Car Rental Companies at SFO

Old Oct 21st, 2010, 01:18 PM
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Car Rental Companies at SFO

I was wondering if anyone can give me some advice about the car rental companies at SFO.

Is there any one in particular that is easier to get to/deal with than others? The reason I ask is that we will be arriving from the East Coast with two toddlers in tow, who, with the time difference, will be pretty tired.

The rats for weekly rentals seem all about the same, so I would like to just go with whatever car rental company is the easiest one to get to, once you arrive at SFO, (we're flying United).

Thanks!
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Old Oct 21st, 2010, 01:21 PM
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All the regular car rental companies are in the same facility. You take an air train to get there, very close. (One possibility is that one adult goes to get the car, and the other waits for the luggage -- it's easy to get back to the terminal from the car rental place to pick up the rest of you and your luggage).
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Old Oct 21st, 2010, 01:40 PM
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All major car rental companies are located in the same building. So it really doesnt matter which company you go with. No need to hop on a bus- just take the airtrain to the Car Rental Center and it literally drops you off in front of the doors to the car rental counter. Once you check in- then you walk to the left door which opens up to the garage with all the cars. You just have to find the row with your selected company's name and grab your car. Its really easy and you should totally be fine with both luggage and toddlers in tow.
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Old Oct 21st, 2010, 03:39 PM
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If you are a Hertz gold member and their rates are comparable then go with Hertz - you can bypass the check in altogether and walk straight to your car. There can often be a wait at the check in counter at all of the rental car co' desk as you get off the AIrTrain from the terminal. I've had what seems like interminable wait as the people in front of you have a complicated rental.

Other co's offer bypass the counter options. May not be as fast as Hertz, but they are handy nonetheless if you enter all your info online ahead of time. (DL #, etc, etc).

Dollar's program is free - with dollar you go to their booth on the 2nd or 3rd floor (down from the 4th where you arrive) - faster than waiting in line.

In my experience dollar tends to have the best prices at SFO. There's a smaller west coast rental car co called Fox also there at SFO. They often have slightly older cars (40-50,000 miles instead of brand new), so if price is the most important factor then consider using them.

I like to use www.orbitz.com for rental car comparison shopping then go directly to the rental car co website to book.

One more thing to consider. What is your destination after leaving the airport? If it is downtown SF then don't rent a car at the airport. Just take a taxi to your SF hotel, then rent a car downtown when you're ready to leave SF. You won't be able to use a car in SF, and the cost of parking will double your car rental cost.
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Old Oct 21st, 2010, 04:31 PM
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>>You won't be able to use a car in SF
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Old Oct 21st, 2010, 04:45 PM
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What I mean is that for the most part if you're visiting SF you'd likely just park your car for a few days. You would not use the car to drive from your hotel around town to Fisherman's Wharf then to Little Italy then to Chinatown, or many other sights.

You can get around a lot cheaper and faster using taxi or public transportation. If one wanted to venture out of town to Muir woods, or Napa, or elsewhere, you can rent a car for that day.
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Old Oct 21st, 2010, 04:55 PM
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Renting at airport vs in the city:

It is also less money to rent in the city than at the airport [less fees]. Dollar has convenient locations at Union Sq and Fishermans Wharf and they allow you to drop the car back at SFO without drop off fee. They also sometimes have city specials that make the per day cost less.

If you are coming in late, don't know your way around the city, a taxi to hotel might not be a bad idea.

[I believe the comment about not being able to "use" a car in the city refers to the high cost of parking and the perhaps difficulty driving around in an unfamiliar city. ]
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Old Oct 21st, 2010, 05:07 PM
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Dollar usually does have the best rate, but you only lock in the rate if you make a reservation (no money changes hands at the time), and the better the rate the earlier you make the reservation.

Last time I picked up a car, however (2 weeks ago) I waited until the last minute, so had to go searching for promos and whatnot, and eventually settled on Thrifty.

The Thrifty counter is next to the Dollar Counter. The vehicles are located on different levels, depending on the company you book with. Thrifty and Dollar are on the second floor, so you have to take the elevator down to that floor once you give them your info at the desk. Hertz is on a different level.

