies allow driving out of state but have limits on which states, based on the part of the country you’re in. For example, you could pick up your rental in California and drive to Nevada, Arizona, Colorado, Utah, or Washington, but not to Florida or New York. This makes sense considering the greater distance from the original pick-up location. It’s risky to violate these territorial restrictions because you could get into an accident and be held solely responsible for the damages.
There are special rules to keep in mind for the non-contiguous states. Car rentals in Hawaii must typically stay on the island where they were rented, and rentals in Alaska must typically stay in the state. Whichever option you choose, make sure to check the terms and conditions of your rental agreement because special offers and weekend rates may not include the unlimited mileage you’ll need to drive across borders.
Rules in Canada and Mexico
In addition to driving across the country, you may also be wondering if you can rent a car and drive to Canada or rent a car and drive to Mexico. Driving to Canada is permitted by most providers for most cars, with the exception of luxury cars, exotics, and large cargo or passenger vehicles. The same rules for driving between states in the US may apply to driving to Canada. Driving to Mexico is usually more complicated. If you let your provider know in advance, and it’s permitted, you can purchase extra insurance and cross the border safely. Regardless of your trip, it’s always a good idea to let the rental company know where you’re planning on driving.
Rules in Europe and elsewhere
Rules for border crossings are different but comparable in other parts of the world. The key to crossing borders in Europe with a car hire is the cross-border fee, which covers extra taxes, insurance, and other expenses. These fees can range from €10 to more than €90 depending on the car and the countries involved, so be sure to let your rental company know in advance and review the terms and conditions before you proceed. If you cross any borders without having paid the fee, the rental car insurance won’t be valid, so you would be responsible for any damages should they occur, and may owe extra taxes and other fees upon returning the car.
If you plan on dropping off the car in a different country, you’ll have to pay a one-way fee in addition to the cross-border fee. Keep in mind that there are also country and zone-specific rules in Europe. For example, your rental may not be covered if you leave the EU, or if you try to take your car to the Balearic Islands of Spain, even though you’re not crossing a border. Additional documentation may also apply, depending on your itinerary. In the UK, for example, you’ll need to complete a VE103 form with the rental company to show that you have permission to drive a hired or leased vehicle in another country. In South America, Africa, and Asia, crossing borders can be difficult in general, and additional border documentation is necessary. These are more complicated regions that require a further explanation beyond the scope of this article.
When considering whether you can drive a rental car across the border, you may be wondering if car rental companies can track where you are. There must be some way for them to track whether you’ve crossed borders at all. The answer is that some rental cars are equipped with GPS tracking devices, but not all, and it will be clear in your rental agreement whether the car you’re renting has a device. These cars typically trigger an automatic alert back to the provider when they cross state or international borders, but this shouldn’t raise any alarms for you if you’ve already let the provider know in advance, and have already agreed to the necessary fees.