West Coast car rental suggestions

Old Jul 31st, 2007, 09:17 PM
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West Coast car rental suggestions

We will be in California in November / December and need some advice about car rental options where the pick-up and drop-off cities are different. We need to pick up a car in LA and return it in SF (we will need the car for 8 or 9 days), after which we fly to Seattle. Then we need to pick up a car in Seattle and return it in SF (this time we will need the car for 7 or 8 days). We have no particular affinity for the big rental agencies, and have no particular car requirements either, other than that the car needs to be roomy enough for two reasonable size adults and our overseas luggage. Oh, another point: part of the first trip will include Yosemite so they have advised us that we will need snow chains but we won't be doing anything other than highway driving.

Thanks in advance!
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Old Jul 31st, 2007, 09:43 PM
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All of the majors have different specials - so I just shop around on-line. But one thing - generally you aren't allowed to put tire chains on rental cars. You may need to spend extra and rent a 4WD car. Except for the worst snow storms, a 4WD w/ or w/o snow tires is all that is needed.

You might need a 4wd for you drive down from Seattle too - especially if you are taking I-5. There are several grades through Oregon and Northern California where you may hit heavy snow.
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Old Aug 1st, 2007, 08:41 AM
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I would get 4WD as well - even for highway driving. janis makes a good point about the route through Oregon and northern California too. My dad makes that drive frequently and in the winter, he often hits snow. Yosemite Valley is only at 4000 ft elevation, but it can definitely snow there too and depending on how you enter the park, you may go over passes that are higher. The roads are plowed often, but if it is snowing on your travel days, you will need 4WD.

I hate driving in snow, so I wish Mother Nature could cut us a break and not snow directly on the highways, but she is so inflexible about some things
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Old Aug 1st, 2007, 04:18 PM
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Friends of our just waited 4 hrs to get a rental car in downtown SF... I think it was Budget... in any case, I'd get a car at an airport for quicker service.
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Old Aug 1st, 2007, 04:58 PM
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Hmmm...chains in November, early December? I wouldn't think so, but I guess I haven't been to Yosemite at that time of year.

Rental car specials don't pop up until about 6 weeks before travel. If wanting to lock something in now, try Alamo.com, you can usually find a discount code to use on airline frequent flier websites....or try Corp Discount #224280.
Check back though,in Oct or November Alamo will have special deals and one-way coupons on their website that will save you some money.

Book a hotel in San Fran with free parking to save $25-$35 per DAY!
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Old Aug 1st, 2007, 06:37 PM
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I'd actually be more concerned about the drive from Seattle south. If there is no snow - great, but if there is, long stretches through Oregon and northern California can be tough. There is only a short bit if the route into YNP where chains/4WD might be needed. But we can get snow in Nov/Dec - and the problem is, you won't know if it is wintry or dry until a few days before you arrive.
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Old Aug 1st, 2007, 06:49 PM
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Typically, the bigger storms in California don't hit until late November. If you could possibly do the trip earlier in November and before the Thanksgiving weekend, things might be a lot less stressful.

Last year, we drove down from Portland to the Bay Area on the weekend after Thanksgiving. We drove through pouring rain, sleet, and snow. It was not fun. Also, the days are so short that you feel cheated when you have to look for a room at 4:30 in the afternoon unless you want to drive at night.

On the other hand, Yosemite can be a joy in early December. We've never had to use four wheel drive or chains driving up CA 140 along the Merced at that time of year. Late December thru early March is a different story. Make sure you have a place to stay with a fireplace nearby.
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Old Aug 1st, 2007, 07:13 PM
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In the last few years, I haven't seen much snow in late November/December in Yosemite. And, even when it did snow, you only really needed to worry about Highway 120. 140 was always clear.

One strategy people employ is to purchase tire chains at a large automotive store, and then return them if you don't use them. Unfortunately, many stores don't allow this anymore, so be careful.
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Old Aug 1st, 2007, 08:33 PM
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And IF you do put the chains on the rental car and something happens - your insurance is void . . . .
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 03:32 AM
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Thanks to everyone for great replies. I had no idea that snow-chains were a no-no for rental cars - we live in Western Australia, so snow does not exist. Good advice, though, especially the part about nullifying your insurance if you use them.

Anyway, responding kind of in order to your replies:

Not sure what route we till take from Seattle southwards but the point is well taken about the possibility of snow up there too. The info about snow in Yosemite in November came from Yosemite staff when we were booking our accommodation - don't know whether it's just part of what they say, or whether the risk is real, but best to be prepared.

On the way up, we will be cutting over to Yosemite from a bit above Monterey, so taking highway 140 to Yosemite (which we have been told is the best all-weather highway with the lowest passes).

As for collecting cars in SF, both cars will be dropped off in SF but neither will be collected there - one will be from LA and one from Seattle. The LA pickup will almost certainly come from the airport unless we have specific reason not to. Not sure what we will do in Seattle.

And as for timing, our dates are set - the LA-Yosemite-SF trip will end just before Thanksgiving, and the Seattle-SF trip will start just after. We will be in SF by the first weekend in December.

Lastly - parking in SF - the rental car goes back as soon as we settle in SF, as we will be able to borrow a car when we need it from a friend and will be staying in a VRBO apartment with parking (I know, very lucky!).

Tracey, thanks for the advice about waiting until a bit closer to the date to book anything - again, we are a long way away, so don't know the ropes.
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 06:20 AM
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You are going to have a wonderful trip and see a beautiful part of the USA. Welcome, and enjoy....
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Old Aug 2nd, 2007, 06:38 AM
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The rules for renting a car are a bit different for non-U.S. citizens as the insurances that you need will differ. You might be best to find an agency in New Zealand that deals with all-inclusive rental packages in the states.
Otherwise, when checking the websites of Hertz, Avis, National and Budget.com, they may ask your citizenship. Sometimes the rates that pull up will include the insurances required and sometimes they will not, so look carefully at the quoted rates and what exactly is included.
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