All the cars are the same. The only difference is the desk clerk's ability to sell you "options" you don't want or need, like paying for a full tank of gas at an outrageous price when you are NOT going to actually use a whole tank of gas. I thought Thrifty was less of a hard sell than Dollar, so if you're going to be tired with two toddlers in tow, you might go for the company with the less pushy clerks. I'm super good at smiling and saying a firm "no thank you", even when I'm tired.

In fact, right when you get off the freeway at Bruno (I think that's the exit) instead of making a left turn, make a right turn and there's a couple of gas stations right there, so you can fill it up at a much cheaper price.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2010, 09:56 AM
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It's San Bruno.

As for driving in San Francisco, true, you aren't likely to use the car to drive to Chinatown or Fisherman's Wharf, but there are parts of the city that are MUCH more accessible by car than any other means -- Golden Gate Park, the Cliff House (and Land's End), the 49-mile drive, Twin Peaks.

But it is very expensive to park downtown. Where are you staying? There are some motels (Columbus Motor Inn, Cow Hollow Motor Inn and a few others) that have free parking.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2010, 10:23 AM
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San Bruno, that's it! Just watch the freeway signs -- they specifically show where the rentals are returned.

Agree with SF on parking. We stay at the Cow Hollow, generally park the car there, then take the number 30 bus on Chestnut to get into the areas of SF we want to go. Having said that, on the last trip, we had gone that Saturday over to Berkeley to see UCLA's stunning loss to the Cal Bears, and driving back, stopped in north beach for dinner. $15 to park. Ouch. The next day, because we had to do a quick run back to Berekely and back to SF, we drove along Embarcadero, during Fleet Week Sunday, and actually found metered parking, which is not too sinfully priced. But don't count on miracles like that happening all too often, especially on a warm, sunny Sunday!
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Old Oct 22nd, 2010, 10:46 AM
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Surfergirl - where did you park in North Beach for $15? We park in the garage above the police station on Vallejo - and I think parking is much less there - plus great views from the top floor.

Are the meters "in effect" along the Embarcadero on Sunday? I believe that in other areas of the City, parking in metered areas is free on Sunday (except at the Wharf, I think).

Stu Dudley
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Old Oct 22nd, 2010, 10:50 AM
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>>

The meters on the Embarcadero are in effect all the time now -- I think until 11 p.m. weekdays, and yes on Sundays. During "events" (i.e. Giants games) the meters are $4.00 an hour (which beats the $80 we saw one lot charging for parking last night).
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Old Oct 22nd, 2010, 12:59 PM
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Yep, new meters, but $1.00/hr., and credit card availability.

I valet parked just off Columbus at Green. If I have to drive that area I'll keep an eye out for that garage you mentioned, Stu, thanks for the tip. In fact, we'll probably need that info mid-November, when we head back up for the Stanford/Cal game.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2010, 01:08 PM
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The meters are "smart priced" -- since they're digital, the price can be changed by the "home office" any time. Busier time = more expensive.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2010, 01:21 PM
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Thank you everyone. We're actually staying with family in San Jose. We are flying to SFO however, bc from DC, we either have to change planes en route or not change planes, but land in Denver to get other passengers. So, with two little kids, just wasn't up to changing planes or landing and then taking off again in Denver, esp. at the end of December.

Thanks for the tips about Dollar vs. Thrifty. We are going to also need to rent two toddler car seats, and it looks like all the rental companies are charging the same amount for the week. We can get extra miles through United, if we use one of their prefered rental companies, so may end up doing that.

What's funny (or not really) is that the rates seem ok, until you see how much they add in for tazes, fess, add-ons..it ends up being another $200 or so for the week.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2010, 02:49 PM
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Again, those fees can be whittled down a LOT by renting in San Francisco proper. Check it out and see how much you can save; I am betting enough to cover taxi from SFO to hotel.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2010, 04:07 PM
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They're not going to SF to a hotel, they're going to San Jose to a relative's house.
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Old Oct 22nd, 2010, 04:14 PM
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nevermind..
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Old Oct 22nd, 2010, 04:28 PM
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Can you have your friends in San Jose come and pick you up?
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