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Car rental in Las Vegas for National Park trip.

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Jan 22nd, 2011, 04:01 AM
  #1
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Car rental in Las Vegas for National Park trip.

Howdy

My partner and I will be visiting some of the National Parks in the South West at the end of Feb for 2 weeks or so

Exactly which ones is still undecided but I've got some useful information from my last question/topic (thanks guys) .

We will be starting in Las Vegas doing a loop taking in at the very least Zion, Bryce and the Grand Canyon. and if time permits we will try to get to Yosemite having flown to San Francisco.

Having no idea of the kind of roads we will be travelling on we could use some advice on what car to rent and where to rent from in Las Vegas

We were thinking something like a Ford Escape AWD. Does this sound like a sensible choice?

Can anyone recommend a good place to rent from in Las Vegas and give me some idea of what I can expect to be paying? Some responses to my first post suggested that some rental companys will not allow chains to be used, and given what I have been told chains sound like an essential item to carry at the end of Feb

Thanks,
Andrew
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Jan 22nd, 2011, 05:26 AM
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Even though car companies Do Not Allow chains, you still may need them. I don't get what the big deal is about the chains and why they don't let you. It is possible to ruin a tire, but if you do, then just buy a new tire and go don't worry about it. I don't advocate not obeying rules, but that is one that I do break. They also don't like you to get on a dirt road and I have broken that rule as well. If you do have to need roadside assistance in either of those conditions, expect a huge penalty from the car rental company.

The Escape should do just fine. Keep in mind that just because you reserve and Escape, The Rental Car Company could still give you any type of AWD. I think you will do fine in any AWD or 4WD. Maybe those chains won't be needed.
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Jan 22nd, 2011, 05:33 AM
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I'd be comfortable driving an AWD in Feb. Honestly, I'd not drive roads that require chains unless you have experience driving in winter conditions. I've driven into the Grand Canyon as a snowstorm moved in. It was a gorgeous three days at the canyon, and we lucked up on a room on the rim because so many people were leaving. This was in April in the smallest/cheapest rental car possible many years ago. My ex and I used to fly into ALB a lot and drive across high desert to get to Durango. We drove the Ouray drive which was spectacular but scary. We pushed the envelope on that one. We always rented SUVs or Subaru Outbacks for those winter trips. If you both plan to drive, I'd rent from a company that allows a domestic partner to be the second driver without an additional charge (National or similar).

To check rates, use kayak.om and then go to the company's website to book a rental. Keep trying. Clark Howard's show this morning gave hints for ski trip savings. He booked a car for $84/day and kept checking the rates. He rebooked when the rates dropped and eventually got it for $14/day.
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Jan 22nd, 2011, 05:44 AM
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I glanced at your other thread to see what was said about chains. Everyone has different comfort levels but there is no way I'd put chains on a rental car if it is against that company's policy. Damage to tires is one thing. I'd be more worried about liability if there is an accident when you are somewhere you shouldn't be as evidenced by chains on the rental car. If you have deep pockets, then go ahead. If not, I'd not do it. IMO insurance on the car would be voided if there were damage to the car, other property or persons. I may be wrong - but I definitely would not take that risk.

There's a lot to see that will not require chains. If there's something you just HAVE to see, rent a 4WD for the day or go out on a tour - if they are running them at that time of year.

Enjoy your trip. It's a gorgeous part of the country and there's a lot to see and enjoy.
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Jan 22nd, 2011, 07:17 AM
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If you happen to rent a Jeep from Fox in LV, make sure that the tire pressures are correct before leaving the lot. Driving a short wheelbase 4WD feels a lot different from your typical rental car. I would never put chains on a rental car unless I was staying in a place and got up in the morning to 6+ inches of snow and had to get out. Properly putting chains on tires along a cold snowy road is difficult at best. Here in Oregon, people don't go over the passes when chains are required unless really necessary. Old folks will pay $5 to someone with experience to put on their chains. I have had tire pressure issues twice with Fox and no longer trust them. My latest rental in LV was from Alamo/National (same company). You have to take a second shuttle to get to Fox from the major rental car facility, but it can save some money.
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Jan 22nd, 2011, 10:22 AM
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given what I have been told chains sound like an essential item to carry at the end of Feb

My way of looking at it is chains are most useful (often they are required) for short distances on steep roads, typically while crossing a high mountain pass or driving the last couple of miles up to a ski resort.

