Cheap Car Rentals – 5 Ways to Add an Additional Driver for Free

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[Disclaimer:  Rental car terms and conditions and state law changes constantly.  Please do your OWN research on additional driver fees before renting a car.]

Rental car companies such as Budget, Avis & Enterprise allow you to add a spouse or domestic partner for free when you rent in the US.  Other rental car companies such as Thrifty, Dollar, National, Hertz and Alamo charge you to add an additional driver. However, you can avoid the fee at Alamo, Hertz, & National by enrolling in their frequent rental programs and then booking a car rental which has your frequent rental number.

Update:  Alamo no longer waives the additional driver fee for Alamo Insiders Members who enrolled after May 11, 2014.  But if you enrolled May 11, 2014 or earlier can still add another driver for free.  Thanks to reader Alan W. for pointing this out!

You Have to Wade Through a Lot of Fine Print to add an Additional Driver for Free!

You Have to Wade Through a Lot of Fine Print to add an Additional Driver for Free!

Cheap Car Rentals Series:

Usually the fees to add an additional driver are ~$10 per day.  So in some cases, it could be well worth it to pay more to rent from car rental companies which allow you to add an extra driver for free if you like sharing the driving with someone else. I am a control freak like driving so Emily rarely drives the rental car, but having her as an additional driver is useful when we visit family.

It may be tempting to not pay the additional driver fee and have someone else drive the car, but you would be liable for damages in case the additional driver got into an accident and was not an authorized driver on the rental contract.  So don’t have someone else drive if he or she is not authorized to drive the rental car!

Ways to Add an Additional Driver for Free

Note that while you can avoid additional driver fees, you may have to pay underage fees if your additional driver does not meet the age requirements (usually 25 years or older).

1.  Rent from Budget, Avis & Enterprise

Budget, Avis & Enterprise do not charge a fee for an additional driver who is your spouse or domestic partner.  And if you are renting under a business discount code, you may be able to have business colleagues as additional drivers. But the policy at each appears to be slightly different. Here’s a link to:

2.  Costco Travel

Booking through Costco Travel usually lets you add an additional driver for free at Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise.


AAA, AARP, and USAA have slightly different additional driver policies:

Note that just being a member of these organizations is NOT enough.  You have to use their discount code and contract number while renting to get the additional driver benefits.

4.   State Law

California law allows an additional driver for free when renting in California.

5.   Loyalty Program Membership

Some rental car companies which charge fees for additional drivers may waive them if you are a member of their free loyalty program.

Note that you usually need to have your loyalty program number on the reservation to get the additional driver fee waived, so this may not work if you book the rental through a third party like the Ultimate Rewards Mall or Priceline.

Bottom Line

Renting a car with Avis, Budget or Enterprise will let you add your spouse or domestic partner as an authorized driver for free.

So it could make sense to rent from those companies, even if they charge higher rates to save on paying extra fees for an additional driver elsewhere.

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48 responses to “Cheap Car Rentals – 5 Ways to Add an Additional Driver for Free

  1. This may seem like a silly question, but I imagine that CDW insurance from the primary driver’s credit card is valid even if the additional driver is driving? For example, if the additional driver was in the driver’s seat and sitting at a red light when rear-ended by a car from behind.

  2. What if the additional driver isn’t a spouse or domestic partner? From your summaries, it sounds like the best bets are Alamo or going through Costco. Is that correct?

  3. Excellent Article.. Thanks!

    • @Wedding Spend – The insurance is valid as long as the additional driver is authorized to drive the car.

      @swag – AARP also gets you one free additional driver and there are no fees if you move to California!

      @mary – Thanks!

  4. Does Hertz Gold Club (I have it through Amex platinum) allow for a free spouse when renting outside the country in Europe? If so, do I need documentation to show this or not? Thanks.



  6. very useful article, I was paying for additional driver so far….
    Thanks a lot to Darius and we request you to share these type
    more and more

    Thumbs up

  7. Hm… I remember renting a car with Enterprise at Berkeley, CA three or so years ago and I positively remember that we were charged ~$20 per day for an additional driver (though that was not my spouse or domestic partner ). Is it a recent change in local regulation (not to charge for additional driver) or were we just cheated by Enterprise? 🙂

    Generally, it’s hard for me to understand why rental companies are so unwilling to allow additional drivers for free. IMO for the long journeys it theoretically decreases the risk of accident because if one driver is tired, he can be easily (and legally) replaced with another one, while in case of no AD added he will have to keep driving… I thought it should be in the interest of company to mitigate such risks…

  8. On flyer talk there are corporate codes that one can use to get incredible deals. Some give you CDW and additional driver free, and the rates are incredible, the company I work for corporate rate is excellent, and the code on the FT page under national rental car… I travel for work, and what I pay is pennies compared to what the regular person pays… I just rented a new Chrysler 300c with 200 miles on it, for 3 days, total was $109 that is with airport fee’s.

  9. It looks like the only way to get a free AU that is NOT a spouse or domestic partner is to join Avis’ program and book through them. However, looking at the rates for an upcoming trip, the cheapest rate on UR is $245 (through Thrifty or Dollar) and the Avis-direct rate is $336 (or $272 on UR). On top of this price difference, I could presumably find a cheaper rate by bidding on priceline. Does anyone know if any of the rental companies allow you to add your account number to a reservation booked via UR or Priceline? Also, does anyone know how “domestic partner” is defined? A loose definition would suggest that the parties could merely attest to the fact that they complete domestic tasks together – a broad definition would suggest that the parties must be legally registered domestic partners.

  10. BJ’s allows a non-spouse extra driver for free on some of their rentals. If you are a member, check their website. I have used them for Alamo.

