Rent a car in Miami – our experience and tips on how to rent a car at Miami airport
In this article I will tell about the peculiarities of renting a car in Miami and what car classes there are in the U.S., the insurance options, the requirements for the driver and the necessary documents for the contract. I will share my personal experience of renting a car in Miami with Alamo Company, and recommendations on where to book and rent a car in the U.S. better. You will learn about car rental prices in Miami and what the total cost of car rental is made up of, as well as how you can save when renting a car in America.
Car Rental in Miami
Renting a car in Miami is the most convenient way to travel independently to various cities, keys and natural attractions in the Southeast United States, as well as the cheapest transportation for trips to Key West, Orlando and Cape Canaveral, to national parks and to various beaches along the Gulf of Mexico and Miami Beach. Every time we’ve been to Miami, we’ve taken a rental car and it’s been very convenient for us.
Not only will a rental car in Miami come in handy for travelers to the Everglades and Biscayne National Parks, but also for families with children to go to beaches and restaurants, and for those who want to drive around the city every day for shopping and other activities.
A car in Miami is essential for just about everyone, since the entire tourist infrastructure is geared toward self-drive trips. And if you don’t have your own car in the U.S., it’s better to think about renting in advance, especially if your hotel has its own parking lot or valet parking service.
We rented a car in Miami to travel to the best beaches in Florida, visit interesting coastal towns like Maples, Clearwater, Sarasota, Bonita Springs and Marathon, and visit the most famous key islands in the US.
We have previously traveled by car in the U.S. several times, as detailed on our website
We had a lot of experience traveling on the roads of America, so when we decided to come to Florida for a couple of weeks, we decided not to limit ourselves to just one city, but to rent a car and visit the most interesting places to diversify our vacation and choose the best beach for us.
Important to know:
- The price of car rental in Miami from all car rental companies is different, starting from about $ 30 per day (the cost depends on the class of the car and the duration of the rental).
- The tariff for 1 day is the highest, and to take the car for the weekend is more expensive than on weekdays.
- With a long term of rent (starting from 1 week) the tariff is considerably reduced in recalculation per day.
- Also, in case of the long term rentals (starting from 3-4 days) some big car rental companies do not charge extra in the case if you rent a car in one place and return it in the other one.
Why rent a car in Miami
Probably everyone already knows that the U.S. is the number 1 country for traveling by car. And if you are going to see not only big cities like Miami or Fort Lauderdale, but also want to visit the Florida Keys, visit the most beautiful beaches and see one-story America, you can’t do without a car. Here are just a few of the main reasons why you should rent a car in Miami:
- First, to save time, as it’s easy and convenient. Since it turns out to be pretty fast to rent a car in Miami (it took us no more than 20 minutes) and money is quite inexpensive, we advise you to take a suitable car right after the flight. It’s much easier and cheaper to travel around the U.S. on your own, rather than buying tours or hiring an experienced guide with a car.
- Secondly, a car in Miami gives more freedom of movement than public transport, and also allows you to save on transfers to and from the airport and not to pay for a cab. Even if you have a long layover in Miami Airport it is more convenient (and cheaper) to take a car and drive it to see interesting places (for example, to the Florida Keys) than to drive half a day to a hotel.
- Thirdly, it’s comfortable. In a hot and humid coastal climate, a car with air conditioning saves your energy and gives a pleasant coolness. And it is also convenient to go to different beaches and sightseeing, while in the privacy of a new car (as a rule, all the rental cars we rented no older than 1 year).
In general, if you also decide to rent a car in Miami, then after getting your luggage at MIA airport, you just need to follow the signs to the offices of rental companies (they are all next to each other in one big hub), where at the front desk to sign the rental agreement.
And then go down to the big parking lot and choose a car you like, put your things in it and go on your own trip to Florida!
Recommendation: In order not to lose precious time after the flight to compare prices for cars from different rental companies, it is better to think about it before your trip.
We chose the best deals among a half dozen companies here, and in the end we settled on the best one for us in terms of rating and price. Upon arrival, all we had to do was to show our driver’s license and bank card, sign the printed agreement and put our stuff in the car.
Where to book a car in Miami
There are quite a few different companies where you can rent a car in Miami (both world-renowned, offering a standard set of cars in different classes, and smaller local agencies with unique offers).
You can do it directly on car rental agencies’ websites (usually it’s more expensive), or through brokers who offer great deals and discounts. Since the U.S. market is highly competitive, we, as customers of rental agencies, only benefit.
