If you’re headed to Miami and want to explore southern Florida on your own, you’ll need to rent a car in Miami to make it happen! Here’s what you need to know about hiring a car in Miami and essential Miami driving tips to make sure you have a great trip!
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Things to Know Before You Rent a Car in Miami
Here’s what you need to know for hiring a car in Miami.
When You Should Rent a Car in Miami
If all you want to do is stay in South Beach, you can easily get by in Miami for a few days using just Uber and Lyft. However, if you’re planning on using the city as a base to explore some of the outer-lying neighborhoods and beaches, go on a few day trips, or even take an awesome Florida or Florida Keys road trip, then it’s a great idea to hire a car in Miami.
Taxis and Uber between cities can be pretty expensive, and it’s not always easy to use public transportation to get around. So while anyone going on a simple city break can easily skip getting a rental car, more adventurous travelers will be grateful for the freedom it provides.
How to Hire a Car in Miami
If you’ll be flying into Miami International, I would suggest arranging to rent a car in the airport. This way you can skip the hassle of figuring out how to take public transit to your hotel or the expense of getting a taxi, which can cost anywhere between $20 and $50 depending on where you need to get in Miami country.
If your goal is to fly into Miami and then drive to another city in South Florida, then a rental car is a necessity. In this situation, it wouldn’t make any sense to pick your rental car up anywhere else.
If your goal is to explore Miami for a few days and then pick up a car to explore further afield, you may decide to pick your rental car up in the city. In that case, make sure you arrange to pick it up as close as possible to where you’ll be staying to avoid a hefty taxi charge if it’s out of town.
Whether you choose to book a car rental at the airport or in town, make sure you know the full details of where you’ll be picking it up and dropping it off. You don’t want any surprises!
How to Pick out the Right Car
Before you pick out a car, you should know your basic itinerary and how many people will be on the trip with you. Rental car costs can vary tremendously if you need to fit five or six people in your car instead of four or less.
Once you know how many people will be on the trip, you need to make sure you know what kind of trip you’ll be taking. If you’ll be spending your time primarily in the city, you should opt for something compact and easy to park.
If you’ll be going on a long road trip, it’s a good idea to think about comfort and making sure the car has the amenities you desire.
Another thing to consider is style. While you have to take extra security precautions if you decide to get a convertible or luxury car, you’ll love having the top down if the weather is good.
Finally, make sure you pick manual or automatic transmission before checking out.
Florida Car Rental Regulations
In Florida, the legal minimum age to rent a car is twenty-one, but rental car companies will typically charge a fee for anyone renting who isn’t at least twenty-five years old.
You need a valid driver’s license and a credit card to rent a car in Florida. You also need to bring whatever card you used for your reservation, even if you plan to charge the car on a different card.
If you are an international tourist, you need to bring your driver’s license from home as well as your passports.
Car Insurance Options
I’ve rented enough cars in enough countries to know that you ALWAYS need to have car rental insurance. Things happen!
You can be covered in different ways, so triple-check exactly how your coverage works. Sometimes I’m covered by the credit card I use to rent the car, sometimes I use my travel insurance coverage, and sometimes I add the coverage from my rental car company. I compare the costs and coverage of the different options I have before picking which I want for that trip.
It’s also possible that you would be covered by your own insurance policy if you drive at home. Check with your car insurance company to see if this applies to you.
Adding Extra Drivers to Your Rental
If you’ll be traveling with your partner or friends, you may want to be able to share driving duties during your trip. Many car rental companies charge a small fee to add a second driver to your rental.
Make sure to tell your rental company that you’re adding another driver. If you don’t add them and you have an accident during your trip with an unregistered driver, it’s highly likely your insurance will become void.
The Best Time to Reserve Your Rental Car
Don’t wait until the last minute to reserve your car! Prices can go up significantly. This is especially true around the holidays.
If you want a particular type of vehicle, you’ll also want to reserve early to make sure it is still available.
What to Bring with You to Pick Up Your Rental Car
Make sure to bring your credit card and driver’s license to pick up your car. If you plan to use a different credit card to pay for your rental than the one you used to reserve it, bring both cards with you.
International drivers should also bring their passports with them. Rental car companies typically make a copy of the passports of foreign drivers and keep it on file during the duration of the car rental.
