One-way auto rental.
June 30, 2005 1:11 PM   Subscribe

My wife and I are planning to fly into Seattle and drive down the coast of Oregon and California to San Francisco. We want to rent a car one-way, but the prices seem horrific. Are there any tips or alternatives?
posted by malaprohibita to Travel & Transportation (19 answers total)
Try going the other way if possible:
SJC to SEA turns up between $300-$350 on expedia.
SEA to SJC(same dates) is $700-$750.

Also, if you are planning on staying in hotels the entire trip, you might look into an RV rental. They can be pricey, but you might make up the cost since you'll have a place to sleep.
posted by madajb at 1:25 PM on June 30, 2005

About 2 years ago, I got a very, very good rate from Avis by renting the car at a small airport (Redmond, OR) and returning it to a larger airport (Portland) a week or so later. You might try something like that.
Also, try calling the rental places instead of just believing the online prices.
posted by willpie at 1:27 PM on June 30, 2005

The Coast Starlight (Amtrak) is nice... but useless if you're really attached to the car idea, of course.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 1:32 PM on June 30, 2005

I sometimes see requests under craigslist > rideshares for one-way car "shipping" drivers. Alternately, you could offer your services on craigslist.
posted by glibhamdreck at 1:33 PM on June 30, 2005

Weird. I am doing the same thing next week.
posted by Nothing at 1:52 PM on June 30, 2005

This site has good deals on rental cars. (It's targeted to Disney visitors, but just ignore that.)

As for the one way thing, your best bet (if you have the conscience for it) is to lie. Tell them it's round-trip, but drop off in your destination city. Just tell them something came up and you had to cut your trip short. Yeah, it's unethical, but it works. I have a friend who does it a lot to avoide the extra costs.
posted by mudpuppie at 2:10 PM on June 30, 2005

The Coast Starlight always sounded beautiful to me too, although I imagine it's a similar cost to renting a car. Other than a bus, I don't think public transportation is going to help you. Call the car rentals and talk to someone in person, then just keep asking them about different options until you get a good deal.
posted by slimslowslider at 2:12 PM on June 30, 2005

The starlight runs any where from 2 /6 hour late on good days
no smoking, anywhere on board, so if you smoke, it's the late, hell train.
posted by hortense at 2:12 PM on June 30, 2005

I'm doing the opposite trip next week- San Fran to Portland. I'll wave when I see you go buy!
posted by gus at 2:16 PM on June 30, 2005

Sort of in keeping with my initial comment, you might see if you could rent a car at the Port Angeles airport and return it at SFO or SJC. If memory serves, there's a ferry from Seattle to PA (a lovely ferry ride, at that), which might make it a little easier than, say, Bellingham.
posted by willpie at 2:17 PM on June 30, 2005

If you just take the car one way, the rental company could invoice you for shipping the car back. And charge you for days the car was not rentable due to transportation. Or refuse to accept it at all. Only do this if you feel lucky.
posted by grouse at 2:20 PM on June 30, 2005

What is "horrific"? At they are quoting $41 (compact) - $47 (full size) per day to rent at Sea-Tac and return at SFO.
posted by modofo at 2:38 PM on June 30, 2005

This company worked for me, once. If I recall it right, I paid just the gas. Look under available cars.
posted by ouke at 2:41 PM on June 30, 2005

Did the drive in the opposite direction a few years ago (LA to Seattle). Loved it. You're gonna have fun.

With regards to a rental car, try the phone, it's frequently easier, and if it's not cheaper the agent on the other end can usually tell you whether or not the same (or better) deal can be had through their website.

When I did the trip in 2002 I rented a Nissan Altima for around $38 a day, unlimited miles. Can't imagine getting much cheaper than than the $35-45 range.

One last time -- make the detour out to Crater Lake in Oregon. It's a ways off the coast, but worth the trip!
posted by herc at 2:47 PM on June 30, 2005

That'll be a gorgeous trip. If the one-way rental idea is untenable, you might consider just starting and ending in Seattle (hitting different places on the way up than on the way down), then flying to SF if that's where you need to end up. The best part of the trip is the Oregon Coast, anyway -- although the Northern CA part of the trip is nice, too, it just can't compare to Cannon Beach and the like.

Also, the 3-hour drive from Seattle to Oregon (5-6 hours in traffic) is nothing great, so if you could start/end in Portland you'd save yourself some hassle. If you've gotta start in Seattle you could take the train to Portland and rent from there.
posted by gurple at 3:26 PM on June 30, 2005

Can the Green Tortoise be part of your plans?
posted by Rumple at 3:51 PM on June 30, 2005

I'd have to agree with gurple about the Seattle/Portland leg (although it's 180 miles and pretty fast traveling once you get out of SeaTac airport). If it's at all possible, consider taking Amtrak from Seattle to Portland.
Portland rates are generally much less expensive than Seattle. Not a bad ride for that amount of time, and Portland is only about 80 miles from Astoria, which is really where the trip takes off and goes pretty anyway.

The dot com travel companies are surprisingly good for finding deals on cars too, especially orbitz for cars. I have had better luck with orbitz on one-way rentals than any call arounds.

When you get to central Oregon between Lincoln City and Newport, be sure and turn off at Cape Foulweather to see the amazing view. Also, pull over in Depot Bay just to see if you can find a whale (the one with dorsal fins, not the one from North Dakota).
posted by DeepFriedTwinkies at 6:58 PM on June 30, 2005

In my experience Avis consistently has the best one way rentals (something I do on a regular basis)--I second the recommendations to try some of the smaller airports or reverse the direction--best rates are invariably found on the internet--have a good trip and good luck
posted by rmhsinc at 7:18 PM on June 30, 2005

Thanks to everyone, especially for the Coastal Starlight idea. The one way trip for both my wife and myself was only $50!!! When I factored in the extra days I wouldn't need a car in Portland, the rental cost for the remainder of the trip was significantly (i.e. hundreds of dollars) less. I knew this was the place to go, and I never would have considered the train without you guys. Thanks!
posted by malaprohibita at 8:39 AM on July 1, 2005

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