Rental Car, 22 year old, Louisiana...complications!
July 31, 2017 6:34 PM   Subscribe

We need to get a one way rental car to get my son and his pregnant gf to Sacramento, CA from Lake Charles, LA. We have credit cards. They have pets. More complications inside.

Son and GF must leave their home in DeRidder, LA, by Sunday. We live in Sacramento, California and have a place to put them here. They have arranged a ride from a friend to Lake Charles, as it seems all the train/bus/car options are there. He has a debit card, a valid drivers license, and a clean driving record, but no car, and no credit card. My husband and I have solid credit and a credit card, and are willing to pay to get them here. We're assuming a 3-4 day drive.

Every rental car place we have called has said either they will require him to have a credit card or they up the price from 500 to more like ~1800 dollars for him to pay with a debit card. My husband has a gold membership with Hertz - if he rented a car for the same time period it would be 500 bucks. I rented a car for a week in Phoenix through Enterprise recently for 350. I get that he is under 25, I get that this is risky for car rental places. But it's a huge delta from 500 to 1800.

I called our credit card company to see about adding him as an authorized user for this trip. They said the first credit card they send him would take 1-2 weeks and would have to be sent via US mail. Son does not have that long in his current living situation. Son has had some hits to his credit and likely wouldn't be approved for a credit card right now.

Anyone know of any rental car places that would work with us on this and not charge a fortune for the car? Alternatively, are there travel agents/agencies that will assist with this sort of small thing without gouging us?

Also - We are willing to look at other travel options, but the following must be taken into account:

1. They are bringing a cat and a mid sized dog. This is not negotiable.
2. Must be as cheap as is humanly possible.

We looked at flights - costly. We looked at trains - the dog may be an issue due to its size. Buses are cheap but don't seem to allow animals. The car, at the time, seemed the cheapest most sensible way.
posted by routergirl to Travel & Transportation around Lake Charles, LA (28 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
you or your hubs could fly there, and drive back with them? not sure about plane ticket costs/cost of missing work.
posted by quiteliterally at 6:42 PM on July 31, 2017 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: We thought about that, but we can't afford to miss work for that time.
posted by routergirl at 6:43 PM on July 31, 2017

What about flying there just to pay for the car and add him as an authorized driver, and then flying straight back? Not ideal, but you would miss less time.
posted by katecholamine at 6:50 PM on July 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Have you tried Uhaul? I think they may be less strict about age than the car companies. They rent vans as well as trucks - and that might actually work out better for transporting pets than a rental car.
posted by mygothlaundry at 7:02 PM on July 31, 2017 [19 favorites]

Sorry, is the increase in price because of the debit card? If so, are you sure that's the final price, or just the amount that they will put on hold on his card? If it's just a hold, you could transfer/Western Union/whatever him some money and then it would get refunded at the end.

Hertz says this:
Q: Can payment be made at one location and the car rented at another? Can another person pay for the Hertz car?
A: At the beginning of the rental, the renter must qualify at the renting location with their own form of payment, valid driver's license, and meet the minimum age requirements. At the end of the rental, if both parties are at the return counter, the second party may place the charges on their charge or debit card.
That's obviously unhelpful if they do raise the price for debit cards.
posted by quadrilaterals at 7:03 PM on July 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

How much luggage do they need? I bet you could get away with a dog and a cat and two humans and a few backpacks on a chinatown bus if you played the cards right, provided the cat fits in a carrier and the dog is medium to small and super chill.

But you can't move an apartment on a bus the way you could with a rented small SUV or whatever. I don't know for sure how to do that route but Chinatown buses are cheap, and go all over the east and west coast and also along east-west routes. (Just spit-balling, sounds tough, good luck!)
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:03 PM on July 31, 2017

Is 1800 the actual rental cost when using a debit card, or just the amount they hold until the car has been returned?
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:04 PM on July 31, 2017 [5 favorites]

If you can't fly out there and drive back, do you have a close family friend who could? Maybe someone who is retired or a teacher who is up for a few days of a cross-country adventure?
posted by Amanda B at 7:05 PM on July 31, 2017

I also think you should ask about the $1800. I rented a car with a debit card and they put a hold, then charged the normal price when I returned the car.

