Car Rental

The information on this page is based on past practices and feedback from past visitors. KITP cannot be responsible for the accuracy of this information, and this information should not be interpreted as advice on any subject or endorsement of any company.  Regulations and policies can change at any time.  Verify your arrangements with the rental agent and make sure that whatever an agent tells you verbally is included in the written rental contract.  Please notify us of any errors or updates needed.

Do not use travel packages.

KITP can only reimburse appropriately itemized expenses. Travel "packages" offered by Internet vendors typically do not include itemized expenses. In order to ensure appropriate documentation for reimbursement, no travel to the institute should be booked through such vendors unless the traveler has confirmed that each aspect of the package will be separately itemized (e.g., itemized hotel charges, airfare, car rental, etc.).

Mandatory Car Seats for Children

Under California law, children under the age of 8 and less than 4' 9" (145cm) must be secured in a car seat or booster seat in the back seat. Children under the age of 8 who are 4' 9" or taller may be secured by a safety belt in the back seat.  There are exceptions for certain vehicles and situations. 

Airport Tax and surcharges

There is a "tourism fee" throughout California of 2.5% - 3.5% (depending on location) plus other one-time concession surcharges when renting on-site at airport locations or at hotels.  You can avoid many surcharges by renting at an off-site, branch office and may be able to avoid this "tourism fee" by giving your local address in the Santa Barbara area.  Rental rates are also often cheaper than at airport locations.  Most such offices will pick you up and drop you off  at locations within a certain distance at no extra charge.

Some visitors from overseas have said they were still able to pickup at the airport and yet avoid the tax by prepaying their rental through a correspondent company.  Others have avoided the tourist tax and lowered their costs for much of their stays by first renting at the airport, returning the car a few days later after getting settled, and renting at a branch office giving their local address.  Oftentimes, there is no extra charge for returning the car to the airport.  Ask!

Rental Rates

Check company web sites for coupons and special promotions.  Weekend rentals are always cheaper.  The definition of "weekend" varies, e.g., National Car Rental's weekend rates begin Thursdays at 9:00AM and run through pickup time the following Monday (i.e., 4 days).  In order for your reimbursement to be processed, it is required that a daily rate, as well as the total, be stated on your confirmation and/or receipt. It is advisable to confirm this before you pay if you plan to rent your car through a search engine or consolidator (e.g., priceline or, rather than directly from the rental agency.

Note:  The UCSB corporate discount is not available to KITP visitors, as their rental contracts do not extend to nonemployees.  You might want to check with your home institution as to whether you are eligible for its corporate discount.

When you rent a car, you will be offered a confusing array of options, including insurance, by the rental agency and, sometimes, be told you need to purchase some of them.  It is often wise to have such additional coverages, but it will almost always be cheaper to purchase it elsewhere before you rent the car.  Some employers (including universities) provide supplementary coverage through contracts with certain vendors, so check with your travel department, as well as with your personal insurance agent, before you leave home. You need at least two kinds of insurance: Liability insurance and Collision insurance.

This insurance provides coverage in case a claim is made against you, for example, by someone who was injured or suffered property damage in an accident in which you were involved.  The state-mandated minimums are automatically included in the rental rate, but you may well wish to have more than these minimum amounts.  There are several alternatives to purchasing this from the rental agency.  Some universities or laboratories provide liability insurance for your work-related travel.  Sometimes, it may be included with your personal auto insurance or may be added for a small premium, or you may be covered under your umbrella insurance liability policy, or you may be able to amend it to reduce your deductible.  Contact your insurance agent to find out what coverage you already have or what it would cost to purchase.  Some limited liability insurance may be included with the credit card that you use to rent the car.  

This protects you against damage to the car you are renting.  It ought to be quite inexpensive to buy, but rental agencies often charge $15-$25 per day for such coverage, usually called either Loss or Collision Damage Waiver (LDW or CDW, resp.) Some major credit cards provide backup, limited collision coverage that is secondary to your personal insurance if your auto policy covers rentals. However, there are some premium or business-type credit cards that provide primary coverage that may be included in your annual premium or purchased separately.  For  comparison, if you have an American Express Card, you may be able to purchase extensive primary coverage at a total cost of under $25 for a rental up to six weeks.  Finally, there are numerous travel insurance companies that sell CDW insurance online, such as Trip Insurance StoreTravel Insurance Center at a cost well below that of rental car agencies. 

Insurance requirements can make rentals by non-U.S. residents quite expensive, adding $20-$30/day to the cost.  Several visitors have told us that they saved considerably on insurance costs by prearranging car rental via an agency in their home country or online before leaving home. Even if you do no not prearrange the rental, you may be able to purchase insurance coverage independently for much less than from the car rental agency.  For example, residents of Western Europe can buy a policy online at, operated by Towergate Underwriting Group.  (Although their policy provides coverage for a year for one low premium, note that you must renew your car rental contract after 60 days.)   If you will be renting for more than a week, you will almost certainly save money.  (Please let us know of any other such companies.)


Car Rental Agencies

KITP cannot endorse or recommend any particular company.   If you rent outside Santa Barbara (e.g., in Los Angeles,) it is a good idea to use a company with a branch in the Santa Barbara area in case the car needs to be serviced or exchanged.

Major Chains (alphabetically)

(805) 964-4848; fax: (805) 683-2039

  • No office at the airport, but provides shuttle to office nearby at 5940 Olney St (one minute from airport.) Direct: (805) 683-4715
  • Avis also has an office in downtown Santa Barbara at

34 E Montecito (at Anacapa St)
(805) 965-1079

(805) 964-6792 fax: (805) 683-3203

(805) 683-3012  (at the Santa Barbara airport.)

  • If you will be renting two months or longer, call 866-580-6222, and ask about their Month-or-More program, or send them an e-mail online with your contact information.
  • Enterprise also has an office in Goleta at 

5959 Hollister Ave (two minutes from airport)
(805) 683-0067; FAX (805) 683-3917

  • There are several offices in Santa Barbara:
    • 351 Hitchcock Way Ste #B160, (805) 569-3636;
    • 3210 State St., (805) 569-6222;
    • 601 Chapala St., (805) 966-3097.
  • Enterprise will rent without a credit card.

Airport: (805) 967-0411

  • Hertz offers multi-month rentals at prices comparable to long-term leasing.
  • For European visitors, Hertz offers a World-on-Wheels program that includes all insurance and taxes.  (If this link doesn't work for your location, look for it under Hertz "Products & Services" .)
  • Prices vary by location, even around Santa Barbara:

Amtrak Train Station
209 State Street
(805) 962-5305

  • Save by renting from a Hertz Local Edition (HLE) office:

In Goleta at
690 S.Fairview Ave (two minutes from airport)
(805) 967-9489 Fax: (805) 967-2094

In downtown Santa Barbara at
Fess Parkers Double Tree Resort 
633 East Cabrillo Blvd.
(805) 962-5305 Fax: (805) 962-5342 

  • HLE branches will pick you up and return you (within a certain radius.)

(805) 967-1202; Fax: (805) 683-8790
Toll-free: (888) 826-6890

(805) 681-1222; Fax: (805) 681-2568
Toll-free: (800) 847-4389