68 In Arizona/ California/ Colorado/ Nevada/ North America/ US Travel Tips/ Utah

Smooth Car Rental And Driving Experience in the US

Preparing to drive for the first time in America was something we could only brace for by watching some youtube videos and hearing stories from others. We knew that we had to get in control of the wheel and understand the driving differences compared to Europe from the start of our trip, as we would be using the car for 12 days on these roads!

Once we made it to Salt Lake City with the Amtrak from Denver, we headed straight with the taxi from the train at 04:00am to the airport to pick up our rental car. We had reserved in advance an SUV type car for under $600.00 for 12 days from the company Avis. Since we wouldn’t need it and technically didn’t even want to try driving it in San Francisco, which was our end destination, so a few days short of our 15 day road trip was best.

*This is part of our US Road Trip Itinerary!

US Road Trip Itinerary 2 weeks - togetherintransit.nl

It was a little hard to choose a rental company since we didn’t really see any big differences between them all. Avis was chosen based on the price of car, including all insurances, extras and the location. You can easily search for reviews on the company but we found only bad reviews get shared, with each review we read completely related to a specific car or personal problem, so it’s hard to base your choice of the reviews alone.

Picking up the documents and some last minute signing allowed us to pick up the car within 10 minutes at the desk (no line of course at 04:30am!). The friendly worker sent us down aisle D of the car park to find our rental car, a white Mitsubishi Outlander Sport.

Filled with adrenaline we were wide awake, filling the car with our bags and adjusting the mirrors and seats. Next step: I had to drive an automatic car for the first time on an already busy motorway in Salt Lake City! Luckily my partner had already some experience with an automatic car, since I had never even sat in one. Though looking back at this moment, it was pretty simple and I was more nervous than I should of been.

Smooth Car Rental and Driving Experience in US - togetherintransit.nlBy 05:00am we were already driving towards our first stop, the Bourneville Salt Flats in Utah. Planning to catch the sunrise we arrived to find that there was racing planned on the salts and we could not drive on them ourselves, however still got to experience it a little on foot. Unfortunately the sun was hidden behind clouds, making the salt flats brighter than the sky, but still impressive to see! We’ve made a separate detailed post about our stop at the Bonneville Salt Flats here!

Driving through the US sure was a new experience for us both, from 6 lane motorways where cars can overtake you on both sides, to dirt tracks so bumpy that you feel like you’re coming out of your seat, to also the longest straight roads we have ever seen. Something we would definitely do again in America.. once we have some more savings!

Smooth Car Rental and Driving Experience in US - togetherintransit.nl

The only thing that didn’t go so well regarding the car was that the insurance paper, which is inside the car that you must be hand over to the police if stopped. Well ours ended up being valid till October 2016 – Almost a year outdated! We noticed this after a few days and had found out that it would be a fine for up to $900.00. But after visiting a local Avis (to try and get the new dated insurance papers) we were assured that if we were stopped and fined, it would be Avis paying the fine and not us as the users. Still, it was a bit worrying when we found out until we knew for sure!

Despite that, we would choose Avis again for another road trip, unless we came across a cheaper one that included all the extras needed.

Smooth Car Rental and Driving Experience in US - togetherintransit.nl

We ended our first day driving to our motel in Cedar City, Here we visited the local Walmart or supermarket to stock up on bottles of water (and some snacks) that we left in the boot of the car. This saved us money and was a good supply when we were out of water while driving in the middle of nowhere.

We both loved driving the different terrains, through storms and wide open landscape where you could see for miles! America was a great place for our 3rd road trip with a car (1st was in England, 2nd in Normandy) and we would most definitely do it again!

Below are some of the awesome photos we took either with the car or driving!

Smooth Car Rental & Driving Experience in US - togetherintransit.nl

In Death Valley

Smooth Car Rental & Driving Experience in US - togetherintransit.nl

Near Vermillion Cliffs, Arizona

Smooth Car Rental & Driving Experience in US - togetherintransit.nl

Smooth Car Rental & Driving Experience in US - togetherintransit.nl

Our unexpected snowy day at June Lake, California

Smooth Car Rental & Driving Experience in US - togetherintransit.nl

Loved driving these long roads! Road to Lake Tahoe, California

Smooth Car Rental & Driving Experience in US - togetherintransit.nl

Arriving in San Francisco by car was a bit of a panic, but this view as you go through the tunnel was an amazing experience!

