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First-time car renter

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Looking for tips on how to get the best price on a car rental in either Seattle or Portland, or if this is even something in our budget. My boyfriend and I will be splitting our time between the two cities Sept. 1 - 9 (Labor Day week[end]) and the original plan was to Amtrak, but I'd really love to rent a car for at least a day to see the mountains and potentially see neighboring areas. I'd originally budgeted about $130 for the Amtrak, and after looking helplessly at car rental options, I think I'm willing to pay up to $250-275 (but I don't know if this is reasonable or not).

A little more info:
-We currently haven't decided which city we will spend the bulk of our time in first; our plane tickets are in and out of Seattle in the afternoon 9/1 and early morning 9/9.
-We are 22 and 24 and understand extra fees apply.
-I haven't decided if it will be cheaper for us to rent from the airport or a downtown location, whether it will be cheaper to return to the same city or not, and whether we should rent for a day or a few days or a week. I know there's typically airport and different drop-off location fees, and that it's generally cheaper per day to rent by the week.... but I have not always found this to be true and am getting a little overwhelmed by the variance in prices.
-I'm a AAA and Delta SkyMiles member, which means I have the opportunity to receive discounts through Hertz, so that's where I've been doing the bulk of my searching.

I can spend weeks trying to find the best airline prices no problem, but this? This makes my head spin. Again, we haven't decided which day we will rent the car, how long we will keep it, or where we will pickup/dropoff... I'm looking for suggestions on what the cheapest option will be in hopes of coming closer to those decisions. ANY tips you have for us car rental noobs would be amazing. Thank you!!

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