One-way car rental for long US roadie?

Old Jan 20th, 2020, 02:03 PM
  #1  
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One-way car rental for long US roadie?

Hi folks,

Rather prosaic question here, and couldnít find much on the forum due to the generic nature of the search terms. Iím planning a 3-week driving trip with my son through the western US this summer before he heads off to college. Weíll be hitting national parks, a few golf courses and baseball games, starting in San Francisco and ending up around Kansas City or Dallas.

The problem is that Iím sketching out the details and have been shocked to discover the car rental looks like it will cost $3000-$4000 for 3 weeks! All the big agencies are over $100/day. My favorite was Hertz, offering a regular SUV for $13,000 for 18 days - why donít I just buy a used Ford Explorer and leave it by the side of the road when weíre done?

This was using Expedia, but Iíve had no better luck on the National, Hertz and Avis websites. Iím a heavy business traveler and have elite status on two of those three, but it makes no difference. Iíve seen car rental prices rise from $40 or so per day to over $100 in most cities in recent years, but most of my rentals for work are 3-5 days. I canít stomach paying that for a 3-week trip.

Any other ideas that donít involve driving to Tijuana to pick up the car? It doesnít appear to be the result of heavy drop charges, just ridiculous daily summer charges, plus all the BS city and airport fees they apply. And I havenít even factored in the per-day insurance charges, as I live outside the US and donít have auto insurance.

Is there any way to beat this evil car-rental cartel now that they all have merged into just a few players with massive pricing power?

Thanks,
Victim of Highway Robbery
ClarkB is offline  
Old Jan 20th, 2020, 02:22 PM
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"as I live outside the US and don’t have auto insurance."

What country? There are several brokers that specialize in car rentals for foreign visitors. They quote often discounted all-inclusive rates with insurance, unlimited mileage, and drop off fees.

Also check AutoEurope.com which is a US based broker that may have more reasonable rates.
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Old Jan 20th, 2020, 02:23 PM
  #3  
 
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My style of travel is to start with an Amtrak trip near a place I want to see and then rent a car there and make a 4-7 day loop. From the Amtrak stop continue to another and repeat with another rental car. You can travel cheaply if you can tolerate sleeping overnight in an Amtrak coach seat. If you can afford it, try at least 1 overnight in an Amtrak Roomette.
Which western National Parks do you want to see in 3-4 weeks? Amtrak does have a deal on 30 day USA Rail Passes. Don't forget the cost of all the golf, baseball tickets, food and rental cars for about 10 of your 30 days. I have been getting good prices on rental cars on Priceline (usually Enterprise) . They will usually pick me up at a train station or hotel.
Starting an Amtrak trip in San Francisco, involves an Amtrak bus to Emeryville or Jack London Station depending on which train you are taking.
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Old Jan 20th, 2020, 02:58 PM
  #4  
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I live in Singapore, but am a US citizen. But that’s a good idea to check with some overseas agencies, sometimes there can be big price discrepancies.

I’m afraid the train idea won’t work, we’re hitting several renowned golf courses that are well off the beaten track, and hauling our clubs around. Not to mention that as a Californian, being without a car in the US is actually illegal.
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Old Jan 20th, 2020, 08:39 PM
  #5  
 
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I always rent through Costco Travel so I put in a random 3 week rental, SFO-DFW and came up at $2454 (Enterprise)- yikes! I changed the pick-up location from SFO to an in-city location (still using DFW as drop-off) and the price dropped to $1,872 (Budget). Costco doesn’t allow city to city rentals, either pick-up or drop-off has to be an airport, so I don’t know if the price would have gone even lower if you could drop at a city location in Dallas. Keep checking different agencies, hopefully you’ll find something reasonable. Good luck!
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 03:27 AM
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I have heard many times on here that foreigners renting in US can get very good one way rates on car rental. I think you have to check that aspect of a rental and go through an agency not an online quote. Along with that probably comes increased insurance, but for that there are credit card coverage maybe.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 04:20 AM
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Autoeurope website has been down for several days now, so if you want a quote from them today, you need to call them.

I've just quoted on Holiday Autos for pickup SFO dropoff DFW (apt to apt) for 3 week duration inc unlimited mileage, one way drop off fee, CDW included for around USD1000 for an intermediate size car. I never go through an agency when renting in the US or anywhere else, I use Autoeurope, Holiday Autos, Rentalcars or Economy car Rentals, their rates include the insurances etc that are necessary for a non US renter (as in a non US resident).

With unlimited mileage, you need to check the small print as sometimes unlimited mileages do have an upper limit. You can also get longterm car rentals but that starts at rentals of 28 days or more. Additionally, there maybe other restrictions eg cars rented in California might not be allowed to be taken out of California with prior arrangement - so even if you get a quote, there might be additional things to check by calling the broker or car rental company direct. Most do not have cancellation fees, in case you book but then have to cancel - again, check small print for T&Cs.

