Car hire in San francisco

Apr 17th, 2013, 03:54 AM
  #1  
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Car hire in San francisco

Hi I'm visiting San Francisco at the end of August, spending 4 days in SF then a circular road trip for 3 weeks. A couple of questions.
1. Anybody recommend the best car hire company.
2. I'll be staying near Union Square and believe that a car will be unnecessary there. As I've never driven in SF before, where would be the most sensible place to collect the hire car, airport or city centre ?
Thanks in advance.
Jabekay is offline  
Apr 17th, 2013, 04:18 AM
  #2  
 
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You have a good plan. You can pick up a rental car in the Union Square area, not far from your hotel, when you are ready for one. Waiting until then is smart because you save on parking fees, daily rental charges and extra airport fees.

I've rented from Avis, Hertz and National over the years but you could enter your hotel's address and use Google maps to search for the nearest "car rental". They are located in parking garages in the city. There will be a sign from the street with a rental office inside the parking garage. Any of the main agencies will be fine. Do a map search to see which are close to your hotel and check their websites for the best rates.
starrs is offline  
Apr 17th, 2013, 05:39 AM
  #3  
 
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Be sure to know whether the car rental charges a one way or drop off fee as many do and it can be a good sum.

I know that in the past, Dollar [with 2 locations - Union Square and Fisherman's Wharf] did not charge such a fee.
DebitNM is offline  
Apr 17th, 2013, 05:43 AM
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"spending 4 days in SF then a circular road trip for 3 weeks."

Circular makes one think they are coming back to SF.
starrs is offline  
Apr 17th, 2013, 05:47 AM
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True, but they may be heading directly to airport upon return from their road trip, without spending any additional time IN the city. Having to return the car in the city and then make their way to airport could be an inconvenience and additional cost and time.
DebitNM is offline  
Apr 17th, 2013, 07:08 AM
  #6  
 
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1. Anybody recommend the best car hire company.

I will give my standard reply which is that Hertz and Avis are at a different level of professionalism from the others. They won't wow you, but the likelihood of them being a disaster is significantly lower. I wouldn't spend a lot more, but I would happily spend an extra $50 or so.

2. I'll be staying near Union Square and believe that a car will be unnecessary there. As I've never driven in SF before, where would be the most sensible place to collect the hire car, airport or city centre ?

This depends a bit on where you are going next from SF. If you are heading to Napa, for example, then it would be more convenient to rent from the city center (or maybe Oakland airport) than from SFO. If you are heading South, SFO may make more sense.

In general, though, I'd price it out. If the savings were hundreds of dollars, then I'd rent from wherever the best deal was.
travelgourmet is offline  
Apr 17th, 2013, 07:13 AM
  #7  
 
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I'm doing a shorter but similar trip in June, and when I plugged in rentals from downtown SF and dropping off at the airport, it was definitely more expensive than round trip from SFO. A quick Kayak search just now shows $65 a day (picking up on O'Farrell Street, returning to SFO) vs. $48 a day using Payless, which is a company I haven't heard of. If I scroll down to the bigger companies like Alamo or Enterprise, it's $55 a day.

For a longer trip, the difference may not be as big, I'm not sure, but for me we'll probably end up taking BART out to the airport and renting from there. Plus it saves having to drive downtown.
jent103 is offline  
Apr 17th, 2013, 07:21 AM
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I would suggest going directly to Dollar.com website, rather than using a 3rd party site like kayak or priceline [I don't think you can even do one ways there] for one way rentals. The one way drop off fees can be high and the airport taxes add on as well. The best way is to do a bit of legwork and find the best deal on your particular dates.

Getting out of the city is really easy; I wouldn't let that alone deter anyone from renting in the city.
DebitNM is offline  
Apr 17th, 2013, 07:28 AM
  #9  
 
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DebitNM - I think you're right about Priceline requiring the same pickup/dropoff locations *if* you do the bidding option. (The newer Hotwire-like option allows different locations, though.) Kayak will let you search using different locations. It's just an aggregator, so it looks at all the web sites (Dollar, Alamo, etc) and even pulled in one from Hotwire on this last check.

You do have to be careful, though. When I typed just "San Francisco" into Kayak, it originally gave me options to pick up at the Oakland airport! That would have been bad. You can narrow it down to within a mile of city center, but you have to pay attention.
jent103 is offline  
Apr 17th, 2013, 07:34 AM
  #10  
 
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kayak is just a search engine. They will direct you to the site that has the lowest prices and you book with that site directly.

Jabekay, I've done this almost a dozen times. Check to see what car rental locations are near your hotel and then go to their websites. At that time, you can plug in different options -
- pick up at Union Square location and return to same
- pick up at Union Square location and return to airport
- pick up at airport and return to airport

With a few keystrokes you can modify your search and you'll see a variety of pricing options available to you and you can make your decision accordingly.
starrs is offline  
Apr 17th, 2013, 07:39 AM
  #11  
 
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I just did a location search using my favorite hotel in Union Square.

Within .1 mile =
Avis
National
Alamo
Dollar
Hertz

Pick the ones offering the best rates for your time period.
Also consider discounts available - AAA and other club discounts
starrs is offline  
Apr 17th, 2013, 07:58 AM
  #12  
 
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Like travelgourmet, I prefer to go with big names when renting for a big trip -- Hertz, Avis, National, Alamo -- because they have so many locations it's usually easy to find one if something goes wrong along the way. I think Kayak is okay for finding prices and renting through. These addresses would be convenient for pick-up in downtown San Francisco:

340 O'farrell Street
687 Folsom Street
840 Ellis Street
750 Bush Street
241 10th Street
bluestar is offline  
Apr 17th, 2013, 09:09 AM
  #13  
 
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Since you used the term car hire (instead of rental) am I correct in thinking you are from over seas?

If so, there are brokers (holiday autos.co.uk is just one example) that offer much better rates for foreign visitors than the big firms do booked from w/i the US. And there are seldom drop off fees.

If you are from outside the USA, let us know and we can maybe point you to a useful site (These brokers will actually set you up w/ Hertz/Dollar/Avis/whoever depending on your exact requirements)
janisj is online now  
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