*We drove the car all the way on this itinerary from Salt Lake City to San Francisco! Check out the route and more blogs from the itinerary page.

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Have you ever driven in America and had some good or bad driving experiences? Share in the comments as we’d love to hear!

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68 Comments

  • Reply
    Rosie Kerrigan
    10th February 2018 at 8:58 am

    Oh WOW! Your photos are so amazing! And thank you for the wonderful tips <3

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      10th February 2018 at 9:10 am

      Thank you – it sure was an adventure to drive haha

  • Reply
    Lucile Deprez
    10th February 2018 at 9:54 am

    We barely rent cars, but we still use rental cars since we discovered the relocation process!! It’s an awesome thing we found in Australia, then NZ and I know it’s pretty much anywhere!

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      10th February 2018 at 11:09 am

      Thats interesting! Something I might look into for our next trip thanks!

  • Reply
    Mirela
    10th February 2018 at 9:58 am

    Great tips, I am also considering some rod trips and the papers / local customs are to check every time, but it all worths it!

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      10th February 2018 at 11:10 am

      Yeah definitely!! We will check better the papers before we leave next time.

  • Reply
    lisannevanbeurden
    10th February 2018 at 10:27 am

    Sounds like a lovely experience! I love a good road trip

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      10th February 2018 at 11:10 am

      Dank je! Took so much planning but was totally worth it!

  • Reply
    chaitravelwithpoints
    10th February 2018 at 10:43 am

    How fun, it’s so interesting to hear about US road trips from a non-American! I’ve driven across the US before, moved from the southwest to the East Coast and it was fun and interesting to see the different landscapes and changes in roads from the wide open to the crazy congested. Happy road tripping!

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      10th February 2018 at 11:11 am

      Thanks for commenting! We’d love to go back for the East Coast in the future for our next US road trip 🙂

  • Reply
    fleurdelilah
    10th February 2018 at 10:47 am

    Sounds like you had a fun road trip. It’s insane that Avis didn’t have up-to-date insurance in the car, though!!

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      10th February 2018 at 11:11 am

      Yeah we rather annoyed! Something we will definitely be checking better before we leave the car rental pickup place!!

  • Reply
    myfabfiftieslife
    10th February 2018 at 10:48 am

    As an American traveling abroad, where we have our own nerves and challenges we face renting a car in Europe or Australia or wherever, I got a good chuckle reading about your experience. Thanks for sharing. A fun read. Glad you enjoyed your time in the USA.

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      10th February 2018 at 11:13 am

      Thanks for commenting! We sure had fun learning the differences and being in the middle of those 6 lane highways!! 😀

  • Reply
    Annika Morck
    10th February 2018 at 11:00 am

    This is super useful. I’m planning a roadtrip of California this year are have been really nervous about the hole renting a car experience.

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      10th February 2018 at 11:14 am

      Hope you have an awesome time in California! We loved it there and definitely had fun driving hehe

  • Reply
    cpowell21
    10th February 2018 at 11:06 am

    Road trips are so much fun! I love you route through the USA, we did something similar in 2016 and enjoyed every second. Lovely post 🙂

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      10th February 2018 at 11:14 am

      Thank you for commenting 🙂 We cant wait to plan another one!

  • Reply
    Jacomijn - Safe and Healthy Travel
    10th February 2018 at 11:41 am

    Sounds like a great trip! That snow :p!! US has some great roads, love that pic with the mirror!!

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      10th February 2018 at 11:42 am

      Thanks for commenting! That snow sure took us by surprise!!

  • Reply
    Dawnita
    10th February 2018 at 12:18 pm

    I’ve always loved to do road tripping. I was surprised that Avis didn’t have an up-to-date insurance for the car. The views are really amazing especially those snow-peaked mountains 🙂

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      10th February 2018 at 1:31 pm

      Yeah we were a little shocked, maybe just an easy error from someone but it sure made us worry!

  • Reply
    Runaway Brit
    10th February 2018 at 12:26 pm

    I would love to drive through the US, but the roads are so big I think I’d be terrified!!

