Beautiful Pacific Coast Highway on the California Coast
Automobile rental is a major industry in the United States, addressing the needs of foreigners and citizens alike. Only a valid driver's license from the traveler's country of origin, purchase of minimum insurance, and a major credit card are generally required. Excellent discount plans for foreign visitors abound. Some of these can be arranged through an airline or travel agent prior to your visit or directly with the rental company itself.
Driving is the true national pastime; gasoline is cheap and easily available everywhere. The highway system is extensive and well maintained. While urban driving may prove daunting (perhaps terrifying) for the novice visitor, motoring through the wide open spaces of the United States is an exhilarating experience. After all, this is the car culture, to the ultimate degree. The experience of driving a road like Route 66 in a convertible American muscle car will impart an insight on U.S. culture available no other way.
A few key points about U.S. roads and regulations:
If the police stop you for a driving violation, do not try to pay a fine on the spot because it may easily be interpreted as attempted bribery.
There are strict laws about drinking and driving, and they are enforced decisively.
Speed limits are clearly posted (in miles per hour only, usually) and are enforced.
Insurance is of utmost importance and should provide coverage of all passengers and drivers for accidental injury and death. An insurance card for nonresident, interstate motorists is available on request.
Regarding U.S. rental car sizing: "Economy" or "Compact" means a car that would be called "Standard" in Europe. The term "Standard" means a car the length of the QE2. U.S. parking spaces are larger, though.
The U.S. is also the perfect place to travel in a camper or motor home, called RVs, which can provide substantial amenities and office space. Excellent overnight parks can be found everywhere, some with hotel-quality infrastructure such as room service, swimming pools, spas, and so forth.
The American Automobile Association (AAA) offers maps, trip-planning services, emergency roadside assistance, and insurance policies (compulsory in most of the U.S.) A foreign visitor is entitled to benefits if holding a current membership in the visitor's own national auto club. Contact:
American Automobile Association (AAA)Tel:  (407) 253-9100 Fax:  (407) 253-9107 Web: www.aaa.com
One wonderful thing about Americans and their cars is that they usually tend to be happy to flip you the keys and say, "Here, it's yours for the night/weekend/week." If you are not blessed with such friends, family, or business associates, it is easy to find rental cars in even the smallest of U.S. towns. Often, the automobile is the only way to reach smaller towns and remote manufacturing facilities.
There are always local rental operations giving the big chains a run for their money. Inquire locally. Following are some of the major rental agencies' phone numbers:
 (800) 327-9633
 (800) 331-1212
 (800) 527-0700
 (800) 800-4000
 (800) 654-3131
 (800) 227-7368
All of these companies maintain websites.
AUTO RENTAL NUMBERS
Chicago Downtown Alamo Rent A Car 3800 N Mannheim Rd. Franklin Park, IL 60131 Tel:  (847) 671-7662 Fax:  (847) 671-5189
Avis Rent A Car North Loop-Downtown 214 N Clark St., (Clark and Wacker) Chicago IL, 60601 Tel:  (312) 782-6827
Budget 4250 W Diversy Chicago, IL Tel:  (773) 283-1800 1135 West Armitage Chicago, IL 60614 Tel:  (773) 686-6800 181 W Washington Chicago, IL 60601 Tel:  (773) 686-6800
Enterprise 303 W. Lake St. Chicago, IL 60606-1703 Tel:  (312) 332-7783
Hertz 401 North State Street Chicago Tel:  (312) 372-7600 Fax:  (312) 222-9830 Chicago Bank One 76 West Monroe Street Chicago Tel:  (312) 726-1476 Fax:  (312) 726-1481
O'Hare Airport Alamo Chicago O'Hare Int'l. Airport 3800 N. Mannheim Road Franklin Park Chicago, IL 60131 Tel:  (847) 671-7662 Fax:  (847) 671-5189
Avis Chicago O'Hare Int'l. Airport Chicago, IL 60666 Tel:  (773) 825-4600
Budget O'Hare Airport Chicago, IL 60666 Tel:  (773) 686-6800
Enterprise O'Hare Airport 4025 Manheim Schiller Park, IL 60176-1874 Tel:  (847) 928-3320
Affordable West Hollywood 1040 N. La Brea Avenue West Hollywood Tel:  (323) 467-7182
Avis Los Angeles International Airport Tel:  (310) 646-5600 2509 W Olive (1 block west of Buena Vista) Burbank, CA 91505 Tel:  (818) 972-2660 Hollywood-Burbank Airport 2627 Hollywood Way, between Van Owen and San Fernando Burbank, CA 91500 Tel:  (818) 566-3001
Avon Rent A Car 7080 Santa Monica Blvd. West Hollywood Tel:  (323) 850-0826
Budget 8789 Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood Toll-free:  (800) 825-5025 Los Angeles International Airport Tel:  (310) 645-4500 Union Station 800 North Alameda Tel:  (213) 617-2977
Dollar Los Angeles International Airport Tel:  (310) 645-9333
Enterprise Rent A Car 8583 Santa Monica Blvd. West Hollywood Tel:  (310) 360-0104
Hertz Los Angeles International Airport Tel:  (310) 646-4861 South Bay Area 3635 Fashion Way Los Angeles Tel:  (310) 316-3855 Fax:  (310) 429-2781
National Los Angeles International Airport Tel:  (310) 670-4950
Thrifty Los Angeles International Airport Tel:  (310) 645-1880
Shooshani Avon Rent A Car 8459 Sunset Blvd. West Hollywood Tel:  (323) 650-2631
Thrifty Car Rental 9060 Santa Monica Blvd. West Hollywood Tel:  (310) 860-9543
Miami now offers a parking meter debit card providing a cashless way to use the new electronic parking meters. Purchase the cards at participating hotels and merchants or from:
Hertz Seattle Tacoma Airport 17801 Pacific Hwy S # 301 Tel:  (206) 248-1300 Fax:  (206) 248-3071 Hours: Monday through Sunday 24 hours a day. Seatac Marriott Hotel 3201 S. 176th St. 3201 South 176th Street Seattle, WA Tel:  (206) 433-5275 Hours: Monday through Friday 7a.m. to 5p.m., Saturday and Sunday 8a.m. to 1p.m.