Chains are NOT much use if you have to drive 150 miles on a high plateau, which is what you'll face on the drive you mention. Bryce is high (without looking it up Bryce is about as high as any pass you'll go over on this drive) and GC is high, but if there is heavy snow pretty much the entire drive over 5,000 ft will have snowy roads.

I've driven these roads you mention for over 20 years, often in the winter and sometimes in snow, and always done well with just 4-WD and good tires. Never once felt I needed chains. But if the roads are *really* bad then I just don't go, so you need some flexibility to alter your plans (stay at lower elevation, where it will be raining and not snowing) in case a storm hits.

The typical weather in Feb is clear, sunny and cold and the roads are dry and easily driveable. The storms are usually quick-moving, with roads cleared within one or two days, but you never know for sure.

I'd figure about one week in four (maybe 2-in-4 in a 'wet' winter, which this one has been thus far) in Feb will have a quickly moving snowstorm coming in from the west (if it's raining in LA Monday it'll snow in Bryce Tuesday or Wed).

Also keep in mind that 2-3 times each winter it snows so hard all the main roads are closed, regardless of whether you have chains. For example a few weeks ago I-40 was closed from Winslow to Kingman (basically all of northern AZ) and I-17 closed from Flagstaff to just north of Sedona for almost 2 days.

So skip the chains, make sure you have 4-WD drive, and have the option of staying at lower elevations in case a storm does hit and you'll be OK. Bryce and GC are especially lovely just *after* a storm.
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Jan 22nd, 2011, 10:23 AM
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Are you renting in Las Vegas and returning the car to Las Vegas?
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Jan 22nd, 2011, 11:43 AM
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I don't know what your final plans are, but if you do go to Sequoia as you indicated you might, I think there is a strong possiblity that snow change would be required. We had to have them on a Jan. 1st visit a couple of years ago. They do have people at the entrance that will put them on for you(for a fee at a fair price).

I didn't think about insurance and a wreck with the chains on the car(starrs post). Your own insurance would probably cover you, but the insurance from the car rental probably wouldn't(I would for sure check on that with your private insurance first). It is a risk, and a big risk if anything does happen, that said I would do it. as Bill indicates, it is usually for a short distance. And if it is bad enough to require chains and an AWD isn't enough, then it is pretty serious driving conditions.

Aren't you coming from overseas? That should be another factor to really consider when renting a car and considering the insurance.
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Jan 22nd, 2011, 03:14 PM
  #9
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Thanks everyone,

Yes I am coming from overseas, Australia to be exact, so I am assuming I will only have the car rental companys insurance.

It is unlikely we will have time to do the parks to the west and east of Las Vegas and properly enjoy ourselves so the likelyhood is we will attempt to do a loop to the east and return the car to Las Vegas.

We have done some driving in snow conditions in NZ. we hired a converted toyota hi-ace van from a company after explaining our plans of doing a loop of the south island, They suggested we should have chains, we booked chains, we picked up the van, they showed us how to put on chains, made sure we could put on chains and then told us they'd all had a big party the night before and nobody organised chains to be in the shop.. Got to Arthurs pass, road closed unless you had chains.. it was only a distance of about 150 yards, we stayed the night (first time in snow, fantastic!, we built snow men in a rest area which locals proceded drive through The next morning we were able to get throught that section.

So we are happy not use chains and wait, but thought they'd be an 'essential' ie sensible thing to carry in case of an emergency and only use them for a short distance.

So the no chains policy is EVERY rental company, seems odd in such an area?

We looked up a few companies and could get an Escape type SUV for about $600-700 without insurance.. they had three levels of insurance of which i didn't understand what each level coverered (more reading required) and they didn't say how much the insurance was.