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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 06:10 AM
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Originally Posted by ClarkB View Post
Iím planning a 3-week driving trip with my son through the western US this summer before he heads off to college. Weíll be hitting national parks, a few golf courses and baseball games, starting in San Francisco and ending up around Kansas City or Dallas.
Could you elaborate a little on your actual plans? I wonder if you might be able to turn the trip into one or more loops with cheap domestic flights between them. I have to imagine that even shipping the golf clubs as additional checked baggage on some flights would be less than the big one-way car fees. In mid-summer, one way plane fares from most western cities (LA, SF, Seattle, Salt Lake et al) to Dallas or Kansas City are between $75 and $125. Give us an idea of your planned itinerary and maybe we can come up with some alternative ideas.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 07:09 AM
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I think the unavoidable problem may be that you have to buy all the supplemental insurance since you don't have your own auto insurance - that can easily double the daily rental cost.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 07:40 AM
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"I've just quoted on Holiday Autos for pickup SFO dropoff DFW"

Yes -- Holiday is one of the brokers I was thinking of -- couldn't remember the name. Several of our Aussie members and a couple from India have reported very good rates including all insurance. They got much better deals than booking through any of the rental companies -- especially on one way rentals.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 07:54 AM
  #11  
 
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Originally Posted by Gardyloo View Post
Could you elaborate a little on your actual plans? I wonder if you might be able to turn the trip into one or more loops with cheap domestic flights between them. I have to imagine that even shipping the golf clubs as additional checked baggage on some flights would be less than the big one-way car fees. In mid-summer, one way plane fares from most western cities (LA, SF, Seattle, Salt Lake et al) to Dallas or Kansas City are between $75 and $125. Give us an idea of your planned itinerary and maybe we can come up with some alternative ideas.
Is your son going to a US college or elsewhere? I think there are a lot of people who live in LA and have drivers licenses but no car. They rent a car when they need one and buy the insurance at the counter.
I remember seeing a company that transports your golf clubs from one golf course to the next one you plan to visit. (Don't remember the name). Even if you fly from city to city, making loops with several rental cars makes more sense than a long one way across several states.
Let us know more about your planned route please.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 08:22 AM
  #12  
 
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I have never been asked for my car insurance when renting a car.

I think the OP's original question has been answered by those people suggesting AutoEurope and such. Foreign residents have different requirements and also different perks, like lower one way rentals.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 10:02 AM
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Summer is "high season" and they need to keep the rental cars in California, so I'm not surprised that they're asking $700 per week for a one way.

This site, (not valid for U.S. or Canadian drivers license) will probably save you some money and all the insurance that you need is included. They don't require pre-payment and there are no cancellation fees.
Once you have your confirmation number you can check it on the hertz or Avis or Alamo website and see that it is all legit.

Book something now because prices go up as summer approaches. You can always cancel and re-book should prices go down.

www.happytoursusa.com
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 12:47 PM
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I just did an indicative search at AutoEurope, pickup SFO on Aug 1, return DFW Aug 22 mid size SUV was just over $2000 "inclusive rate w/deductible" (so at least some insurance but of course read the fine print as to what is covered and what is the deductible) plus $600 one way drop off fee.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 02:08 PM
  #15  
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Thanks, all, I’ll try some of those agencies. I have a US license, so that might disqualify some of these options.

A car is the only option, as we’ll be driving though Utah, Wyoming, eastern Montana, Mt Rushmore, and across Nebraska in order to drop off a relative’s ashes in Iowa. A journey somewhat like the Alex Payne movie “Nebraska,” although I’m slightly less senile than the Bruce Dern character. So a road trip is the way we want to do it.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 02:25 PM
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If your residence is outside the US take advantage of any agencies that could give you a "foreign" drop off.
Everyone is making a lot of assumptions for you. Do as you say above and start the investigation with agencies who handle "foreign" rentals.

You should have a great trip. Denver seems to be more central to your itinerary. You might look at a loop to that city and then fly elsewhere to the ends--SF or Dallas, I guess depending on son's school? I know the golf and baseball games enter into it also but a little creativity might work well.

Last edited by Gretchen; Jan 21st, 2020 at 02:30 PM.
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Old Jan 21st, 2020, 02:51 PM
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If you don't own a car /have car insurance and your drivers license is U.S. then yes you will have to purchase liability insurance and it is expensive.
Your credit card probably/most likely covers you for the collision insurance however. Do this research on your own because the counter agent at the car rental pickup will be of no assistance.

You might be able to do back to back rentals/ switching cars at some point in your trip. For instance renting a car from San Francisco to Denver and then a different car from Denver to Kansas City can save you about $400.
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Old Feb 13th, 2020, 07:09 AM
  #18  
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Just a quick update on this - I confirmed that the answer to my problem is just to book something, anything well in advance as a backup, then keep checking the rates. My best option in January was around $3800 with Thrifty (for a roughly 18-day rental from Denver to Dallas in July), with the main guys like Hertz and National quoting above $5000. Now, checking back a month later, National is still around $6000 for an SUV, but Hertz is down to $2600, so I grabbed that and it's goodbye to the Thrifty reservation. Things may still go lower in the coming months, but now we are at least in the land of sanity.

So the trick is to book something early for peak season, then keep checking back as the rental companies' "dynamic pricing" kicks in and they find themselves with fewer bookings than they need, and lo a behold, prices come down.
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Old Feb 13th, 2020, 08:29 AM
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Oh, I agree. That is how I handle our car reservations. Sometimes I get the best price if well in advance, other times I end up rebooking multiple times as the price comes down. Pays to be vigilant.
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Old Feb 13th, 2020, 08:48 AM
  #20  
 
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Do you have to have a SUV? I have a Hyundai Santa Fe and it will hold a LOT and even more if there are only 2 passengers.
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