Why is a car rental in Alaska so expensive?

Old Jan 23rd, 2001, 11:31 AM
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Why is a car rental in Alaska so expensive?

I know it is too early to reserve a car in Alaska for July but I need to figure out our budget and after doing research on the internet and then calling all rental agency I am still in shock. For two weeks in July mid-size four door will cost us around US $850 without any insurance and taxes. Am I doing something wrong? We traveled all other the US and Europe and never paid so much for two weeks. We were in Alska six years ago and paid for a large car for two full weeks under $500.00 Did things change so much? Did Alaska became a very expensive destination? What is your experience if you traveled there recently? The same with hotels in Anchorage. We tried to reserve a hotel near the airport for one night before our early flight home and all hotels in that area are around $165.00 We are not poor or cheap but all we need is a clean room and private bathroom for one night so we don't feel like paying this much. But do we have any other option?
Old Jan 23rd, 2001, 01:11 PM
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Three years ago we started to plan a trip to Alaska and gave up, mainly because the planning for independent travel was so difficult, but also because the prices seemed so outrageous. This year we are biting the bullet and doing it, even though the prices have drastically increased even more. I guess they have such a short season, and the whole state is so geared towards cruise and tour packages, that those of us who travel independently get stuck with much of the bill. And even the hotels that we are willing to splurge the $200 or $300 a night for were fully booked for July when I tried to book this past October, blocked out by cruise lines and tour groups, no doubt.
We are paying roughly double the price we would expect to pay for what look the same sort of hotels in the lower 48--especially if in out of the way places. I am prepared to find the same thing true of food and other costs.
I'm not really complaining, just stating the way it seems to be. Fortunately we are driving, so don't need to worry about the rental car situation.
Old Jan 23rd, 2001, 01:33 PM
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You describe exactly my planning experience. Hotels and cars were expensive. We took a trip a couple of summers ago. Here is how we worked it out.

I checked many places to try to get a cheap rate for the rental car (in advance). Airports, Anchorage, smaller cities, Fairbanks, national rental agencies, local agencies, car dealers, etc.. asking others on newsgroups. No real answers, except the rates are much lower if you reserve at the last minute or walk in - which I didn't want to risk. The lowest was $50 per day, with restrictions. Along the way I heard several times to rent an RV instead. At first I blew off that advice, as I don't consider myself an RV type and also believed that I could find a rental car for $150-250 per week. But, eventually this RV thing kept coming up - as the way to see Alaska.

At the same time, we tried to make reservations in advance all around the state. Anchorage, near Denali, Kenai area, Tok, Haines (long drive), etc.. Found similar theme: rooms were expensive; the places didn't look like much on the outside; there aren't many national chains around to make reservations, so finding places was not always easy, and we heard some stories from AK travellers who didn't make reservations, had to stop at the first available place, paid $100 for a dirty room... Didn't want the same experience.

In the end we never solved the car rental problem (i.e, find a reasonable mid-size) and we didn't get cheap rooms in Anchorage - but we did end up renting an RV, loving every minute of it and did not stress over where to stay. I used some Marriott points to stay in the Fairfield Inn on both ends (arrival and departure). Even though their reservation system didn't allow us to use the free-night stays, I called the hotel directly and made the res. through them. They took the certificates. Moral of the story-don't book free rooms with the central reservation / guest relations.

I heard over and over that the reason why lodging is expensive is that Alaska has only a 3-4 month season... and the rates are much, much cheaper off season or as a walk in.

Have a blast!
Old Jan 24th, 2001, 02:13 PM
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Alaska has always been expensive since the early 1970s and before when I worked there. Some of the other responses are correct...the tourist season is essentially May through September. Cruise lines book hundreds of rooms for add on land tours - and some of those people stay over longer to explore the state on their own. Gas and groceries and hotel rooms will be expensive. National chains of one kind or another will be available in Anchorage - a city of 250,000+ and half the state's population. So, after Anchorage and after the cruise people get done, supply is limited in many areas of need. My only suggestion is to use whatever discounts you have available, i.e.- AAA, AARP, Corp. discounts, etc.

Just this morning, I made car rental reservations with Hertz in Anchorage for 3 days for a full size car in June. Cost was nearly $200 with a discount applied.

There are some hotels around the airport such as a Best Western which will be "okay" - whatever that means - but will still be $100/night or more. Several of the "nice" hotels in downtown Anchorage already have limited availability for June and July travel.

