Car rental for Las Vegas to San Francisco
April 27, 2015 4:39 PM   Subscribe

My partner and I are travelling to the US Southwest from Toronto in early July. We fly into Las Vegas and out from San Francisco. What's the best/most reputable agency for picking up in LV and dropping off in SF 10 days later?

We've never rented a car in the US before and are unfamiliar with rates, decent carriers, etc. A quick scan suggests to me I should expect to pay about $400 or so. I'm also not sure if I should pay now or later (due to the fluid exchange rate of the Canadian dollar).
posted by The Notorious SRD to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total)
We've used both Hertz and Dollar and been happy with both (which is to say, we didn't require anything of them except the car - nothing broke down or anything). I think it was Hertz we used when we picked it up in Vegas and dropped it off in Albequerque ten days later and it was all fine.
posted by rtha at 5:29 PM on April 27, 2015

I like to use Kayak for find good rental car rates. I think any of the airport based rental car agencies would be OK although all fall down some of the time. When you have it narrowed down, you can also check yelp in both cities to see if one agency has a better reputation than the other. I would also see if your airline has a special rate for rental cars (sometime there is promotion for rental cars if you look up your ticket) Usually that is not as good but every once in while it can save a lot.

Make sure you look at total cost - some rental agencies charge a huge additional fee if you drop the car in a different airport or different state, others have no surcharge at all. Also,some charge less if you prepay but then there is a penalty for cancellation. Read the fine print.
posted by metahawk at 5:47 PM on April 27, 2015

I regularly use the American version of Costco Travel for car rental. (Link goes to the Canadian site.) They offer discounts on top of discounts.

Please be aware that July temperatures in between Las Vegas and San Francisco can soar to over 50 degrees. The average temperature in July is 41 degrees, and this looks to be a hotter than average summer. It's like driving in an oven. It will not be a pleasant drive until you get out of the desert areas. For example, although it would be a longer drive, driving into the Los Angeles area and then driving up US Highway 101 or Highway 1 on the Pacific Coast would be a great experience.

Best of luck. Take water and shade. Stay on the main roads.
posted by blob at 5:51 PM on April 27, 2015

Use any of the big agencies. Avis, Hertz Budget, and National are my favorites. Dollar and Thrifty aren't terrible either, but definitely second tier.

Flyertalk has threads for each of them with discount codes. You will not want to pay rack rate on a one way. Some agencies charge a one way fee, others jack the daily rate up much higher. Avis, at least with my company's code, charges the normal rate and no fee, but has limited mileage on out of state one ways.
posted by wierdo at 6:11 PM on April 27, 2015

Admittedly random, but has reliably offered me the lowest prices I've seen on rental cars. No idea why!
posted by samthemander at 6:25 PM on April 27, 2015

I love Enterprise. They do pick you up, and really work on price, quality, and the friendly. Remember, you have to use a credit card inside the airport car rental places, not a debit, other pick up points no worry.

I learned that bit about the credit card late at night, really tired and needing to be somewhere.
posted by Oyéah at 7:42 PM on April 27, 2015

Renting one way tends to be a lot more expensive than returning the car to its origin. One company that has much more reasonable rates for one way rentals is Fox. I wouldn't rate them highly, but it will probably be cheaper than the better known rental companies.
posted by ShooBoo at 9:56 PM on April 27, 2015

Renting one way tends to be a lot more expensive than returning the car to its origin.
It really depends on the route, but it is usually not more than a single plane ticket between the two places, so it still makes sense.
posted by soelo at 7:20 AM on April 28, 2015

My standard advice to car rentals at airports: use Follow all the advice in this thread to look up the best rates that you can find in all places, then go to and submit a bid that is 40-60% lower than your best price. They will show you the total cost before you commit to the rental, so there is no risk. Don't forget to page right on to see the second/third page of offers. Make sure you are comparing totals (taxes, fees, ect) to the other websites, then just choose the one with the best price.
posted by CathyG at 8:07 AM on April 28, 2015

Most rental companies prefers same-place dropoffs (i.e. you return the car to the place you got it from). If you want a one-way you should expect to pay extra, anywhere from $75-150 (or more), on top of any actual rental costs.

With that said, you need to compare prices, and since this is a one-way rental, you can't really use those special car rental rate shoppers.

Furthermore, there are restrictions on which BRANCH (i.e. drop off location) you can use. Despite common branding, not all rental locations are the same. Some are franchises, while others are actually corporate branches. You wont' be able to drop off a corporate car off at a franchise, and vice versa, without incurring even higher fee.

With that said, you should go for the biggest names, like Hertz, Dollar, etc. that would have the most branches and the widest reach. You need to scour the internet for coupon codes that can give you many percentage off. But don't book anything yet until you are sure you're comparing apples to apples.
posted by kschang at 10:02 AM on April 28, 2015

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