Can You Rent a Car With Cash?

By Leah Rendon

What to know before planning a road trip

Can You Rent a Car With Cash?

Few experiences in life bring quite the sense of freedom and adventure as hitting the open highway on a road trip. You may have to slam on the brakes, however, if your vacation includes trying to rent a car without a credit card. Maybe you just don’t believe in paying with a credit card, preferring simpler methods, like cash, but most rental agencies view those without a credit card as a serious risk. They’re often leery about renting to someone who can’t or won’t use plastic. Fortunately, alternatives to renting a car without a credit card exist, but the terms are usually filled with stipulations and restrictions. Policies vary drastically based on agencies and location, so always call ahead for specific details.

Q: Can I rent a car with cash?

A: Cash payments are generally an accepted form of payment once you return your vehicle. Few rental agencies will allow you to reserve a car with cash, however, and that rare option comes with strict stipulations. For starters, you can forget about renting a luxury car as your choices will most likely be limited to economy through full-size vehicles. Many companies also require extensive paperwork to verify your identity, including proof of employment and a utility bill in your name with an address that matches the one on your driver’s license. You can also expect to pay the full amount of the rental upfront, plus a substantial deposit. Some rental agencies employ background checks, which must be completed up to 30 days in advance and include an application fee. Most companies prohibit those 25 and younger from renting cars without a credit card.

Q: Are there any exceptions to renting a car with cash?

A: Some companies will allow you to bypass their no-cash policy if you rent your vehicle as part of a prepaid travel package, such as a vacation tour. Check with your original booking source to see if you qualify for the exemption.

Q: Can I rent a car with a debit card?

A: Debit cards are accepted by most rental agencies, but policies often vary. For some agencies, in addition to your debit card and driver’s license, you may be required to show a third form of ID, such as a passport, utility bill or bank statement. Rental companies will most likely perform a credit check and place a large authorization hold as well before allowing you to book a rental with a debit card. If you’re renting a vehicle at an airport, you may be asked to show a round-trip airline ticket or an itinerary that demonstrates you’ll be returning to the airport from which you rented your vehicle.

Q: Can I prepay for my rental online with a debit card?

A: Most companies provide a discounted rate if you pay the full amount due at the time of your online booking. Even if you prepay online with a debit card, however, you may still need to present a credit card when you pick up the vehicle, depending on the company’s policy. If they do accept your debit card at the rental counter, standard requirements most likely still apply, including a third form of ID, a large authorization hold and a credit check. Some companies do not permit debit cards to be used to book vehicles online.

Q: Can you rent a car with a gift card?

A: Gift cards are usually only accepted as payment upon the return of the rental vehicle but not at booking or as a deposit.

About the Author

A travel writer since 2002, Jane Gosford has written countless articles for online pop-culture magazines and various travel-related websites, including Eurobooking and World66. Gosford also has experience in copywriting, having developed a series of articles related to network marketing. She graduated from the University of California, Los Angeles with a degree in theater arts.