We booked our rental car online about a month and a half before our trip at the Miami airport. We looked for the best value option for our desired dates here, as it was convenient for us for three reasons:
- The easiest way to compare all options for renting a car from big companies, which are already listed including all discounts, as well as mandatory insurance, taxes, and possible additional fees. So, you most likely will not have to pay anything extra to indicated prices later on.
- The main rules of renting included in the cost of insurance, the amount of deductible and mandatory requirements for obtaining a car are prescribed, so that one can be prepared in advance.
- It is very convenient that you can buy the full insurance for the car at the time of reservation, and it comes out twice cheaper than taking it at the counter when getting the car.
- And as a result, we rented the most appropriate class for our trip – a full-size sedan with enough room for us and our belongings to travel safely and comfortably on the roads of the United States.
It was a 2019 Toyota Camry in the SE trim with a 2.5-liter engine and 8-speed automatic transmission, with only 18220 miles on the lease at the start.
Recommendation: Those who like to drive a lot should pay special attention when looking for a rental car in Miami to make sure the car rental agreement is unlimited mileage (Unlimited Mileage).
What car class to choose for renting
In the USA, unlike other countries, there is a universal classification of vehicles by type, depending on their purpose and size. Cars of the following classes are available for rent in Miami:
- passenger cars (Sedan)
(for city tours and highways) Compact Class (Economy),
Midsize (Midsize, Intermediate),
- Crossovers (SUVs)
(high cars with back doors, comfortable with luggage) Compact SUVs,
Midsize crossovers (Midsize SUV),
Comfortable cars (Standard SUV),
Minivans and minibuses Family (Passenger Minivan) for 5-7 people,
Large for 6-12 people (Passenger Van)
(cars with all-wheel drive for off-road driving) Utility (Fullsize SUV),
Bigger (Premium SUV)
(with a body for small loads)
- Luxury cars (Luxary Sedan),
High-end SUVs (Luxary SUV)
- Sporty Sport Coupe (Sporty),
Luxury Perfomance Sport.
(for travelling in warm climates, without luggage) With folding roof (Convertible)
- Extra-horsepower Muscle Cars (Muscle Car) 10.
Electric cars (Elecric) Tesla, Smart, BMW, Nissan Leaf, etc.
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To choose the right car for you, make a route of your trip to the U.S. by car and determine what characteristics your car should have, whether you plan to travel very long distances, as well as how many people will ride in it and how many suitcases should be carried with you. Then decide if you will be driving off-road and what level of comfort suits you best.
Our recommendations for choosing a car class:
- A compact class or tesla electric car is best suited for one person to travel short distances around town or outdoors;
- A mid-size or full-size sedan is comfortable for two people to travel long distances;
- For traveling with children in the U.S., such as a trip to Disney World, a minivan is better;
- For joint trips to the sights of Florida, the company of 3-4 people should opt for a large crossover or an expensive SUV;
- On scenic roads along the ocean (such as the Pacific Highway) and on the keys is more interesting to ride in a convertible Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro;
- And to overcome the broken dirt roads in the national parks and winter in the mountains SUVs come in handy.
Important to know: Almost all cars in the U.S., which can be rented, drive on gasoline and have automatic transmission and built-in cruise control. The exceptions are extremely rare SUVs with manual transmissions and pickup trucks with diesel engines for towing loads.
How much does it cost to rent a car in Miami
Before our trip to Florida we decided to book a rental car in advance and chose the best price for us, “playing” with dates and classes of cars on rentalcars.com.
We even wanted a convertible like a Ford Mustang or Chevrolet Camaro, but decided on the more practical sedan Toyota Camry, as it’s much more comfortable to put all your stuff in, and the cost of renting such a car in Miami is much cheaper.
Interesting fact: the cost of renting a car in Miami can come out even cheaper than taking public transportation (not to mention cabs), especially if you are traveling with your family. However, don’t forget that almost all parking lots in Miami Beach are paid, and during rush hour you’ll have to stand in traffic along with everyone else.
It is useful to know about car rentals in Miami:
- Renting an inexpensive car in Miami for 1 week with minimal insurance, taxes and fees averages in the $200 to $300 range.
- Also there are special prices, for example in the low tourist season discounts of 25-30%, or in the case of full prepayment car rental (minus 5-10% of the normal price). There are a variety of promotions for holidays, “Black Friday” and others. And also in the U.S. there are discounts on coupons.
- Prices for car rentals in Miami vary depending on the class of the car. One day of renting a small or medium car (Compact, Standard, Mid-Size, SUV) will cost $50-70. For a large SUV (Large SUV), minivan (Van) or premium car (Convertible, Premium Elite, Luxury) will have to shell out $60-150 per day or $300 to $700 per week.
