I love driving. It’s something I’d always wanted to do even as a little girl. I remember sitting next to my dad and moving the gear stick for him. So when I passed my test eight years ago, I knew I’d relish the challenge of driving abroad.
And even as confident as I am behind the wheel, I was still anxious at driving in a completely different country. Add on top of that the hassle of hiring an automatic car and the terror became real. But there’s really no other way to travel California, and the state was calling my name for a two week road trip of a lifetime, so it was time to buckle up and jump in.
I’ve pulled together 10 top tips for hiring a car and driving in America.
1) Use comparison sites
I always find, when doing anything in my life to be honest, using comparison sites get you the best deal. It’s easy to compare lots of hire companies, types of vehicle and number of drivers at the click of a button. I’ve found autoeurope offer the best prices.
2) Check for CDW or LDW
You may hear horror stories of people spending hundreds, sometimes thousands, at the hire desk for car insurance. When booking, always look for the inclusion of Collision Damage Waiver / Loss Damage Waiver. So in the case of car damage or theft you won’t have to pay.
3) Take your documents
Make sure you take your drivers licence and the paper counterpart. Sometimes you might need to get a DVLA code too. Take the credit card you booked with and ensure you have enough money on it to cover the car hire and deposit. Also take a copy of your car hire voucher.
4) Check over your hire car
Look around the car inside and out, make notes of any scratches, dints or damage and take pictures. You don’t want to be blamed for these when you return the car.
5) Get familiar with an automatic
This was something I was most concerned about. I’d never driven an automatic. I know it’s meant to be easy, but it was still new territory. I watched a couple of YouTube videos and took my time when I first got in the car to familiarise myself with all the bits and bobs.
6) Don’t hire from the city centre
If you can avoid it, I wouldn’t hire from a city centre. I didn’t have a choice but found driving out of San Francisco utterly terrifying. Little lanes, lots of pedestrians and so many hill starts. At least starting at an airport you have big open roads!
7) Get someone to navigate
This could be a sat nav but I prefer a person. I wouldn’t have been confident enough to find my way around at the same time as concentrating on driving as well as watching the road. One thing at a time. I relied on my partner to lead the way whilst I operated the vehicle.
8) Watch out for road rage
American’s are angry drivers! I didn’t realise how polite Brits were on the road until I took to the states. They drive fast, in their big scary vehicles. They won’t let you in so you have to brave it and stick your front end out. They aren’t afraid to beep like hell. I did what I was comfortable with and took my time.
9) Turn right on red
This is a clever rule that applies to most states, including California, that I am totally on board with. When the traffic lights are on red, and if the way is clear, you are able to turn right. Signs will tell you if that isn’t the case, but it definitely stopped queues building up.
10) Right on repeat
This is such an obvious tip, but I found it helpful to say ‘right’. I said this all the time on our road trip, especially when crossing traffic. Just as a constant reminder to stay on the correct side of the road! Simple but effective.
It’s daunting to drive abroad for the first, second or third time. Do your research, take your time and breathe! I’m taking a Florida road trip soon so I need to remember all of this again (plus the nightmare of toll roads). Wish me luck.
Have you driven abroad before? How did you find it? Let me know below.