Driving along California with our car rental - The Hollapinos
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(Last Updated On: September 6, 2020)

When searching for the cheapest car rental in California, please keep the following in mind. When we say cheap, we are referring to the least expensive for rental, but not cheap in quality.

There are a handful of car rental businesses out there that may advertise the cheapest rental price; but keep in mind that their service, their vehicle quality, and their limited options may equally be cheap. And you do not want that.

Our goal here is for when you search for the cheapest car rental in California, is that you can find the best price available at a top rental company with a reputable history and have a positive experience doing so.

What do you need to rent a car in California?

To rent a car in California you will, of course, need a valid driver’s license. You will also need third party liability insurance. Rental car companies do not require liability insurance, but you need it to legally operate a vehicle in the state of California.

What age can you rent a car in California?

As far as the legal age for car rental in California, the minimum is 18 years and older. Be aware that there may be restrictions. Some car rental companies in California require that you be at least 21 years old. And if you are 21 to 24 years old, you may be subject to an additional “young renter fee”. This varies per company, so keep that in mind if you are a young renter.

Who is the best company to rent a car from?

Now that you know some of the requirements to rent a car, let us discuss how to go about renting a car in California. You can easily book your car rental online or through an app on your phone.

Most of the time there are no special memberships required. But there can be perks of membership for customers, including discounts on rentals and discounts on upgrades. You may also find promo codes posted in online ads for the car rental company.

As with any purchase or service, there are precautions to take into consideration. Always use a reputable company when you can. I like to use two of the top, well-known companies, Hertz, and Enterprise.

What is the least expensive way to rent a car?

When it comes to options on the vehicle you are renting, do not pay for any unnecessary options that you may not even use. Why pay extra for a vehicle with GPS mapping, when you can just use one of many available mapping apps available for your cell phone? You will be glad you saved your money.

And speaking of saving money, here is another tip. Some car rental companies will allow you to return the vehicle without a full tank of gas and they offer a service to refill the tank. The catch is the price of the gas per gallon when they fill the tank is usually much higher than if you were to fill it yourself at a gas station.

It is all about convenience, you may not want to or have the time to fill the tank before returning the car. If that is the case, then the option to have the car rental company fill the tank may be best for you. But if it is worth your time and you want to save a few bucks, you can choose to fill the tank yourself before returning the car.

Driving along California with our car rental - The Hollapinos
Driving along California with our car rental

What do I need to know before renting a car in California?

Inclusions and Exclusions within your rental terms for the vehicle can vary per company. Unlimited driving mileage is usually included. But you may want to make sure before finalizing your rental in case you plan on driving several miles. If you are planning on driving out of state, you may also want to check that there is no driving out of state restriction.

We have quite a few toll lanes and toll bridges on our highways here in California. Due to this reason, most car rental companies include a Toll Pass Program with your rental that allows the renter to drive through toll locations and pay electronically.

I speak from experience on this one. You always want to be prepared for the unexpected or unplanned when driving a rental car. I was driving a rental car one time late at night and I experienced a flat tire. The car rental company that I rented from did not have an after-hours roadside assistance program. So, I ended up calling a friend to come to assist me in changing the tire.

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You may want to make sure your car rental includes roadside assistance just in case you cannot change a tire or meet the needs of any other vehicle disabling mishap. This will give you an extra added sense of security so you can enjoy your travel knowing you are covered if something goes wrong.

How much does the cheapest car rental in California cost?

On average, the cheapest car rental cost in California for a car can be as low as $18 to $20 a day. Below is the cost to rent a car in LA with pick up at the airport. Click on the View More button below to book your car rental in Los Angeles.

Which car is best for rent?

Now when it comes to the choice of vehicle to rent, choices can range from a compact car, mid-size car, full-size, premium, luxury, and SUV.

In this instance, since we are looking at budget car rental in California, we are going to first cover the rental of a compact car. Below are the specifics on a compact car we have rented.

Type of car rented: Chevrolet Spark

Price: $19 per day

Car rental company: Enterprise

Number of days rented: 3 days

Destination: Long Beach, CA

Below are the specifics on the car we rented when our travels required a full-size car with more trunk space for luggage, more room for an additional passenger, and for comfort for driving over long distances. You notice the higher price for a full-size rental compared to a compact rental.

Type of car rented: Toyota Camry

Price: $28 per day

Car rental company: Enterprise

Number of days rented: 10 days

Destination:  California-San Francisco, Long Beach, Lake Tahoe. Nevada-Carson City, Reno

How to find the cheapest car rental in California?

Here are some tips that will hopefully help you to find the cheapest car rental in California.

Tip #1-Utilize the tools available on the website or by using the app of major car rental companies to narrow your search and find the cheapest rates.

Tip #2-Look online for any available promo codes or electronic coupons that may aid in adding to saving on your rental costs. Make sure to read the fine print to be positive that promo code or coupon is eligible for the rental purchase you are making.

Tip #3-Use a known website, such as Rentalcars.com to help you find the cheapest car rental in California.

Rentalcars.com, as part of Booking.com, is an international online car booking service that will help you compare the prices of the car rental and the quality of service of car rental companies in California.

Use the form below to help you compare prices and book the cheapest car rental in California.

If you are on desktop, fill in with your details like location, pick up and drop off dates then click on the green Search Now button to display the result on this page. Click on the orange Search Now button to take you to Rentalcars.com search page or if you are on mobile.


We hope that our article has been helpful. Be sure to utilize all the tools available to help keep your car rental budget in check and take advantage of all money-saving opportunities. It does not hurt to be wise in making your decisions and being open to putting in a little extra work to save some money. Safe travels to all.

What to pack

Reusable Water Bottle: Nalgene

Immune Support: Airborne Chewables

Waterproof Action Camera: GoPro Hero 7 White

Comfortable Walking Shoes: ON Sneakers, click to read our best travel shoes for travel post.

Tips when planning your trip

Find cheap flights: Jetradar compare airfares from airlines and travel agencies to help you book the best flight deals to the countries ending with land. Click to read our how to find cheap flights guide.

Accommodation: Start with Hotellook! It will help you book hostels to luxury resorts at the best price comparing rates between Booking.com, Zen, Agoda, Expedia, Hotels.com, Trip.com, and others.

You may also check Hostelworld for hostels only. Click to read our guide on how to find the best hostel for you.

Car Rental: Book the best prices and services with Rentalcars.com

Search using your phone: Download the Jetradar mobile app in iOS or Android to set price drop alerts on flights and compare accommodation and car rental rates

Tours: Get Your Guide or book with Klook and Viator(a TripAdvisor Company)

And don’t forget travel insurance with World Nomads! Click to read our travel insurance guide.

Pin to your travel board!

Cheapest Car Rental in California Pin - The Hollapinos

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The Author

Mike is an OSP Engineer by profession. He is a dragon boat paddler and a softballer by passion. He has travelled to several countries prior to meeting Katie.

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