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      10th February 2018 at 1:31 pm

      We had the exact same feeling at first, but its quite the opposite as we ended up loving those big long open roads compared to Europe!

  • Reply
    Chandrima
    10th February 2018 at 3:47 pm

    Some great tips there! For whenever I learn driving that is. Haha 😊

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      10th February 2018 at 4:44 pm

      Haha yeah! Just don’t be as nervous as I was!

  • Reply
    madhu-on-the-go
    10th February 2018 at 3:48 pm

    Enjoyed reading it. We love the road trips too. 😊

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      10th February 2018 at 4:44 pm

      Thank you for commenting! 🙂 Road trips are my fav but short city trips are just as good!

  • Reply
    Kyla
    10th February 2018 at 3:58 pm

    It’s always interesting reading this from the other side of the pond…I’d feel the same way (nervous and a bit panicky) about driving in Europe!! Great tips! Having a car can make things so much more convenient.

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      10th February 2018 at 4:46 pm

      It must be silly reading this from the US side 😀 But I was waaaay more nervous than I should of been really! Places in Europe can also be pretty scary even for me (like I hate driving in Amsterdam as its just so chaotic!).

  • Reply
    tashasoyster
    10th February 2018 at 4:39 pm

    I can’t imagine driving on 6 way motorways! The scenery looks beautiful, I especially love the photo of Death Valley and on the way to Lake Tahoe.

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      10th February 2018 at 4:47 pm

      Plus cars can overtake you on BOTH SIDES!! I sure had hold of the steering wheel harder to make sure I was in full control haha! Thanks for commenting too – I have a Death Valley post coming up in the next few weeks 🙂

  • Reply
    mommyplusmiles
    10th February 2018 at 5:10 pm

    I’ve lived in California my whole life and I still hate driving in San Francisco! It’s very interesting to read a non-American perspective on our roads. I was also terrified the first I drove in another country (Ireland), but it sounds like you had fun.

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      11th February 2018 at 2:25 pm

      Thanks for commenting! We sure did!

  • Reply
    josypheen
    10th February 2018 at 5:19 pm

    Woah what an amazing road trip! 😀

    Had you ever driven on the right side before, or was that all new for you as well? We recently has a road trip in NZ, and I was so surprised by how easy (and pleasant) it was to drive there! If you’d like another driving adventure, that was a good’un!

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      11th February 2018 at 2:26 pm

      I’m originally from the UK and now in NL so used to driving on both sides of the road.. but after the nerves got less I did really enjoy it 🙂

      • Reply
        josypheen
        11th February 2018 at 5:29 pm

        I really understand the nerves. I am from the UK, but still getting used to driving in Canada. I was SOOOO nervous the first time I drove here!

        • Reply
          Zoe | Together In Transit
          12th February 2018 at 10:15 am

          Haha yeah right!? Hope it’s better now with less nerves though!

          • josypheen
            12th February 2018 at 5:36 pm

            I’m getting there. We didn’t buy a car, so I am nervous each time we rent one! I think it’ll get better once I’m driving more regularly.

          • Zoe | Together In Transit
            12th February 2018 at 6:01 pm

            Ah yes i think so too. I had similar nerves when I first moved to NL from UK and didn’t want to drive on the other side of the road haha! within 2 weeks of driving I was fine and no problems yet 😉

  • Reply
    Sarah
    10th February 2018 at 5:49 pm

    As an American, I love reading about your experiences in the US! How funny that you were nervous about driving an automatic car… manuals are so much harder!

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      11th February 2018 at 2:27 pm

      Silly nerves eh!? I really enjoy driving with manuals as thats what I’m also used to, but wow I love automatics now haha!

  • Reply
    Ashley
    10th February 2018 at 7:42 pm

    Great article! I’ll keep this is mind next time I rent a car on a trip.

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      11th February 2018 at 2:27 pm

      Thanks for commenting!

  • Reply
    Kate - Travel for Difference
    10th February 2018 at 8:35 pm

    It sounds like you had a great experience!
    I was so nervous about driving overseas the first time, as Europe and the US are the wrong side of the car for us in Australia… But it ended up being one of the best trips I’ve ever done. So amazing! XX

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      11th February 2018 at 2:28 pm

      Haha yeah I can totally agree, I’ve driven on both (from UK and NL) so my nerves shouldn’t have been so much haha!

