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I was surprised that an Amsterdam auto rental required a passport, despite making the reservation through Expedia.com. I have no objection to requirement: I am left wondering:

What practical purpose (reason) does requiring the passport to rent the car serve?

The assumption is that there is a reason/purpose for said requirement.

Fortunately, the rental company was flexible and accepted my passport card issued by the state department (not a true passport, but a National ID card), because I left the passport in the hotel safe. I always expect to show my driver's license when renting a car.

BTW, This is not a requirement to rent a car in the Dutch Aruba territory.

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    Different countries have different laws; different companies have different policies. Are you asking why the policies differ, or are you asking for the reason behind the requirement where it exists? – phoog Jul 3 at 14:03
  • As you (and every other person in the Netherlands 14 years and over) have to carry your passport or your EU national Identity card, showing it to rent a car should not be a problem at all. – Willeke Jul 3 at 15:25
  • @Willeke that is true, and the question even acknowledges a lack of objection to the requirement. But it is not a violation to fail to carry ID; it is only a violation to be unable to produce it in response to an official demand. – phoog Jul 3 at 16:53
  • That is hair splitting. You need to have it with you when you do certain things, like riding public transport without the right ticket, not having lights on your bike at night and many other situations, so you need to have it. – Willeke Jul 3 at 16:56
  • @phoog Both, it would seem to be inconsistent (which is certainly OK as it their prerogative), but I am puzzled as to why it would not be enough to show a driver's license. I made the reservation online through Expedia.com – gatorback Jul 3 at 17:31
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Verifying identity

They're handing a car to someone, and they need to verify who that person is - for liability purposes, etc.

In many European countries, a driver's license is not considered to be a valid identity document, it's explicitly legislated that identity documents are either a passport or a national ID card, and nothing else. So it makes all sense that all the company procedures state that they must request proper ID (and verify it in online registries of stolen IDs where possible), and strictly ordered to not accept any "not-a-document" substitutes as any gaps in policy would be systematically abused by fraudsters.

This is not specific to car rentals - pretty much every institution that needs to check ID will not accept drivers licenses. I don't know if Netherlands has it the same, but if my local store would want to verify my age for buying alcohol, a drivers license would not be acceptable for that - they're mandated to verify an identity document, and drivers license is legally not an identity document. However, it's worth noting that this is a relatively recent change, 5-10 years ago the penetration of ID cards was much lower and drivers licenses were accepted much more widely, but they are not anymore. This may explain some mismatch in expectations, as one institution may be unaware that another company has changed their policies.

It also seems plausible that they might extend the same policy to non-European customers for simplicity, and also for real risks - for example, it's nontrivial to verify the validity of all the many forms that a USA drivers license might take, documenting how you should verify USA passports seems simpler.

  • ‘a passport or a national ID card, and nothing else’ There are a couple of other niche forms of ID for stateless individuals or refugees but this list is pretty complete. – Jacob Horbulyk Oct 21 at 18:11
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For a car rental, proof of nationality and legal status, would be needed to prove that your driver's licence may be used, since foreign residents, after a specific time, must exchange their driver's licence for a local one. The same rule applies in the US when moving from state to state.

As a visitor under the 90/180 days rule (entry stamp in passport) it is clear for the car rental (and any policeman stopping you while driving) that there is no problem from that aspect.

A driver's licence (or US Passport Card) is not sufficient to prove your nationality and legal status inside the Schengen Area (lack of entry stamp) by any authorized person (such as a policeman). Keeping a passport in the hotel safe is a bad idea, because if you need it you won't have it.

It also depends on the reason they are checking. While visiting the Bundeskanzleramt this summer, my friend forgot his passport, but they let him in with his Kentucky Driver's License, since they were only checking against the nasty person's list.

Identity checks for age by non authorized persons the Passport Card or driver's licence should be sufficient.

This was also discussed here: US Passport Card for Identification (not customs) purpose

  • "Keeping a passport in the hotel safe is a bad idea, because if you need it you won't have it": it is a bad idea only if the likelihood of needing it and the cost of not having it in those circumstances outweighs the likelihood of not losing it and the cost of being without it permanently. In my experience, it is rather a very good idea to keep one's passport in the hotel safe. Furthermore, no car rental agent has ever investigated passport stamps or other evidence of legal presence when examining my passport. – phoog Oct 20 at 16:56
  • @phoog Be it as it may, the question was What practical purpose (reason) and an answer to that was given that you did not address (proof that your driver's licence may be used, for car rental and police). You had your passport with you, what you believe to have not observed is not a reason to downvote a valid answer. – Mark Johnson Oct 20 at 23:27
  • But my passport is not used as proof that my driver's license may be used, is it? Because I am quite certain that no use was made of my passport other than to check the biodata page. This invariably happens right in front of my face in the space of a minute or two. So this answer does not address the question. – phoog Oct 21 at 0:01
  • @phoog You would have to ask the rental for their reasons for this requirement. For the police it definitely is a valid reason and therefore adrresses the question. Proof of proper identification is a requirement in most countries and that is what, for foreigners, a passport is for. – Mark Johnson Oct 21 at 0:09
  • But this answer does not assert that the passport is being used as proof identification but rather as proof of "legal status inside the Schengen area." And it is quite clear that rental agents do not verify that, because they check neither the stamps nor the visas in the passport. – phoog Oct 21 at 0:23

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