Keep in mind that special monthly rates are available for rentals of 4 weeks or more, which can be much lower than weekly rates.
In general, if you want and have free time to prepare for a trip to America, you can almost always catch a good deal on car rentals or get a good discount, as the choice of cars in Miami is very large.
In our experience, it is best to book a car in advance, about a month and a half before your trip to the U.S.
Our experience with renting a car in Miami
Planning our trip to the U.S. state of Florida, the first thing we did was buy airline tickets to America with a connection in Istanbul, since we decided not to fly Aeroflot, and there were no other direct flights from Moscow to Miami. Then about a month and a half before our trip we started deciding on the best website to book a car in Miami. So I decided to rely on my extensive experience, and went to see what the aggregator had to offer.
It turned out that there are a lot of car rental companies in Miami. You can rent a car from ACE, Advantage, Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, E-Z, Hertz, National, Payless, P&P Family, Royal, Sixt and Thrifty. So we had a very large selection and only had to decide on the class of car and price.
As a result, after a long search we again stopped at Alamo, which always have new cars, and with the price we were lucky. After choosing and booking a suitable option in the mail we received a voucher for a car Full-Size for the dates of our trip, which in addition to the reservation number was detailed to all the conditions of obtaining a car and fixed rental price.
MIA Rental Car Center (RCC)
Where is the largest selection of rental cars in Miami? There is even a special Rental Car Center (MIA Rental Car Center), where almost all rental car companies are presented. It has 4 floors, where 6500 cars can fit. It operates every day and round the clock. So even if you fly in at night, you won’t have any problem renting a car.
As I said, we went to pick up the car right after we finished our flight to the U.S. and went through passport control. We quickly filled out the customs declaration electronically at a special terminal, and then answered only a couple of questions to the border guard about the purpose and duration of our stay in the U.S. Then we received our luggage, which was already waiting for us on the reclaim belt when we arrived.
Since the offices of all the rental companies are in one big building very close to the Miami airport, you can get to them with your things from the passenger terminal absolutely free on the MIA Mover train, which runs very often.
Even though I had to walk about 500 meters to get there from the signs, it was still more convenient than taking the shuttle from LAX.
The trains from Miami Airport run 24 hours a day, and there are not many passengers on them. It took less than 5 minutes to get to Central Station (it’s only one run), right next to where all the rental companies’ offices and multi-story parking lots with cars are located.
Getting a car at the Alamo
After arriving at the MIA Rental Car Center from the airport and taking the elevator from the station to the fourth floor where the Customer Lobby is located, we followed the signs to the Alamo counters. Here Alamo customers have two options to choose from when picking up their car:
- Approach the counters with a representative of the company (there are from 2 to 10 people in the hall, depending on the time of day) to formalize the contract. There is a queuing area in front of the counters.
- Independently execute the contract by scanning the necessary documents with the help of self-service terminals, show your credit card and print the contract.
Undoubtedly, the second option is more convenient for us, but it can be used mainly by U.S. citizens. And since we are foreigners, we had to go to a specialist to have our documents checked. Well at least there was no queue.
Documents for renting a car
The first thing an employee of the company “Alamo” politely greeted us and invited us to the counter for the lease agreement. Then he asked me to tell him my name, so that he could find the reservation in the database. After that I gave him the necessary documents.
You only need three documents to rent a car at Miami airport:
- A national driver’s license;
- Bank card (credit card, although under certain conditions a debit card will do);
- A foreign passport (may be required, but I was not asked for it this time).
Under U.S. law, all drivers may drive only if they have insurance that covers damages in the event of an accident to the injured party. Usually North American citizens and residents have annual insurance, which also covers car rentals. But tourists, when renting a car, must pay for short-term insurance separately, sometimes a very significant amount.
Here are some types of insurance available for car rental in the United States:
- Collision Damage (CDW) – basic insurance for the drivers named in the rental agreement. If you buy it from a car rental company, the deductible is zero dollars. That is, if an insured event occurs and the rented car gets damaged, and you do not violate the rental agreement, you will not be withheld anything for repairs, as the insurance company will cover all the losses. However, this insurance does not cover third party damage and theft of the car.
- Liability Insurance (LI) – Liability to third parties. This insurance is not mandatory, but costs quite a bit of money. Although it does not cover damage to your health and the health of your passengers in the event of an accident.
- Additional insurance is not compulsory and they are different for all car rental companies. For example, Extended Protection (EP) for tire damage, or Roadside Assistance for sudden stops requiring towing services. You may also get coverage for theft or damage of personal items from your car in the event of an accident.
