Author Topic: Car rental tips (for the US)  (Read 2977 times)

mwulff

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Car rental tips (for the US)
« on: January 31, 2017, 12:37:28 AM »
Hi everybody,


I'm taking my dad on his retirement "trip of a lifetime" in August. We are going on a 3 week trip to the US (assuming it's still there ;) ).

But we will need to rent a car from San Francisco airport and return it at Seattle Tacoma.

So far the best I've come up with is a Huyndai Tuscon for $1700 if we rent it at Sixt. We need to fit 3 people comfortably and some height will be helpful for my dad when getting in and out of the car.

Avis and Hertz were insanely priced.

Any ideas if it can be done more cheaply? Coupon codes or anything else that might help us save some money?

SunnySaver

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Re: Car rental tips (for the US)
« Reply #1 on: January 31, 2017, 05:48:28 AM »
Are you familiar with car rental in the US, especially insurance? Credit cards often provide acceptable coverage for the rental car itself. Americans with personal cars usually have insurance that automatically covers their liability when driving a rental car, i.e. damage done to other people/property, but non-Americans or non-car-owning Americans usually do not. Buying insurance at the counter when you pick up the car will be insanely expensive, so make sure you have that sorted in advance.

Unfortunately you are traveling in peak summer vacation season, but here are a few thoughts:
  • Are you set on a one-way rental? Those are often significantly more expensive.
  • Check a European site that quotes all-in prices including insurance for both third party liability and the car (CDW/LDW/TP/etc).
  • Check the cost of a private car hire insurance policy (they seem readily available to EU residents) combined with an American-style (no-insurance) rate.
  • Consider renting from an off-airport location. You can often avoid significant taxes/fees that way.

bognish

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Re: Car rental tips (for the US)
« Reply #2 on: January 31, 2017, 02:11:55 PM »
Its been a few years since I lived in San Francisco, so things may have changed, but The Daly City Enterprise was usually the cheapest place to rent cars. It avoided the airport or city tax. It is a few stops and short walk from SFO on BART (local train). If you are with a group the easiest way would be to leave luggage and non-drivers at the airport to have a coffee. Anyone who is going to drive take the train to Daly City to pick up the car, then go back to the airport. Or if you are going to spend a few days in San Francisco take Bart or taxi to your hotel and pick up the car in Daly city when its time to leave.

Any time you do a one way car rental in the US its going to be expensive. They have to pay someone to drive the car back to your starting point. Might be cheaper to do a CA road trip, then fly to Seattle if there is something there you really want to see.

davef

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Re: Car rental tips (for the US)
« Reply #3 on: January 31, 2017, 03:52:10 PM »
Both good comments. Airports in general charge lots of fees and taxes and higher rates. If it is worth it to you you can likely get a rental car in Oakland some other off airport location and might save a few hundred dollars. Make sure the location is near the Bart. One ways are definitely more expensive. If you change your route so you return at the same location you could likely cut your rate in half. It might not be so bad, you could go north on the coast, the redwoods, do the Oregon coast, Olympic national park then head inland to seattle, then head down to portland, then maybe crater lake, then tahoe.... depends on what you had in mind.

mwulff

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Re: Car rental tips (for the US)
« Reply #4 on: February 01, 2017, 12:28:19 AM »
Thanks for the advice about getting the car away from the airport. We can't really get around the one-way trip requirement as there are a lot between SFO and Seattle we need to see and we have some family in Seattle that we need to visit.

We really don't want to take the time out to drive back and hop on a plane.

But thanks :)

Clean Shaven

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Re: Car rental tips (for the US)
« Reply #5 on: February 01, 2017, 07:56:12 AM »
If you're a member, check Costco car rental site - often the cheapest. Also search carrentals.com.