  • Reply
    remoteleigh
    10th February 2018 at 8:35 pm

    Great article! I lived in Vermilions Cliffs for a few years.Beautiful scenery.

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      11th February 2018 at 2:28 pm

      Oh we loved it there! We wished we had more time there just to take it all in!

  • Reply
    Anisa
    10th February 2018 at 8:44 pm

    Glad it all went well. I really don’t think there is much difference in rental car companies in the US, I just going with the one that has the best price.

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      11th February 2018 at 2:29 pm

      Yeah the price was the ultimate choice maker!

  • Reply
    Travelletters
    10th February 2018 at 8:55 pm

    I was on a road trip from SD to LV to LA and back to SD and loved it. Totally different from road tripping in Europe 😍😍

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      11th February 2018 at 2:30 pm

      Oh awesome! We didn’t have time to go down to LA/SD as we stopped in SF. But next time we will sure go down there!

  • Reply
    theradarsview
    10th February 2018 at 9:44 pm

    I’ve used almost every rental car company here in the States for work and personal travel. I am loyal to Enterprise. They have the best and easiest customer service and will price match or beat a cheaper rate if you call. Awesome photos!

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      11th February 2018 at 2:30 pm

      Great to know! We nearly went with Enterprise as we use them here in Europe, but the price was a lot higher for us so we ultimately chose Avis this time. Thanks for commenting!

  • Reply
    Gemma Laing
    10th February 2018 at 10:33 pm

    Sounds like a great experience. Fantastic tips, I’m really hoping to plan a road trip soon, you’re inspiring me! ❤️

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      11th February 2018 at 2:30 pm

      It’s so worth it!! Enjoy your planning!

  • Reply
    Reading the Book
    10th February 2018 at 11:49 pm

    Totally identify with this – it reminds me of the first time I drove in the US too – although I had to content with the steering wheel on the “wrong” side, too! It was super easy in the end though. Sounds like you had a great adventure!

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      11th February 2018 at 2:32 pm

      Haha yeah I’m used both sides as I’m from the UK and now living in NL so that was the only thing I wasn’t worried about. Loved the automatic experience though! So much easier on those long american roads!

  • Reply
    Apeksha Gupta
    11th February 2018 at 2:02 am

    We also always use rental cars here for trips. Easy to get them after a flight, it also cuts down the travel budget big time!

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      11th February 2018 at 2:33 pm

      Yeah definitely! We loved renting a car but maybe a camper next time for the experience!

  • Reply
    Rowena Li (@Rowena_Li)
    11th February 2018 at 4:36 am

    I love road trips but hate driving, haha. Congrats on an awesome road trip!

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      11th February 2018 at 2:33 pm

      Thanks for commenting! We love it haha 🙂

  • Reply
    Clazz - An Orcadian Abroad
    11th February 2018 at 6:10 pm

    This looks like an incredible road trip! Great advice too. I’ve used Avis before and had no problems, but it’s a bit weird that their insurance was outdated! Road tripping is definitely the best way to do the US, I think, and it looks like you had an amazing time. 🙂

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      12th February 2018 at 10:16 am

      Thanks for commenting! Yeah was a little strange from Avis. But it didn’t stop us enjoying the rest of the road trip 🙂

  • Reply
    sandykul
    12th February 2018 at 3:50 am

    Ahhh I’d love to do this route by car (or van!) Great post, thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      12th February 2018 at 10:16 am

      Yeah maybe our next road trip would be with a camper! But this trip worked out amazing with a car 🙂

  • Reply
    tiffanytravelsblog
    12th February 2018 at 4:02 am

    Wow, I love the photos! I have never been to Salt Lake City so that seems like a great ride! The furthest I’ve driven is from LA to Las Vegas. I dont think I’m a good road trip buddy because I fall asleep quickly when being in the car for a long time. LOL

    • Reply
      Zoe | Together In Transit
      12th February 2018 at 10:17 am

      Haha oh my partner was also falling asleep a few times!! We unfortunately didn’t go to LA (maybe next time!)

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