Renting a Car in Florida
Although it is possible to holiday in Florida without a car, if you want to get around, you really do need a car.
When you rent a car, check exactly what is included; otherwise you may have to pay additional insurance premiums on arrival that can run into hundreds of dollars. With the move away from a cash option to electronic collection at toll plazas, you need to be certain exactly what sort of provision your rental company has for toll collection if you plan to use any of Florida's toll roads.
If you travel to Florida on a 'fly-drive' package, you will often be given free car hire as part of the deal. Note there is no such thing as free car hire!
We have seen families at Orlando airport suddenly discovering that they cannot afford to take their 'free' rental car.
Chevrolet Impala, a typical fullsize rental car
The best way to hire a car is to hire it before you travel to Florida. After a long transatlantic flight you are in no fit state to cope with the high pressure selling of a typical airport car rental operator.
They will try to get you to upgrade to a more expensive model and take out additional insurance packages that you may not need.
Most US car rental companies have offices in Europe or you can buy on the internet.
In our experience, the best option is to go for one of the 'inclusive' packages that include all necessary insurance and indemnities and a tank of petrol. Also think about having one or more additional drivers on the policy.
It goes without saying that you should check with the individual Car Hire companies about their terms and conditions. This is only a guide and each company may apply different policies.
Amtrak Auto Train
If you live in the North East of the United States, you can even put your car on the Amtrak Auto Train to avoid the long drive south.
Generally you need to be 21 before you can hire a car and of course you must hold a full driving licence which you need to produce when signing the agreement. If you are under 25 you will probably have to pay an additional premium.
In the past, if your driving licence was not written in English then you needed to get an International Driving Permit. A law was passed on January 1, 2013 stating that all overseas visitors require an International Driving Permit but there is currently confusion following an about turn by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Type of Car
When thinking about the size of car you need, do think about the amount of luggage you and your group are taking with you. Four adults will fit in a compact or medium sized car but you will not get four large suitcases in the boot (trunk).
The hire companies will give you an indication of how big a car you need depending upon the size of your party and the mix of adults and children.
Nearly all cars are automatic and come with air conditioning. Most tend to be saloons (sedans).
Taking a Car out of State
If you plan on going a bit further afield, perhaps driving up into Georgia, then make sure you have unlimited mileage and the hire company is alright with you taking the car out of state.
Also make sure the car does not have temporary licence plates as the police forces in other states may stop you (some brand new cars are rented out before their proper licence plate has been issued).
Leaving the Airport
Before you leave the airport make sure you know where you are going!! The last thing you need is to find yourself lost late at night in a strange part of town.
There are loads of internet sites now that will give you detailed driving instructions from the airport to your destination. Also check the car for defects such as dents or scratches and make sure you report them to the attendant when leaving the rental garage as you do not want to be charged for them on your return.