Is driving a rental car one way from Montreal to the USA a good idea?
July 18, 2016 6:35 PM   Subscribe

Traveling to Canada via ship from New York one way in early October, and need to get home again after a stop in Nova Scotia and then spending a few days in Montreal. There will be 4 of us, including my elderly dad, who for some reason is set on driving back to Philly.

I think we should fly, though we might have quite a bit of luggage from our cruise. A brief question posed to the great oracle Google suggests that rental companies charge big premiums for border crossings, and there is also the issue of a more expensive one-way trip. Anyone have experience crossing the border in a rental? Any tips to help us decide on the best way to travel in this situation? Thanks MeFites!
posted by citygirl to Travel & Transportation around Montreal, QC (11 answers total)
The border crossing itself won't be difficult but the one way trip will be either really expensive, or impossible, depending on who you rent from. Look at prices and make your determination from there.
posted by ryanbryan at 6:53 PM on July 18, 2016

The first thing that occurred to me was Amtrak's Montrealer line, and I got curious enough to look up fares for October 1 as a ballpark estimate. The total one-way cost from Montreal to Philly for three adults and one senior starts at $277 for their "value" fare, which doesn't seem bad at all. (The trade off being a very long day of travel, including switching trains at Penn station.)
posted by usonian at 6:59 PM on July 18, 2016 [2 favorites]

Can you flip the Montreal visit with the Nova Scotia trip? If so, you might be able to take The Cat back into the US and then pick up a much cheaper rental when you arrive in Portland, ME.
posted by yellowcandy at 7:29 PM on July 18, 2016 [3 favorites]

So I plugged in some early October dates for Hertz and Enterprise from Montreal to Philly, and got nothing but "we have no cars on those dates" from both. Tried other dates; no cars on ANY dates, apparently. Which tells me they will not do a one-way international rental. If you find a rental company that will do it, I'm betting it will cost more than taking the train or even flying. Tell your dad it's a no-go.
posted by rtha at 7:45 PM on July 18, 2016

If I remember correctly, you guys can bus it down to Burlington VT from Montreal (about two hours) and rent a car from the Burlington Airport if he's really hellbent on this. The train is a nice alternative since it has wifi and outlets and (sort of) food. I do not think you can actually do a one-way cross-border rental with any ease at all. I like yellowcandy's idea.
posted by jessamyn at 8:56 PM on July 18, 2016 [1 favorite]

I did it one way, US to Quebec City for a cruise and it worked out fine for us, it wan't cheap but it was cheaper than flying. (it was 2014)
There aren't a lot of rental places that you could do one way with Canada so you'll have to call around.
posted by beccaj at 9:43 PM on July 18, 2016

To second Jessamyn I recently took the bus from Burlington Airport to Montreal and was riding along with some people from Sheffield in the UK who had flown into Boston and driven around New England and then were hiring another car in Montreal to drive out to Toronto until they flew back to the UK from Toronto. They said that while it was possible to rent a car for the whole journey it was super expensive and they saved over £500 by simply taking the bus for 2 hours. The bus is a bit late and nothing special, but it is cheap and would be for only 2 hours or so.
posted by koolkat at 3:38 AM on July 19, 2016

Call around to ask. As someone stated above, not all rental companies will let you do this. When I moved from Atlanta to Quebec in 2009, the rental company would not let us drive the whole way. We had to return the car in New Hampshire and ask a friend from Quebec to come get us the rest of the way.
posted by Kitteh at 7:24 AM on July 19, 2016

You might get lucky if you can find a rental agency that has a car that needs to be returned to the US. We did this when we flew into Seattle drive to San Francisco. This was many years ago and we used a travel agent to book the trip and hotels.
posted by tman99 at 1:44 PM on July 19, 2016

Response by poster: The driving option is sounding more and more like a Bad Idea, as well as an Expensive Idea. The train actually would appeal to my dad, whose own dad worked his entire life for the railroad from the age of 14, I think (first the B & O, and later the Reading Railroad. Sounds like Monopoly, doesn't it?) Larger amounts of luggage would not be a problem, and it sounds like fun. Thank you all for your suggestions!
posted by citygirl at 7:46 PM on July 19, 2016 [2 favorites]

I found one way rental cars using Travelocity. It's no problem crossing the border but it's expensive. The train takes forever but it's lovely. For four people it's not obvious to me whether the train or a one way, one day rental would be cheaper, or more convenient. I could see it going either way.

For absolute cheapest you could switch from Amtrak to commuter trains in NYC (the Amtrak Adirondack between NYC and Montreal is cheap, but the Northeast corridor lines are not). NJTransit and SEPTA will get you to Philly cheaper but slower, and you'd have to change trains in NYC anyway.

Have fun!
posted by Salamandrous at 12:16 PM on July 20, 2016

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