Please sign in to post.

Car rental blues (U.S. southwest)

Fully vaccinated Canadians here hoping to do a week-long road trip in October. Hoping to fly to/pick up car in Albuquerque, Las Vegas, Phoenix or other cities in the region.
We are aware of the current rental car shortage. Any hacks you might suggest? Many thanks.

Edit 4:30pm:
Thanks for all the feedback, folks! Much useful info. Now that we've looked at the exchange rate* and flight sales to Central Canada, October may look different. I will bookmark this for 2022. Happy travels and stay safe!

*very much to your advantage, U.S.A.; come on up and visit!

Posted by
2112 posts

If you find a rental pre-pay. They cannot give away your car then or jack up the price last minute.

Posted by
6758 posts

The shortage will only be corrected with time as the fleets are replenished (not going to happen very soon). Otherwise, there is outsized demand meeting an undersupply = really high prices. This is also true of cars for sale, including new and used cars (inventories are super low).

I would be very weary of pre-paying the full cost unless you have a lot of confidence that your flight won't be rescheduled or late, or you're willing to take the risk. The car companies give at least 2-4 hours leeway for showing up late, but they will give away your car after that - the contract terms are not infinitely generous.

I traveled to CA (through LAX Airport) this May and there were literally 2 cars left to choose from in the class I reserved in Alamo's fleet. I was lucky to get one of them. It turned out to be one of the nicest, newest cars I rented though - I was really lucky. But it was the most I've ever paid for a rental. Usually I can get a nice mid-sized car for $20-$30 USD per day (inclusive of all fees/taxes), and instead I paid around $50 USD per day. Now the rates are between $70 and $90 USD for December rentals (I just checked).

Posted by
686 posts

If you have a Costco account, I've found they have the best prices and deals. We have a trip to NY state scheduled and haven't had trouble getting a car but prices are higher this year.

Albuquerque could be an issue if its the first week of Oct - the Annual Balloon Fiesta is 2-10 Oct. Oct is a great time to visit NM. My favorite time of the year living here. Cool/cold evenings and mostly pleasant sunny days.

Posted by
3250 posts

I'm really having trouble with domestic travel this year: canceled flights, drastic time changes, then changing the car rental for the new flight time incurs a tripling of cost. It's a mess DON'T TRAVEL DOMESTICALLY BY AIR THIS YEAR!! Drive if you want to go somewhere.

Maybe a nonstop from Vancouver to your destination will avoid the domestic US airline mess right now. Vancouver to the southwest isn't such a bad drive, just a long day.

Not directly related but an Enterprise location I plan to use in August is no longer taking any reservations-- no vehicles are available. For a time they were offering 2 seater delivery vans but I guess those are all taken now, too.

Posted by
645 posts

Try Enterprise, local in the town you’re visiting rather than the airport. Book immediately, prices go up all the time. Then call the Enterprise location and make friends, so they know you will not cancel. No need to prepay, confirm again a few days before your reservation. It’s worked for me a number of times.

Posted by
9835 posts

Enterprise was a good choice for us in Omaha this week. Still crazy expensive but almost half the price of Hertz.

Posted by
124 posts

I would look into Turo or even Ford dealerships and Hyundai dealerships as some of them do rentals.

Posted by
3559 posts

You might not be considering Tucson to be a city "in the region," but here's a link to the car rental agencies at the Tucson International Airport: https://www.flytucson.com/transportation/car-rental/

The Tucson Airport is quite small and easy to get around.

Alaska Airlines has non-stop flights from Seattle, if that would be any help.

And the closest Costco to the airport is about a 12 minute drive.

Posted by
2847 posts

Prepare to pay a fortune. 5 days picking up and returning to same airport was more than $200/day for Jeep. My husband said he forgot to figure in the taxes. That car rental cost more than the principal and interest on our house in Bham.

Posted by
3250 posts

Alaska Airlines has non-stop flights from Seattle,

Maybe it will fly; maybe it will get canceled. All bets are off this year, can’t count on anything.

Posted by
680 posts

Might also consider renting a camper van. You don't need to camp in it but, depending on the agency, they are often let out for point-to-point trips. Not everyone knows about them as a source of vehicles. Not cheap but nothing will be.

Posted by
7641 posts

If you have a Costco account, I've found they have the best prices and deals.

I found, in June, in Texas, that was not the case It is rare that Costco does not have the lowest price, but I know from experience it is not true 100% of the time. Be sure to shop the brands Costco does not include.

The 'pre-pay' does save some $$ but CAREFULLY read the cancellation/refund policy. Each company has its own quirks.

Any hacks you might suggest

Get a car reserved now at the best cancellable you can find

Then keep checking rates at least 3 times a week. For my trip I shaved the per day cost from $80 down to $50. Over a 5 week period I changed reservations at least 6 times. Some time it was a different company and other times it was a better rate at the same company.

Happy hunting!

Posted by
12387 posts

If you are willing to drive a bit farther, I found a Hertz rental for 8 days in October (5th through the 12th) in Santa Rosa CA for $410 a week, total $455, for a small sedan (/Ford Focus or similar). You can fly to Santa Rosa from Seattle on Alaska (and in spite of what Tom_MN says, Alaska’s planes do fly——we have flown 3 trips on them this spring and summer without any cancellations or major schedule changes.)