If your trip is 100% certain, start lowballing Priceline bids. You can increase your bid each day by $1 until you get a deal.

better late

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Re: Car rental tips (for the US)
« Reply #6 on: February 01, 2017, 08:08:57 AM »
I have had good luck using coupons for car rentals from RetailMeNot.com. They come and go, so you might have to keep revisiting the site to find a coupon you want to use.

mwulff

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Re: Car rental tips (for the US)
« Reply #7 on: February 01, 2017, 08:10:15 AM »
If you're a member, check Costco car rental site - often the cheapest. Also search carrentals.com.

If your trip is 100% certain, start lowballing Priceline bids. You can increase your bid each day by $1 until you get a deal.

Since I'm a foreigner I'm not a member of Costco or any other place. But I did change my booking place to central SFO and saved $120.. Yay


elaine amj

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Re: Car rental tips (for the US)
« Reply #8 on: February 01, 2017, 08:43:20 AM »
I have spent a lot of time researching car rentals in the last few years.

- The best rates are often 6-8 weeks before your trip. Thankfully, most car rental places offer reservations without even a credit card guarantee - so I just book at something acceptable and continue watching closer to the trip.

- Car rental prices are even more opaque than flight prices. It changes constantly and it can be endlessly frustrating. One trip, Company A is cheaper, next trip Company B is cheaper, and so on. It also can change by day or by hour. I find it takes a lot of work and effort to get the best prices. I used to be super anal...nowadays I get fed up more easily and settle for good enough.

- offsite vs onsite...you have to price it out individually (for every possible company). Onsite has higher property fees...but that is often offset by lower rental fees.

- Coupon codes can be really helpful. That said, because you have worries about insurance, you might be best booking through a European company which often includes insurance.

- Some companies charge drop off fees, some companies don't. Good to be aware of this.

Here was my experience back in 2015. I started with Hertz but ended up switching for various reasons.

I started looking seriously in March for a July trip (typically I find best prices for car rentals about 2 months out although occasionally I try much farther out and rebook if prices drop). Sometimes airport locations are cheaper, sometimes offsite is cheaper. All the places I looked in Cali, offsite was cheaper, even including cost of uber to pick up.

Reservation #1:
Booked: March 2015 for July 2015 trip
Hertz 1 week intermediate vehicle. pick up San Jose (offsite), drop off Anaheim. $314 incl all taxes and fees (watch for that - the car was only $282), AAA discount.

Reservation #2:
Booked: June 17 2015 for July 10 2015 pickup
Hertz 1 week intermediate vehicle, pick up Burbank (offsite), dropoff Anaheim. $249.85 incl all taxes and fees. AAA discount + $20 coupon from Hertz website

Reservation #3:
Booked: June 17 2015 for July 10 pickup
Avis 1 week convertible, pick up Burbank (offsite), dropoff Anaheim. $356.09 incl all taxes and fees. Maybe AAA discount? I forget. I also used a $30 off coupon from somewhere.

We went with the convertible :) It was a blast - but I had to pack VERY little. We spent almost 2 weeks with just 2 carry-ons and a backpack for a family of 4 (2 teens). I did laundry twice and packed super light. Worth it though - the convertible was super fun in California!

gaja

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Re: Car rental tips (for the US)
« Reply #9 on: February 01, 2017, 10:30:43 AM »
While planning our trip to the US, I've been looking at websites where people are renting out their private cars, like https://turo.com/ Do any of you have experience with those?

AMandM

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Re: Car rental tips (for the US)
« Reply #10 on: February 01, 2017, 10:31:38 AM »
I've rented cars twice in the past few months.  It was a pain in the neck to find a good deal.  Within each company, the rates and availability varied from one location to another--even within one small city. So I agree with Elaine-- lots of digital legwork.

Dicey

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Re: Car rental tips (for the US)
« Reply #11 on: February 01, 2017, 12:48:53 PM »
Costco as previously recommended is awesome. Better still, you can call them and speak to a real person. They can help you figure out how to rent from an off airport site, saving a ton in fees. Look for something that you can get to via BART, so the return to SFO is easier. Also, consider flying into OAK. Much easier airport, but don't rent a car on site there either. If you're not a Costco member, call anyway. It could easily save you more, even if you have to buy a membership*, including the BART fares.