Useful tip: Since the price of insurance for rental cars can make up a very significant part of the total cost of car rental in the U.S. (car rental can cost $25 per day and insurance for another $15), then when choosing a rental company, it is better to immediately compare the total price with insurance here than look at the official sites without insurance, and then greatly overpay for the contract.
Recommendation: If you book a car in Miami through a broker, the basic insurance will already be included in the rental price. From our experience of renting a car in the U.S., it is more advantageous to choose a suitable option on the website-aggregator, rather than booking on the sites of rental companies (even taking into account their special offers), not to mention the rental car at the last moment – at the counter at the rental company.
Before receiving the car, you can order additional options that will install in your chosen car. The most common ones are:
- Navigator (by default it is deactivated, even if the car has a built-in one)
- Transponder for automatic toll payments on toll roads
- Child safety seats
- Depending on the class of the car, there are other options. There is a daily fee for all selected add-ons.
We didn’t take a transponder in Miami, as we hardly ever drove on toll roads and bridges, but used the free alternative highways. We also did away with the built-in navigator, and installed the free maps.me app on our smartphone in advance, with maps of U.S. states.
Payment for renting a car
In the U.S. you have 2 options for paying for a rental car:
- Pre-payment rental (full and partial), includes basic or extended insurance. The cost of rent is deducted from the bank card at the time of confirmation of booking via the Internet. At the end of the lease the cost of additional options and all unpaid charges are written off the card. As a rule, prepayment of rent allows to save up to 50%, and the earlier you pay, the more favorable.
- Payment at the end of rental term. You use the car, and only after its return the money will be deducted from the card.
Important to know:
- Payment for car rentals in the U.S. is only accepted with a bank card;
- In some cases before you begin renting your car, they will freeze a deposit on your card – an amount determined by the contract, usually from $100 to $1000. And they will give it back to you after you return the car in full in the case if nothing has happened to the car, and its interior does not need dry cleaning.
- It is not possible to pay for the rent with cash, except for special cases, which are stipulated in the rules of rent and written in the contract;
- Payment for parking and all received during the rental period fines, as well as travel on toll roads and bridges are on your shoulders. It is better to deal with all this on your own before returning the car. Otherwise, when the unpaid bills come back to the rental company after a while, they will charge your bank card, taking into account the rather substantial fee for processing each transaction.
- When we rented at the Alamo, we didn’t pay any deposit on the car, although we did a test transaction on the card before we got the car and blocked the full cost of the rental. A few days later, the money was back on the card, and the final amount was only charged at the end of the rental.
Car rental agreement
Drawing up a car rental agreement did not take much time. After checking my documents, an Alamo employee made a copy of my driver’s license and a slip of my bank card. He did not even ask about additional options, only asked about the insurance and reminded me of the toll roads in Florida.
Then I printed out the contract, which spelled out the main provisions, each of which had to be countersigned. It also spelled out the provisional rental price with detailed details and listed the prices for additional rental time if you don’t turn the car in on time.
Good to know:
To put a second driver (Additional Driver) on the contract, you will have to pay an additional $7-10 per day and show his or her documentation. Sometimes car rental companies offer this option as a bonus.
After signing the contract, we went to the parking lot to choose our own car.
Getting a car
We took the elevator down to a large multi-level parking lot, divided into zones by car class. As I said before the selection of cars at the Alamo is quite large, and almost all of them were new. We walked along the row with a dozen Full Size open cars with keys lying inside.
Last time we drove a Dodge Charger, and this time we decided that again the Toyota Camry in an upgraded configuration, which we had on a trip to some of California’s most interesting national parks, would suit us best. And while we were walking around, a couple of other nice cars came up from the car wash.
Immediately I put the ignition key in and looked at the mileage – just under 30,000 miles. Then we put all our stuff in the roomy trunk and I photographed the car from all sides from different angles. It was important to do this in order to point out the barely noticeable minor scratches and a couple of small chips on the clean body before we started the lease.
Since we didn’t find any serious defects on a cursory inspection, and it was stuffy in the parking lot, we got in the car and turned on the air conditioner. Inside, I adjusted the driver’s seat and the mirrors, then zeroed the current mileage meter and turned on the navigator in my phone. And then we were on our way out of the parking lot and then out of the airport.
In the end it took no more than 20 minutes to check out and get the car at Miami airport, since there weren’t many people in the daytime and we didn’t have to wait long for our turn. We drove straight to Homestead (which is a Miami suburb right before the Florida Keys start), where we stayed overnight at a tried-and-true motel with a hot breakfast, spacious room and pool – the Garden Inn – before driving through the keys.
