Planning a trip to the Sunshine State and want to drop in on Mickey Mouse? Then take a look at this guide to car hire in Orlando, Florida.
Tips for car hire in Orlando, Florida
Orlando. Nicknamed “The City Beautiful” and home to Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando Resort and lots and lots of old people. It’s warm weather and tourist attractions make it one 0f the most desirable destinations in the world. In 2016, 68 million people visited the area, which is more than the population of the UK!
But if you really want to make the most of your visit, don’t rely on the bus as renting a car gives you a lot more freedom.
Where to start
No matter what anybody says, size does matter. You need to decide how big your car needs to be. When thinking about the size, consider not only how many people are travelling, but how much luggage you’ll have. Most cars will be able to squeeze five people in, but not all can take five suitcases. Once you have that in mind, it’s on to…
Finding the best price
Anybody that has been to Orlando International Airport will probably have noticed the sheer number of car rental companies based there. I kid you not, they probably span the length of two football pitches from start to finish. Typically, when I last rented a car, my rental firm was based right at the far end of where I started.
Now you know there’s so much choice, your next stop is a price comparison company.
I recommend taking a look at a site like TravelSupermarket. They don’t only find you the best prices on rental cars though, you can also search for travel insurance, flights and hotels.
When you’ve found the cheapest price, take a look around for some discount codes. If you have a Nationwide debit or credit card, you’ll often find some car rental firms offering cashback through Simply Rewards. Other banks offer similar schemes and remember to check cashback sites.
Do I need an international driving permit for Florida?
Many States in the US require you to have an international driving permit. Fortunately, Florida scrapped this rule and we can now drive over there using just our British driving licence.
When you arrive
When you finally find the right desk to collect your car, expect a barrage of questions. As with almost anything you buy, the firm will try to sell you a lot of extras. Although some are convenient, the majority offer you poor value.
You’ll be offered a bigger car (for more money, of course), plus insurance if you get a flat tyre (or is that tire?) or lock your keys in the car. Now, before accepting, think about how often those things happen to you at home. You’ll also be offered various waivers in case your car is slightly damaged.
One product that may get you thinking is the SunPass. For $9.99 (prices may vary) per day, the rental firm will kindly pay for every toll you pass through. They warn you that there are many tolls where you must have the correct change, or they are completely cashless.
On my last trip to Florida, I stayed in a town called Davenport. It was 45 minute from Orlando International Airport and around 20 minutes from Disney. I passed a total of six tolls during my holiday, all to and from the airport. All took cash and gave change. In total, I spent less than $10. Much better than the almost $140 I would have spent if I had accepted the SunPass.
One extra that may interest you is the option to return the car with as little fuel as you like. For around $70 (again, prices vary) there is no need to look for a gas station just before you return the car. This is quite convenient, but a full tank of fuel will only cost you around $40-50.
My last rental car in Florida: A Nissan (or Neesun as they like to pronounce it).
Driving for the first time in Florida
Driving for the first time in any country is always scary, but don’t worry. Before you set off, make sure you’re familiar with the layout of the car, especially the lights, wipers and indicators. Program the satnav and you should be set to go. One thing to remember though. Most cars in the States are automatic, so it takes a little getting used to not having a clutch.
The roads are much straighter and wider than the UK, so you should have nothing to worry about. And when it comes to parking in Florida… their spaces are almost twice the size of ours, so that should never be an issue.
Filling up in Orlando
Filling your car with petrol (or gas) is not quite the same as the UK.
First of all, you will need to know what kind of fuel to fill up with. The majority of cars will take unleaded gas. Because fuel is so cheap in the States, Americans don’t worry much about fuel economy and so diesel isn’t so popular. If you’re unsure, speak to your rental company.
When you arrive at the pump, there is usually an option to pay by credit card. That option is no good to us Brits though, as they ask you to enter a zip code. Zip codes only require numbers so there is no option for us of entering letters. Instead, we have to go into the shop and pay before we start to fill. This takes a bit of guesswork, as we have no idea how much fuel we actually need to buy! As I said earlier, an average size car will take around $40-$50 to fill. So pay your money, and then back out to the car.
Back at the pump, you’ll notice that there are three grades of unleaded. Obviously, the better the grade, the more expensive it will be. I always opted for the cheapest, because I’m tight like that. The choice is yours, and probably the most exciting part of filling up…
Then begin filling like you do back at home. The pump will cut out once your money runs out or your car is full. If it’s the latter, you need to head back to the shop and get a refund. Personally, I find it a little embarrassing, but I’m sure many visitors do it.
I hope this post about renting a car and filling up in Orlando, Florida is useful. If you have any questions or anything to add, please comment below.
And make sure you check out my guide to booking your own holiday to Florida.