Here’s how to rent a car in the USA so you have transportation in your first few days or weeks in the USA.

You definitely need transportation when you move to the USA. The biggest cities such as New York, Chicago, and Atlanta have a good bus or train system. However, in smaller cities and suburbs, you will need a car.

Check with your employer or sponsor if they will be providing you with transportation. If not, then you will need Uber, Lyft, or some other means of transportation. The other option is to rent a car.

What you need to rent a car.

In order to rent a car, you will need:

Credit card. Unfortunately, you cannot rent a car without a credit card. If you have a credit card from your home country, keep one and use it to rent a car for a few days. Just make sure to pay it.

Driver’s license. As long as your driver’s license is in English, or it has English translation, you can use it for about 30 days. In other states, you may be able to use it for a maximum of 90 days. Do check with the Department of Motor Vehicle (DMV) in your destination state.

How to Rent a Car Before Arriving in the US

Go to and start searching for a car.

Decide how long you’ll need a car for: a few days, or maybe a week or two. Remember that you will need a car to move around: to find an apartment, apply for your social security number, and buy groceries.

Look at the price and compare it with your budget. Depending on the time of year and the city you’re going to, you may be able to rent a car for $30 a day, or as high as $90! Just don’t go too crazy with the kind of car or SUV you’d want to rent.

Consider the rating of the car rental company. Some rental companies are better than others. Do check out the reviews and ratings left by other customers.

Choose the type of car you want. You can get a small, compact car, a small SUV, a huge SUV, or even electric cars. Just don’t go overboard and rent something too expensive!

You can choose to pay online or pay for the rental when you pick it up. My suggestion is to pay for it when you pick it up. Oftentimes, car rentals at can be canceled 48 hours the pickup date and time. So if there are changes to your schedule, you will not be charged for it when you cancel on time.

How to pick up your car rental.

When you arrive at the airport, get your luggage, and look for signs toward the car rental stations. They could be within the same airport terminal. Or it could also be off-site, which means you’ll need to ride a shuttle bus to get to the car rental office.

Just look for the signs. You can’t miss those. They would usually be near the exit and right by the ground transportation area of the airport.

Inspect your rental car before driving off! Check all sides of your rental car for any scratches or damages. Also take note if the fuel tank is full. It should be full! If not, then let the car rental staff know.

Returning your car rental.

It’s easy to return your car rental. Just fill up the fuel tank, then drive to the designated location for car rental returns. Most of the time, this is at the airport. Just drive to the airport, follow the signs for “car rental returns” and when you get there, you will just drop off the car and its keys. It’s that easy!

You will need a car in most places in the USA, unless you live in major cities like New York, Atlanta, or Chicago. If you’ve just arrived as a visa holder or permanent resident, then you will most likely need to buy a car.

One big problem is that if you don’t have a credit history, it is difficult to buy a new car. So what do you?

Here are several options. I’ve saved the best one for last!

Public transportation is not very good in the United States. Only the big cities have excellent train and bus systems. In most cities, like Nashville where we live, you need a car to move around.

Here’s a quick guide to buy a car if you have just arrived in the USA.

Borrow or Rent a Car before you arrive.

If you have friends or relatives, borrow a car from them for 5-10 days right after your arrival. If you don’t have any friends or relatives, you can rent a car through,, or

When we first arrived in August 2015, I rented a car for 5 days. That time frame was enough for me. It meant that I had to visit several dealerships and test drive some cars over this period. But it worked out and before I returned the car, I bought a 2012 Kia Forte.

I did not know how to fill my car with gas when I first arrived in the United States. In the Philippines, you just pull up next to a gas filling station. You don’t even need to get out of your car, an employee will go to you. Just roll down your window, tell them how much gas you want and they’ll do it for you.

In the United States, that is not the case. Filling your car with gas is a do-it-yourself process.