This probably isn't what you want to hear, but it's the truth.
Old Jan 25th, 2001, 08:05 AM
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Mary, we were in Alaska last Aug/Sept. I started making reservations in Feb, and had no problems, of coarse rooms were in the 90-120 range,which is not bad considering that the season is so short. We stayed at the Micro-tel at the airport, no reservations, they had a special of a suite for $90.00 a night.
We were in Alaska for 3 weeks, did not expect perfect rooms all the time and most of the places do cater to hunter and fisherman and they do like to take their gear in their rooms, mud and all.
My husband does the same thing so maybe I am used to it.
We had a midsize car for 3 weeks, unlimited mileage, with insurance it cost us close to $1300.00, we did not think that this was bad.
If you have any questions be sure and email me.
Old Jan 26th, 2001, 06:10 AM
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Using our USAA discount (almost always better than our AAA or other memberships), we got an Intermediate for $199/week for upcoming late July. I checked two weeks earlier in July and the price was much higher, so just timing.
Old Jan 28th, 2001, 03:22 PM
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I have booked the rooms, cars, tours, etc for our family and friends for August through an excellent agent in Alaska. Go to "Talkeetna/Denali Visitor Center & Talkeetna Aero Services, Inc." <[email protected]> I set the limits of what we'd pay and they've found out of the way B & B's for us, our car, and lots of other little deals. Ask for Geri. And tell her Patty sent you!
Old Jan 30th, 2001, 07:42 AM
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I found out very quickly that in order to get the GREAT rates, you need to go with bed and breakfasts -- We are going in the shoulder season of late May and are paying about $90 for a room with a private bath (breakfast included) -- I can give you some names if you want --
Old Sep 12th, 2003, 11:36 PM
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This topic too needs to be revisited prior to the 2004 season.

The state of Alaska has added another 10% tax on the car retnal industry. This is a symptom of state overspending, and then attempting to reconcile through TAKING your money.

Of course, this is not limited to governments. I recently heard of an insurance company that took a beating on the stock market. And, to fix their financial blunders, they raised some rates in excess of 30%.

People, while some of these things are not really travel related, the effect certainly is. It is played out against your vacation budget. And, at some point we just have to say, "No more."

No more will I pay a rental fee to finance a ball field. No more will I pay a toll on a road that was purchased 20 years ago. No more will I spend $65.00 for a $50.00 value in whitewater adventure.

The only people making money in the tourism industry lately are either the large operators who get to magically escape the system, or, the system itself.

Pity the individual who believes that he/she can offer something affordable to the traveling public when there are so many interests dipping into their pie.

We need to stop this. We need to hold insurers and politicians accountable and let them know that the small businesses are not their prey. When they quit "overcharging" us, we quit "overcharging" you.

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Old Sep 15th, 2003, 06:39 AM
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We got a full size (Intrepid) for $199.00/week in early August through Orbitz. Came to about $500.00 total for 15 days with taxes. Was about half of everyone else for some reason. Worked out great though. As Wanda suggested, look at the Microtel near the airport. For about $100.00/night you get clean comfortable new rooms with continental breakfast. Try places like the Alaska Saltwater in Seward or the Bayview in Homer. Both a bit off the beaten track, but great views and decent rooms for a relative bargain compared to the big name places. By going to Westmark website we got the Sourdough Cabins outside Denali for $99.00. B & B's are the other option. Look around and you can still travel somewhat reasonable.
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Old Sep 15th, 2003, 07:20 AM
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Akvsinet, while I share your sentiments, the problems you're descibing are not limited to Alaska. I recently rented a car in Providence RI and the taxes added on were 41% of the base charge.
The health insurance premiums we pay for our employees were raised 24% this year, 15% last year, 12% the year before.
Our business' insurance rates went up a whopping 94% this year.
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Old Sep 16th, 2003, 07:38 AM
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41% in rental taxes! Wow! If ever there was a time to break out the curse words in this forum, this would be it! WOW!

This is so my point of contention lately. That our ELECTED politicians are making us the tax gatherers for their financial blunders.

As for your insurance going up 94%, I defer back to my comment regarding one insurer blatantly admitting that they raised their rates as a result of losing monies in the stock market.

It is getting really tiresome to watch the victimization of small businesses to finance the ineptitude of politicians and insurance companies.

And yes, I realize it is not an Alaskan issue.....which is why I was interested in seeing it rerunning here on the forum. We, the people, need to start letting "they" know that we are growing tired and poor...and a bit irritable.

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Old Sep 16th, 2003, 08:01 AM
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Like DaveS, we were able to get a much better deal on Hotwire. This past July we needed a minivan for a week in Anchorage. Travelocity, Expedia, and the various car rental Web sites didn't have anything under $500/wk. We tried Hotwire and got a minivan from Hertz for $320/wk.

Don't know about the Microtel in Anchorage, but the one in Eagle River (a few miles up the road from Anchorage) just opened up this summer. We paid about $105/night for rooms there in July. As you'd expect in a new hotel, the rooms were very clean. Only drawback was no air conditioning, although they did have a few small fans to lend out. So if you wouldn't mind a short drive before your early-morning flight, the Microtel in Eagle River wouldn't be a bad choice.
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