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Rental cars are something that everyone knows about, but not a lot of people have in-depth knowledge of them.
It is legal to drive a rental car that is in someone else's name, but only if the main driver has added them as an additional driver. The main driver can do this by coordinating with the rental car company. It is important to go this route because an unauthorized driver can result in legal trouble.
Knowing what you are getting into with renting a car is vital, especially if you are not the main driver because there are contracts involved.
If you choose not to add an additional driver but let someone else drive the vehicle (or anyone who is not the additional driver), they are considered an unauthorized driver. This can be a huge problem. Letting someone use the rental car who is not authorized to drive the car can result in legal trouble. If the company finds out, they can sue you for a breach of contract. Although that is not super likely to happen, it is likely that the company will put you on a “do not rent” list, which would block you from ever being able to use their cars again.
Even worse, if the car happens to be involved in an accident while an unauthorized driver is driving, the main driver's insurance company may or may not cover any part of the accident because the contract was violated, and also, they cover you, and you were not the one driving.
During a rental car accident, if the main driver was the one driving, there are several safety backups the driver can take to be covered. Some Credit Card companies provide insurance for things like rental cars, and some car rental companies provide insurance at an extra cost.
However, if the driver is not authorized, even if you have insurance from the rental company, because the main driver breached their contract with them, they will hold them fully reliable for damages, they are void of all liability protection. It is then up to the main driver's personal insurance if they will cover any of it or not.
So the main driver's insurance is unlikely to cover it because they cover you as a driver, and you were not the one driving. On the reverse end, even if the unauthorized driver has insurance, it is unlikely that their insurance will cover it because the contract is not in their name; it is your rental vehicle, not theirs.
If you happen to be stopped by police on your journey, it can result in the unauthorized driver being arrested for grand theft auto. While I don't know how likely it is that this would happen, it doesn't seem worth the risk. It most likely wouldn't take more than 30 minutes to an hour of your time to get them added as an additional driver, and that is better than jail time or being arrested at all.
Why do you need to add an additional driver?
There are multiple reasons that one would want to add an additional driver. A personal reason that an individual might want to get an additional driver on their rental contract is that if they are going to be driving for a really long time, it is helpful to have another driver. Even if you have to pay the additional fee to have an additional driver that is out of the age range, if you need the driving help, it is worth saving the exhaustion.
The main reason to add an additional driver is to avoid legal trouble (being sued by the rental car company), debt, or anyone getting arrested and charged.
How to add the additional driver
This depends on what company you are going through, but sometimes you can add extra drivers right when you book the car online. Another option is when you get to the rental counter, you can talk to the agent to have them add the driver. The additional driver should be with you when you go to the counter, they should also have their passport and a valid driver's license with them.
What if the car was already rented?
If the rental agreement has already begun, fret not. If you call the counter staff of the rental car company, you can check with them to see if it is possible to still add an additional driver. Some companies might not agree to this, so if possible, always set up this additional driver in advance. If possible, the main and additional drivers will both have to go to the counter to show their driver's licenses and passports and pay the fee.
But what if you are already out of town? It is unclear what to do in that scenario, but the best suggestion would be to ask the company if it is possible to do this process at a different location within their organization.
The cost of adding an additional driver depends on the rental car company, call ahead or check the company website to see the cost. Here you can also see the fees for a young or senior additional driver.
Who can be the additional driver?
There are certain requirements that a person must fulfill in order to be the additional driver. Usually, the qualifications are the same across the board; the driver has to be over 21 years old and has also had their “full” driver's license for over 2 years. However, these conditions may vary with different car companies, so it is important to look up the requirements in advance.
While there are age limits on who can be the additional driver, some companies offer a more free age range at an extra expense. For example, people are charged a young driver fee for an additional driver that is below the age minimum of 21 years old. Car companies do this to cover the risk they take with more inexperienced drivers. Because these drivers are younger and less experienced, they are at greater risk of getting into accidents and more serious ones. This is why they charge an extra fee for younger drivers.