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Under-25 set hits roadblock renting cars

NEW YORK -- Lindsey Benoit thought her three-day trip from New York to New Hampshire would be easy -- until she started looking for a rental car.

Benoit, 23, discovered that it's difficult to find a company that will rent to drivers under 25 years old, and even harder to find one that offers younger drivers a good deal. She ended up renting from Hertz Corp. for $400, almost twice what an over-25 driver would pay.

''I feel like, even if I gave them my blood type and promised them my firstborn, they would still have been rude and mistrusting," the New York resident said.

This winter, as thousands of twenty-somethings plan spring breaks in Fort Lauderdale, ski trips to Vermont, and weekend getaways to Vegas, many will stumble upon the under-25 rental car roadblock. Most companies charge young drivers -- even those with perfect driving records -- about $20 to $50 more per day because of the higher accident rate among people under 25.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, under-25 drivers are significantly more likely to get into accidents than older drivers. After age 25, the per-driver crash rate drops off dramatically and continues to fall as age increases until drivers reach 85 years old.

''If the data supported it, we'd love to have younger drivers as customers, but unfortunately, it doesn't make business sense," Hertz spokesman Richard Broome said.

Some companies rent to 21- to 24-year-olds in any state, but for a price. Alamo Rent A Car's under-25 customers, for instance, should expect a $20 daily surcharge, according to Travelocity.com's website. In some states, companies allow drivers as young as 18 to drive, but the price tag is usually even higher -- Dollar Rent A Car's 18- to 20-year-old customers typically pay an extra $65 per day.

According to travel websites, New York is the only state where all licensed drivers over the age of 18 have the right to rent a car. Companies that don't normally rent to under-25 drivers must do so in New York, but there is, of course, a surcharge. Hertz, for example, charges about $50 extra per day to 18- to 24-year-old drivers in New York. Broome would not disclose how much Hertz has to pay in liability costs in New York, but he said it was ''significantly higher than [Hertz's] national average."

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