A car rental, hire car, or car hire agency is a company that renting for short periods of time to the public, generally ranging from a few hours to a few weeks. It is often organized with numerous local branches (which allow a user to return a vehicle to a different location), and primarily located near or busy city areas and often complemented by a website allowing online reservations.
Car rental agencies primarily serve people who require a temporary vehicle, for example, those who do not own their own car, Tourism who are out of town, or owners of damaged or destroyed vehicles who are awaiting repair or auto insurance compensation. Car rental agencies may also serve the self-moving industry needs, by renting or , and in certain markets, other types of vehicles such as motorcycles or scooters may also be offered.
Alongside the basic rental of a vehicle, car rental agencies typically also offer extra products such as insurance, global positioning system (GPS) navigation systems, entertainment systems, mobile phones, portable WiFi and child safety seats.
Joe Saunders of Omaha, Nebraska first started with only one borrowed Model T Ford in 1916, but by 1917, his Ford Livery Company was renting out 18 Model Ts at 10 cents per mile. The company name became Saunders Drive-It-Yourself System and then Saunders System. By 1926, Saunders had expanded to 56 cities. "Joe Saunders", Omaha Innovators Saunders' company was bought by Avis in 1955.
An early competitor to Saunders was Walter L. Jacobs, whose Chicago-based Rent-a-Car opened in 1918 with twelve Ford Model T. The company was bought in 1923 by John Hertz.
The growth in travel after World War II led to the establishment of several well known international companies, including National Car Rental (1947), Europcar (1949), Enterprise Rent-A-Car (1957), Thrifty Rent A Car (1958), and Budget Rent a Car (1958).
In the UK, the registration of rental cars can be concealed by using unfamiliar initials or subsidiaries, which can increase the resale value via manufacturer or third-party dealers. In North America, it is common to see rental companies with their own branded second-hand car dealers where the ex-rental stock is sold directly to the public. Alternatively, auctions are often used in the United States and with the advent of digital platforms, rental cars have increasingly sold the vehicles directly to new and used car dealers bypassing the auction channels.
To allow for a uniform classification and easy comparison of car rental prices, the Association of Car Rental Industry Systems and Standards (ACRISS) has developed the ACRISS Car Classification Code coding system. This describes the size, door count, gearbox type (manual/automatic), and whether the car is air-conditioned, encoded into four letters. The first letter in the Acriss Code represents the general classification of the vehicle (e.g. Mini, Economy, Compact etc.). The second letter specifies the vehicle variant on offer (e.g. 4 Door, Estate, Convertible, SUV etc.). The third letter is generally used to specify the transmission type, although it can also be used to describe how many wheels drive the vehicle, and the fourth letter describes the fuel type and whether the vehicle has air conditioning or not.
Additional classifications based on seat numbers and trunk volume were also set by the Belgian Rent a Car association in order to provide a unified system for assessing the car types in online reservation systems and airline global distribution systems.
For insurance reasons, some companies stipulate a minimum and/or maximum rental age. In some cases, the minimum age for rental can be as high as 25, even in countries where the minimum legal age to hold a driver's license is much lower, e.g. 14,15,16 or 17 in the United States. It is not uncommon for there to be a young driver surcharge for all drivers aged under 25. On average, most car rental companies will only to rent to drivers who are at least 20 or 21 depending on the company. The companies Hertz, Dollar Car Rental, and Thrifty have a minimum age of 20. Alamo, Enterprise, Avis, and all other reputable companies have a minimum age of 21. Certain luxury vehicles may be restricted to those 25+. The US states of New York and Michigan are the only ones who mandate via state law that rental car companies cannot refuse service on the grounds of age if the customer is at least 18 years of age or older. In addition, some companies will rent to 18 and 19 year olds if they are military or government personnel.
In all cases, a valid driver's license is required in order to rent a vehicle, and some countries require an International Driving Permit (IDP).
The majority of car rental companies require the use of a credit card to charge additional fees should a defect be found with the car on its return or for road tolls, motoring related fines, or missing fuel. In lieu of a credit card, some companies require a large cash deposit. Some companies permit a debit card for deposits, typically with proof of a round-trip travel ticket, e.g. an airline, bus, or train ticket.
It is typical, when renting a car, to be offered various forms of supplemental insurance and/or as an optional extra at additional cost. There are several types of coverage:
In the U.S., the sale of these supplemental insurance/waiver products may be regulated by each state's insurance department, and a special limited license may be required by the rental company in order to sell them.http://www.autorentalnews.com/t_inside.cfm?action=article_pick&storyid=567&pgNum=1 The specific coverage offered can differ substantially, depending on the state or country in which the car is rented.