In major U.S. cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago, many parking lots are paid parking lots. And Miami is no exception here, because sometimes there is an impression that there are many more cars in the city than there are locals.
It is useful to know:
- The average cost of parking in Miami Beach is $2-3 per hour, and many have a time limit of no more than 2 hours. The cost of parking in municipal parking lots is set by the local government, and there are incentives for city residents.
- Despite the installed on almost all parking lots in Miami Beach parking meters and parking sensors, there are free opportunities to put your car for a couple of hours at the parking lots near shopping malls, major shopping centers, cafes and restaurants.
- Bestparking.com is the best way to find parking in Miami (and other U.S. cities).
And although in Miami you need to accept the fact that every day will have to spend money on parking fees, still do not throw money away, and try to find less expensive or even free options.
- For example, it’s better to choose a hotel with parking or park a little farther away from Ocean Drive.
- When we were shopping in Miami, we used the free 2 hours at the mall at the corner of 5th Street and Alton Road.
- And while on vacation, it’s easier, of course, to pay and put your car in a municipal parking lot closer to the beaches. See their location and prices on the official website.
Returning your car at Miami airport
In two weeks of traveling in Florida, we drove 2,500 miles and spent 170 liters of gas in our rental car at Miami Airport. The car never once let us down, and we visited the most interesting beach towns in the United States.
But it was time to leave the U.S., and we came to the airport in Miami 4 hours before our flight to take our car and safely prepare our things for check-in. To our pleasant surprise, the whole procedure of returning the car took us no more than a couple of minutes, and most of that time was spent getting our stuff out of the trunk.
Using the navigator we pulled into the parking lot near the airport, the address of which was listed in the contract. The pickup man visually inspected the car inside and out, checked that we hadn’t forgotten anything, and recorded the current mileage and fuel level, and then printed us an acceptance receipt from the mobile terminal.
Since we did not have any problems with the car, and we did not use insurance or contact the company throughout the rental, we did not have to pay for any additional services.
How much did we end up paying for our car rental in Miami
In the end, renting a Toyota Camry in Miami for 2 weeks with all the insurance cost us
- 530 dollars,
- plus it only cost us about $100 for gas for the entire trip to Florida,
- and a total of $29 for parking in various cities, the bridge to Sanibel Island, and the Wildlife Drive at Ding Darling Nature Park.
Not much considering we drove this car 2,500 miles on a variety of roads, all while being in very comfortable conditions!
- For a long-term lease and for long trips for two people on the U.S. highways for long distances, it is better to take a large car (sedan Full-Size), in which it is much more comfortable to drive on highways than in small town cars. The rental price will be higher only by 15% – 20%, but there is more comfort, you will get less fatigue, and all the luggage will fit without problems.
- If you plan to travel by car in different cities, you should immediately exchange $ 5-10 for quarters at the hotel reception to pay for street parking. Not all parking meters in the U.S. accept bank cards and give change in bills, and some parking lots are still equipped with parking meters that accept only coins.
- To avoid agonizing at gas stations with a bank card, trying to pay for gasoline at the pump yourself without a zip code, it is better to go straight to the cashier and ask to withdraw a prepayment card for the amount you need. If all of the prepaid gasoline does not fit into the tank, you need to go to the cashier again and he will quickly make you a refund of the unspent amount on the card.
- Be sure to take a USB car splitter with you from home, you will certainly need it on the road to recharge various gadgets from the 12V outlet.
- For a long car trip, a rope or sturdy rubber band can be very useful, which can be stretched inside the car between the overhead handles for the rear passengers on the ceiling and used to dry clothes.
- And also, since most rental cars in the U.S. are new, it is very convenient to rent new products of the world car industry.
Feedback on car rental in Miami
Every time we fly to the USA we rent a car. Our experience with renting a car in Miami was very interesting and we were happy with the way it turned out, as it was very quick and easy.
Having pre-booked a car online at a bargain price, all we had to do was arrive from Miami’s not-so-large airport on the free train to the car rental center and sign the car rental agreement at the Alamo paperwork desk.
All of this took much less time than the huge airports in Los Angeles and New York where we had previously rented cars.
In fact, it is best to rent a car at the airport immediately after arrival, as there is the largest selection of rental companies and low prices. And that’s what most travelers who come to Miami who need a car for their trips use.
We also really like the state-of-the-art infrastructure and well laid out processes for rental companies to work with their customers. We understand that paying for comfort here is a very natural thing to do, and by no means a luxury.
In the U.S., it’s quite difficult to rent a car with a manual transmission, as almost everything has an automatic and cruise control, making it easier to drive on the highways.
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