I realize it would mean a lot of extra driving to get to Arizona, but if there are good deals there, maybe you can find them elsewhere as well.

Edit: Flagstaff isn’t too bad, $608 total for the same time period. That is still $400 less than the Las Vegas price. But Flagstaff can be expensive to fly into and usually requires a plane change somewhere, so check on flights before you book a car there.

Posted by
7641 posts

Vancouver to the southwest isn't such a bad drive, just a long day.

Vancouver to Las Vegas is ~1300 miles ( the closest of the mentioned destinations). By the time you add in 2 gas stops, making it in a day ( 24 hrs) is truly challenging.

"just a long day" --- that has to be the understatement of the week, if not the month.

Posted by
8449 posts

I post a lot on Trip Advisor and there is a 17-page long 3-year old thread on huge woes with Turo rentals so if you go this route make sure you go in with your eyes open. You can start on the last page for recent posts or click to change the sorting with new posts first.

https://www.tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g1-i12567-k11686240-Any_reviews_for_Turo_com_Car_Rental-Road_Trips.html

If you aren’t familiar with this platform it’s kind of Air B&B for cars.

I have not used them so no personal experience.

As far as rentals....I’ve seen recent TA posts with people saying they’ve had no trouble with last minute rentals from Salt Lake City. That puts you a day’s drive from Phoenix but it might be doable.

Posted by
12387 posts

“Vancouver to the Southwest isn’t such a bad drive. . .” Maybe he was looking at starting in Vancouver, Washington? That would shave off a couple hundred miles, but it is still a very long drive to Arizona/Utah.

Posted by
3559 posts

I was surprised at the "just a long day" comment, too. We've taken just about every route possible between Tucson and Seattle over the years.

There's no safe way to do it in one day. Especially in October, which is when we normally return from Seattle. We've encountered rain, snow, accidents that totally blocked the highway, you name it.

Even taking the shortest route, it takes us at least the better part of 4 days and 3 nights. There's no route that doesn't include high elevations and mountain roads. And of course the days are shorter.

As for Alaska Airlines, they are now sending me teaser emails, so I suspect they are really flying.

Posted by
3250 posts

My frame of reference is a wedding next month in Poughkeepsie, about 1100 miles (a long day’s drive).

American canceled the nonstops to LaGuardia so now connecting, getting up at 4 am, will be a 12 hour journey, would probably have preferred just to drive it knowing all the hassles and the high rental car fee.

October wedding in Virginia: Delta canceled all the Richmond nonstops, now via Atlanta.

Posted by
1804 posts

If you find a rental pre-pay. They cannot give away your car then or jack up the price last minute.

Wow, I hope you don't believe that is true. How can they rent you a car if there are no cars on the lot?

Posted by
7641 posts

about 1100 miles (a long day’s drive).......... getting up at 4 am, will be a 12 hour journey,

My calculator tells me you plan to average 96 MPH ( 155kph) That gives you two 15 minute gas stops on the way.

I always thought the 'invisible' Aston Martin Vanquish V12 was done with movie magic. I did not realize there is a production model on the market with the 'invisibility ' option.

Posted by
3559 posts

We only go to Seattle, but we have gone that shortest route through Boise and Twin Falls and down the east side of Nevada on more than one occasion. Hwy 93 and 318 are not interstates and driving 75 mph is unlikely, but they are decent roads. Hwy 93 comes into I15 north of Las Vegas. Just the bit between Twin Falls and Las Vegas is about 500 miles.

Posted by
3166 posts

@ Tom
We flew, on Alaska, SFO/ PDX, in May; and we get regular promotions from them. Of course, if the Delta variant causes a surge, all bets are off; but I don’t think anyone needs to worry otherwise. As for your comment about Vancouver to being just a long day’s drive, surely you jest. Portland to SanFrancisco is a long day’s drive (10 hours?). Done it many times, always in 2 days. Add 4 hours for Vancouver to Portland. SF to LA, 6 more hours, then several hours to get to whichever southwestern destination.

Posted by
12387 posts

Thanks for coming back and posting your thoughts, Val. I agree that waiting til 2022 for your Southwest trip makes sense; it will be a better (and less expensive) trip for you.

We are heading to Albuquerque in October ourselves, and when I priced flights and rental cars, the car alone would have been $1500 for a week! So we are driving from Seattle, but making a nice journey of it. We will stop en route to visit (and stay with) friends and family members on the way, and hike in Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks as well as Bryce and other national parks in Utah (but not Zion---it has become one of the most crowded parks). We will be on the road for 5 weeks.

And we would love to head north and visit British Columbia in September if the border really does open up. We had such a lovely trip up the Sunshine Coast, and back south on Vancouver Island, a few years ago. I have been wanting to return, especially to Tofino, ever since.

Posted by
3250 posts

I see the trip is off, but some misinformation posted above.

Vancouver BC to Sulphurdale UT (a couple hours from Bryce Canyon) is 1150 miles or 17 hours. A long drive but doable with 2 drivers in a day.

I just drove back from Texas, 1100 miles, in about 16 hours with stops.

For the non-coastal American, a 16 hour drive in one day is not uncommon.