Tips for Driving in Miami
Here are some tips to help drive in Miami:
- As with the rest of the US, stick to driving on the right side of the road.
- There are lots of speed traps and other low-speed areas in Miami, so always pay attention to the speed limit. It will be posted on the right side of the road.
- Always wear a seatbelt.
- In Florida, you can turn right on red after coming to a complete stop unless there’s a sign forbidding it.
- Pedestrians have the right of way (though if you’re walking somewhere, you may find Miami drivers don’t follow this rule the way that they should).
- It is illegal to text and drive.
Miami Parking Tips
You’ll probably find that parking in Miami is one of the most complicated parts of renting a car here. You’re best bet is to pay for parking in garages, at parking meters, and in public parking lots. Otherwise, you may find yourself with a hefty parking fine and possibly wake up to find that your car was towed.
If you do choose to park on the street, be extra cautious about street signs specifying where you can and cannot park. There are neighborhoods in Miami where street parking is for residents only.
If you’ll be in Miami Beach with a rental car, download the Miami Beach Parking app before your trip.
Driving in Hazardous Weather
While it doesn’t snow in Florida, there’s still hazardous weather to be aware of. Follow local weather report recommendations for hurricane evacuations. You don’t want to get caught up in a storm. I’ve been traveling during hurricane season and had to evacuate. Yes, it sucks to have to cut your trip short, but it is much worse to get stuck in a hurricane, unprepared.
If you do find that there’s an unexpected storm brewing after you arrive, contact your rental car company to discuss what you should do with your car if you need to evacuate.
How to Navigate on the Road
I prefer to use Google Maps for navigating on the road. If you’re worried about losing cell signal (or won’t have cell phone data during your trip) download the map for the areas you will be traveling so that they are available offline during your trip.
Florida Alcohol Regulations
The legal blood alcohol limit in Florida is .08. Do not try to drink and drive in Florida, especially not in Miami. These laws are strictly enforced.
Florida Child Safety Regulations
Children four years old and younger must be in a car seat when in the car. Ask your rental car company for a car seat if you won’t be traveling with one that is approved in Florida.
Florida has more miles of toll road than any other state in the US, so you’ll likely encounter one or two while you’re here. It can be a bit maddening. Check out the Florida Tolls Survival Guide for tips on dealing with the many, many miles of Florida toll roads and calculate your estimated trip costs.
Taking Your Rental Car Out of State
Most car companies allow you to drive your rental car between states. Keep an eye on if there’s a mileage limit on your rental before you plan any kind of major road trip.
If you do choose to take your rental car out of Florida, check with your company ahead of time. Some companies charge for interstate driving.
Picking Up & Dropping Off Your Rental at Different Locations
When you make your reservation, you’ll specify where you are going to pick your rental car and where you will drop it off at the end of your trip. You can typically specify a city that’s different than your pickup point, but it usually costs more in these situations.
What to Bring with You on Your Trip
You’ll want to keep your driver’s license and proof of insurance handy while you’re out driving. It’s also a good idea to have a charger that works in the car (or rent a car with a USB port). You don’t want to end up with a dead cell phone battery while trying to navigate a new city!
Dealing with Traffic Tickets and Parking Tickets
If you get a parking or traffic ticket in your rental car, the car company will typically charge it to your credit card. This may be after you return your car since they can’t charge you until after they receive the ticket. If you prefer to pay it yourself, keep documentation until you are certain the car company doesn’t also try to pay it and charge you.
Avoiding Extra Charges on Your Rental
Other than tickets, the most common extra charges on car rentals are for damage done to the car, dropping it off late, or not filling the gas tank up to the agreed-upon point (either full or to where it was when you received the car). Make sure you return the car on-time and in perfect condition with a full tank of gas, and you will likely avoid getting any extra charges.
Returning Your Rental Car
Find out from your car company what their procedure is for returning the car, especially if you will be returning it after hours. It’s always best to have someone from the company check the car in with you there, so you can sign off on the (hopefully pristine) returned condition of the car. However, if you need to return your car after hours, take a few pictures of the car when you drop it off.
More Florida Travel Resources
Finally, Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Before you leave for Florida make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be hanging out in NYC where tourists can be the victims of pickpockets.
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for two years, and I happily recommend them. If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you’ll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what’s stolen or broken.
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