*You'll save again on gas if you do. In CA, Costco usually beats the pants off other gasoline company's prices.

Also, consider a Prius if you're going to be driving a lot. They're comfortable and can hold a lot of gear. Don't look like "rental" cars either, so possibly less of a tourist target.

MoonLiteNite

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Re: Car rental tips (for the US)
« Reply #12 on: February 01, 2017, 01:59:15 PM »
3 things i can think of

- Most CC offer auto rental insurance, check with yours
- Some large companies offer huge discounts on car rentals if you reserve through your benefits portal website (like if your company has alot of employees travelling, you will normally see this with hotels too)
- ASK! Really you may be able to just ask for a small discount, maybe  a sensor discount for your dad.


Well Respected Man

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Re: Car rental tips (for the US)
« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2017, 09:14:56 PM »
If you have flexibility, make sure to check the prices, including any flights and one-way rentals, of doing your trip in the reverse order. I did a California trip that way, and flying into LAX, driving up the coast, and flying home from SFO was cheaper on all 3 legs of the trip than doing it the other way around. The Costco gas at SFO was about a buck a gallon cheaper than the other one at/near the airport, IIRC.

elaine amj

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Re: Car rental tips (for the US)
« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2017, 09:19:31 PM »
If you have flexibility, make sure to check the prices, including any flights and one-way rentals, of doing your trip in the reverse order. I did a California trip that way, and flying into LAX, driving up the coast, and flying home from SFO was cheaper on all 3 legs of the trip than doing it the other way around. The Costco gas at SFO was about a buck a gallon cheaper than the other one at/near the airport, IIRC.

That's what I ended up doing. My trip was initially San Jose to Anaheim but (partly due to price), I changed it to Burbank ->drive up to the Central Coast -> drive east to Sequoia -> then drive back down south to Anaheim. It worked out much better cost-wise and for our itinerary although I would have preferred not to do the circle. 

Goldielocks

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Re: Car rental tips (for the US)
« Reply #15 on: February 01, 2017, 10:14:44 PM »
Thanks for the advice about getting the car away from the airport. We can't really get around the one-way trip requirement as there are a lot between SFO and Seattle we need to see and we have some family in Seattle that we need to visit.

We really don't want to take the time out to drive back and hop on a plane.

But thanks :)

Well, consider one person returning the car... it may be worth it.    13 hours of driving.  also a flight in / out the same city may save you money.

I always have terrific luck with price line name your price.  I have not done a one way trip, but for car rentals, usually win at half the going rate. 

Dicey

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Re: Car rental tips (for the US)
« Reply #16 on: February 01, 2017, 10:33:58 PM »
Since I'm a foreigner I'm not a member of Costco or any other place. But I did change my booking place to central SFO and saved $120.. Yay
But joining Costco is pretty easy. It's only $55.00 per year for a basic membership and you'll easily save that in gas in the first week. The Costco card has a picture on it, which might come in handy and you get the card the same day you join. There are also several warehouses within striking distance of SFO or OAK. Check their website for requirements. If you don't see any way that might work, PM me. My brother works for the company and might have some pro tips.

Also, I just remembered that twice last week people mentioned getting significant discounts by using Sacramento (SMF) Airport. It's a small, modern airport with easy access that's only about an hour away. It's the state capitol, so the flight offerings can be surprisingly good.

San Jose (SJC) can be good, too, but is in a much more congested area. It's great if you want to head to Santa Cruz, Monterey, Carmel or points further south, but not so good if you want to head north.

missundecided

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Re: Car rental tips (for the US)
« Reply #17 on: February 01, 2017, 10:57:51 PM »
Autoslash might be helpful. They do a lot of the legwork of finding codes, looking for better deals, etc.