  11. Correction to my previous comment: Join ALAMO not Avis, my mistake.

  12. Just FYI, if you are using your credit card’s collision coverage, it only covers people that are authorized users of the credit card.

  13. Excellent write up! Thanks!

    • @DavidD – I’m not sure. But this link seems to suggests it applies everywhere and automatically just for being a Hertz Gold Club member.

      @Ilya – I don’t know when the California law went into effect, but currently there are no fees. Enterprise is pretty aggressive with pushing insurance and fees, so I try to avoid them.

      @Tony – I’ll write about the airport codes soon, but it could be an issue if you get into an accident and have used a code to which you aren’t entitled.

      @sat @Ed – Thanks!

      @CFFrost – You can also use the AARP or Costco rate for an additional driver. I believe your Alamo number should be on the reservation, and you usually can’t add the number to a prepaid reservation.

      @Clare – Thanks! I’ll check that out!

      @rilys – The terms for the cards suggest that an authorized driver who is with the primary cardholder is also covered with the primary cardholder’s insurance.

  14. I believe that BOTH authorized drivers need to be on hand at pickup.

  15. we are renting a car in California through Hertz, but they do NOT accept that the second driver in this State is
    free. the price we have locked in is pretty good, so we don’t want to change that part, any suggestion to convince them of the law?

  16. You only get an additional driver with Alamo as in Insider if you book an Insider rate. If you use another coupon or contract ID (Southwest for example) you won’t get the driver for free.

  17. BTW, with USAA you can also avoid the additional driver fee and under 25 fee. It is free to join USAA.

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  20. Just found out that EZ Rent A Car at Orlando International (and select other locations) waives the additional driver fees for spouses.

  21. One additional driver is free with Avis, Budget, Dollar and Enterprise (TWO drivers with Thrifty) anywhere in Hawaii when booking through using their Corporate Discount Number: HT14004149. Here’s a link to the page.

    Their rate on a one week premium car rental with Thrifty in Kauai even beat the Ultimate Rewards rate by $200 when considering the lower rate and the two additional drivers for free.

  22. My personal car insurance company told me that my full coverage policy covers any rental in my name regardless of who is driving, as long as I have given my permission. The second driver fee is just a revenue enhancer for the rental company. Therefore I decline the rental insurance.

    Has anyone else found this to be true with their personal car insurance?

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  25. Great article. Do you know what happens if you book at Enterprise, Budget or Avis through a 3rd party, such as Travelocity? Do the free spouse policies still apply?

  26. Hi there,

    me and my boyfriend are travelling to California in March and would like to rent a car for 16 days. We both would like to take turn driving. Thrifty offers the best deal at the moment but we do not wat to be surprised with additional driver fees. We will pick up and drop off the car in Los Angeles but will cross to Arizona and Nevada. Does the California ‘no additional driver fee’ applies even if you cros to another state or just in California? I was also wondering is we need an international drivers licence. We live in the UK but come from the Czech Republic and both have Czech drivers licence (use it in UK with no problem). I also have a valid Canadian drivers licence as I used to live in Canada.

    Thanks for your advice!!!

    Great article by the waym very helpful!!


    • @Zdenka – Thanks for reading! I believe the no additional driver fee applies based on the state in which you pick-up the rental. That said, Thrifty/Dollar are notorious for “extra” charges, though the fine print on the contract packet should mention that there is no additional driver’s fee for renting in California. It will help to have an international driver’s license, but I don’t know for sure.

  27. 63 year old father wants to add 21 year old son for cross country, phoenix to Boston, trip. Will any rental companies allow this? Thanks, j Ketcham

  28. We are looking to rent a car for a week in California. Besides my wife, we would like to have both our sons who are 22 and 24, respectively be included as additional drivers. Any suggestion on which car rental company has the lowest charges in CA for drivers 21-25 as additional drivers?

    I just spoke to Budget and they said flat out that they do not allow additional drivers under the age of 25!


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  30. Note that Alamo has changed their terms and conditions in regards to the additional driver fee (they no longer waive the fee for Alamo Insiders Members who enrolled on or after 5/12/2014). Fortunately, if you are an existing Alamo Insider Member who enrolled prior to 5/12/2014, you will still receive the free additional driver benefit. The changes are summarized here —>

  31. Alamo has changed there T&C again. As of June 22nd there will be an additional driver fee for those Insider members enrolled before 5/12/14.

  32. What rental car company will allow an additional driver who is a friend? Is there any way without having to pay extra?

  33. The comment regarding the extra insurance offered by most rental companies is correct for most Standard Insurance policies (State Farm, Farmers, Allstate etc). These type of personal auto policies WILL cover you when you are driving a rental (or any uninsured vehicle). Taking out the insurance the rental company offers is like taking out an extra policy when you already have coverage. They push it because they get kick backs/incentives for selling it.

    Caution: If you have a low cost, sub standard policy, those generally do not cover you when you are driving another vehicle not listed on the policy. In fact, those usually only cover the driver(s) listed on the policy for that specific vehicle ONLY.

    It’s best to check with your insurance company before deciding to take out the damage waivers offered by rental companies.

  34. I just checked the wording from the Alamo Insiders program and called Alamo directly, and it appears as though Alamo is no longer offering a free additional driver even if you have been a member of the Alamo Insiders Members program since before May 2014..

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  38. After reading this article I booked a two week trip with Budget. Guess what, Budget charged us $17 each day to add my husband. This mistake cost me $170. FYI Budget charges for additional drivers.

  39. After reading this article I booked a two week trip with Budget. Guess what, Budget charged us $17 each day to add my husband. This mistake cost me $170. FYI Budget charges for additional drivers.