I will look at Alamon/National.. hadn't come across them yet.

Thanks you all once again
Andrew
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Jan 22nd, 2011, 06:22 PM
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but thought they'd (chains) be an 'essential' ie sensible thing to carry in case of an emergency and only use them for a short distance.

This is true for crossing high passes. I-80 between Reno, Nevada and Sacramento, California comes to mind, often closed to vehicles w/o chains ... also many passes in Colorado, for example the short distance between Durango and Ouray crosses three passes that are 10,640 ft - 11,075 ft, with hairpin turns, 500 ft drop-offs and 15 mph speed limits in some places even when the road is dry.

But on your route there is nothing like this, no high passes. It's a massive plateau roughly between 5,000 ft to about 8,500 ft in Bryce (lower once you get off the Colorado plateau like near Vegas). You would either need chains for a long, long time (which makes for difficult driving and is damaging to the car if the road is dry in places) or most likely you won't need them at all, especially if you can wait it out a day or at most two for the roads to be plowed.

Re: the insurance, many US credit card companies provide insurance if you pay with their card, I would check with your Australian card issuer and see if this is the case.
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Jan 22nd, 2011, 06:47 PM
  #11
 
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There is a lot of misinformation about tire chains and rental cars. The fact is that many new model vehicles have very little clearance between the wheels and the body and improper chains can cause severe damage.

In addition, AWD vehicles have differing requirements based on make and model. Some manufacturers warn against using any kind of chains while others stipulate only cable chains. On some models you need to mount the chains on the front axle whereas others require mounting on both axles or all four wheels and others only on the rear wheels. It's no wonder the rental companies throw up their hands and have a blanket policy of no chains.

It's important to consult the owner's manual of the make and model that you are considering to rent. A Ford Escape was talked about in a post above. Here is what its owner's manual has to say about chains:

"The tires on your vehicle have all weather treads to provide traction in rain and snow. However, in some climates, you may need to use snow tires and cables. If you need to use cables, it is recommended that steel wheels (of the same size and specifications) be used,as cables may chip aluminum wheels.

Follow these guidelines when using snow tires and traction devices:
• SAE class “S” cables should ONLY be used on the front axle for P235/70R16 tires.
• Install cables securely, verifying that the cables do not touch any wiring, brake lines or fuel lines.
• Drive cautiously. If you hear the cables rub or bang against the vehicle, stop and retighten them. If this does not work, remove the cables to prevent vehicle damage.
• Avoid overloading your vehicle.
• Remove the cables when they are no longer needed.
• Do not use cables on dry roads.
• Do not exceed 30 mph (48 km/h) with tire cables on your vehicle.

Consult your authorized dealer for information on other Ford Motor Company approved methods of traction control."
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Jan 22nd, 2011, 08:48 PM
  #12
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Thanks,

My credit card gives me insurance on car insurance, ie I am covered for a certain amount of excess on what ever insurance policy is in place if i have an accident, but no direct insurance..

Since we are not going off the beaten path so to speak, I doubt I'll be in a position where there is no-one to help (even if i have to wait a bit)

Since this part of our holiday is near the beginning there is no problem with waiting things out if there is too much snow.

So no chains it is..

-Andrew
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Jan 22nd, 2011, 10:52 PM
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Good decision, Andrew.
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Jan 23rd, 2011, 10:31 AM
  #14
 
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Hertz and NationalCar will usually quote rates for Australians that INCLUDE the liability and collision insurances that you need.

(Click on the top right of the Hertz website and hit "GO" before entering your dates and information. )
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Jan 23rd, 2011, 10:34 AM
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You'll REALLY have to watch the weather reports at that time of year and may even have to change your plans drastically based on weather. For that reason, I would not book any priceline-type non-changeable hotel reservations. Book only rooms that note you can cancel up til 24-hours before scheduled arrival (which is a general guideline for rooms here in the usa, though Vegas often has a 48 or 72 hour penalty).
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