Miami is one of the most popular cities in the United States, with beaches, gardens, music festivals, art galleries, museums, historic districts, nightclubs and many, many parties to enjoy!
When you’re not partying or spending time on the beach, you can drive for a few kilometers (don’t drink and drive obviously!) and you’ll fill find protected natural areas such as the Everglades National Park.
Florida is defined by its spectacular nature, so while Miami may be best known by its club scene, you’re missing out if you don’t spend some of your days exploring its natural surrounds. And for that the easiest way to get around is car rental.
Car rental is a great idea for Miami, as it opens up so much of the State of Florida beyond the concrete jungle of the city. However there are a number of common problems you may face, so to avoid any drama we’ve listed some vital info here for you.
Car Rental in Miami
Common Issues and Vital Info
Most people lack information about car rentals in Miami (or in any other city in the United States) and therefore don’t make the best decisions when making a booking.
It’s easy to think that because you’ve rented cars while traveling in the past, you know the ins and outs of what to expect, but Miami and the US in particular have a couple of quirks in the car rental process which are important to know.
Failing to Produce Documents
If you’ve never rented a car, you should know that when you pick it up, the rental agencies will ask you for some documents. In Miami you’ll specifically need:
- Credit card: Debit cards are largely not accepted for car rentals in Miami, and it’s necessary that the name on your credit card matches the name of the booked reservation. Your card also need to have enough capacity for the guarantee deposit that will be requested, this amount varies per company.
- Guarantee deposit: This is an amount required by rental agencies as a guarantee while the rented car is being used. It’s a ‘freeze’ on a certain amount of funds, which when the vehicle is returned, will be unfrozen from your card and available again for you in your balance. This ensures you have enough funds to pay for any damages to the vehicle or excesses in insurance.
- Valid driver’s license for more than one year. When driving in Florida you’re required to have valid driver license issued your name from your country of residence. We recommend checking with the rental car company to see what they require however most only require drivers to have a valid driver license from any state, U.S. territory or foreign country.
- Minimum age 25 years old.
- Voucher or confirmation of the booking.
Not Reserving on Time
This is perhaps one of the most frequent problems when renting a car in Miami, since most people wait until the very last minute to book their car rentals.
In Miami specifically, the later you book the more expensive and difficult it is to find the vehicle you need or like. Meaning that, you’ll end up paying a lot for a car that maybe doesn’t fulfill your needs.
For this reason, book well in advance as soon as you know you’ll be renting a car.
Not Using an Online Car Rental Search Engine
Some travelers have no idea that they can save a lot of money if they use a broker when renting a car in Miami.
Just like you would use an online comparison tool or booking aggregator to find your hotels, this is the best way to find vehicles with up to 35% discount, in addition to dozens of locations to pick up and drop off the car.
Omitting the Necessary Insurance
Naturally, no one wants to be involved in an eventuality, collision or accident, but there are situations that we can’t control, so it’s better to be protected with some coverage.
Rental agencies will offer you several options when you pick up the car, but here are the two that I consider the most important when renting a car in Miami:
- Rental car insurance (CDW-LDW): This mandatory coverage protects you in case of accidents with the car or theft of its parts. Keep in mind any terms and conditions in the contract, such as drunk driving which could invalidate the insurance (especially important if you’re partying at night and driving by day, as alcohol from the previous night can stay in your system).
- Third party insurance (or liability insurance): There are occasions where accidents may occur with third parties or with external properties, so I recommend getting this coverage, since it will protect you from claims made against you or damages you may have caused with the rented car.
Not Knowing How to React in Case of Emergency
I never recommend renting a car without knowing what actions to take in case of an emergency, because no matter how small it may be, it is necessary to act the right way.
If there is a collision with another vehicle, it is important that you contact the traffic authorities and the agency that rented you the car, since they will tell you what to do.
Emergencies in Florida however can also include wildlife, and depending on where you’re driving (ie into the Everglades), you could possibly encounter alligators, panthers, and snakes on the road.
It’s crucial that you take pictures and videos of any event, this way, if it wasn’t your fault, you will have evidence to support your statement before the law.
And obviously this is why it is important to have the insurance policies mentioned above, because they will protect you during unexpected circumstances involving the rented car.
Renting a Car Without an Unlimited Mileage Policy
When hiring a car rental it’s important to verify that the company grants you an unlimited mileage policy, that means that you can drive as much as you want in Miami and its surroundings without paying extra costs for your trips.
Florida is a huge State and you could very easily wrack up the miles if you wanted to, with so much to visit and explore by roadtrip.
But, where do you find these companies?
Using the Miles Car Rental website (booking comparison tool), check the main car rental companies such as Avis, Budget, Dollar, Hertz, Alamo, among others, for a deal which gives you the unlimited mileage policy.
Not Traveling With a Child Car Seat
Florida is a family friendly destination, and many families choose to rent a car. But if you have children under 5, you need to be traveling with a child car seat, and not rely on the car rental company to have one in stock.
Children under five years old must travel in a child seat, with their straps properly fastened, otherwise you could face a heavy fine. In addition, children up to 12 years old must be in the back seat and all passengers should always use a seat belt.
If you want to acquire the child seats required by the state authorities, you can ask at the agency’s counter when you pick up the rented car. However it isn’t a guarentee that your rental car company will have one handy, which matches the exact height and weight requirements for your child.
Incredible Places to Visit by Car
Now that you’re aware of some of the most common mistakes / issues when renting a car in Miami, here are some of the incredible places you can visit by car:
Castellow Hammock Preserve & Nature Center: Less than an hour’s drive from Miami, you will find this natural reserve, which is open every day of the week. If you love camping or night walks, visiting this state park is an excellent option.
Everglades Alligator Farm: a short hour out of Miami, you can see Florida’s exotic animals such as alligators, crocodiles and snakes. You can also take 20-25 minute airboat rides through the Everglades and experience the park from the water.
Long Key State Park: Two hours from Miami, this State Park is a tranquil haven for bird-watching, swimming, kayaking or relaxing on the shoreline as you gaze across the Atlantic Ocean.