It's weird that your credit card company won't overnight a card. My bank will if I pay some fee ($30 or so).
posted by AFABulous at 7:13 PM on July 31, 2017 [3 favorites]

Can they ask the friend to drive them to the Houston area, instead of Lake Charles? That trip is about 2.5 hours from DeRidder. Plane tickets from Houston to Sacramento are around $450 per person for flights (with one stop) next weekend -- might be a better deal than driving (considering fuel, meals, and lodging costs added to any vehicle rental price), and flying, with that break, might be easier on the pregnant gf.
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:19 PM on July 31, 2017

If it really is $1800, do they have a friend on their end who has a credit card and can drive with them? You can give them the money up front, pay for their flight back, and give them a little extra for their trouble. If I were in my early 20s, I would jump at the chance for a cross country road trip with a buddy.
posted by AFABulous at 7:20 PM on July 31, 2017

What about his girlfriend? Can she use her credit card or co sign for a new one?
posted by halogen at 7:30 PM on July 31, 2017

Are you or your son eligible for USAA, or have any family members served in the US military? If you rent a car through USAA's website (a front end to regular rental agencies), they'll waive the young drive fee. I think, but am not certain, that you'll be able to pay online. Certainly that's the point of Hertz Gold's rent-a-car-without-human-interaction thing they seem to have going on, so maybe you can make that work.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 7:42 PM on July 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Alternatively: what's the cheapest car he could buy that'll get serve him safely for 4 days? $1000 could go a long way! Potentially a bad idea, but if you can flip the car in CA maybe you'd have a bit of a budget to play with?
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 7:44 PM on July 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Yes, 1800 was the cost. I was able to get that place (Enterprise) down to 1600, but its still too much. Nowhere else would rent to a 22 year old with a debit card. He is going to go tomorrow to his bank to see if he can get a credit card. Girlfriend has no credit card. Budget, Alamo and others all say, "Sure, we'll take a debit card....if you are 25+ or if it's a round trip." We offered cash deposits, we tried corporate discount codes. No luck. USAA sounds like a decent lead - he was in the Army. I'll see what I can find there.

Our latest idea is to fly my oldest son out to Louisiana with his credit card, have him rent it, and have him help my middle son drive here. It would still be cheaper than Enterprise.
posted by routergirl at 9:14 PM on July 31, 2017 [1 favorite]

+1 for Uhaul. Though not all locations have the standard truck/cargo van. Most only go down to the 10' one so check for that but you can select your model online to reserve. It may mean taking an Uber or Lyft to a location that has one available. You only have to be 18 to rent a Uhaul.
posted by Crystalinne at 10:04 PM on July 31, 2017

Yes to U-haul. Most rental cars also don't allow pets in the vehicle, and will hit you with big charges for out of state miles and returning the car to a different location. Agree with others above that the $1800 is also likely a deposit that will be refunded.
posted by stillmoving at 11:28 PM on July 31, 2017

Just wanted to double-check that you are using non-airport locations for your pickup and dropoff points. Airport rentals are usually more expensive.
posted by Altomentis at 12:20 AM on August 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Unless they have a lot of stuff that they need to bring, flying seems like the better option. Last minute flights are expensive, but there are many options for booking cheaper flights. It might take some digging.

If your other son will be flying out anyway, plus they will have to pay for lodging along the way, it seems like they could pay less by flying, and I think flights will usually accept animals.
posted by Vispa Teresa at 3:29 AM on August 1, 2017

$1800 seems right for an under-25-year-old driver. It's amazing how much cheaper it is to rent a rental car once you hit 25.

Looks like a 10' UHaul from Lake Charles to Sacramento will be ~1500 (the list price was $1332 when I searched, but that doesn't include insurance) plus gas. They tend not to let you take cargo vans on one-ways.

Seems like flying might be your best bet.
posted by coppermoss at 5:20 AM on August 1, 2017

have you looked at Might be able to negotiate directly with an owner - [eta sorry I forgot we're talking about a one way, that wouldn't work, sorry!]
posted by fingersandtoes at 7:22 AM on August 1, 2017

Southwest one-way HOU to SMF is $424 each. $95 per pet but they have to fit in a carrier under the seat. For the dog you may need to find a dedicated pet shipper. (Military discounts may be available.)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 8:04 AM on August 1, 2017

Check your MeMail
posted by polly_dactyl at 8:08 AM on August 1, 2017

I just ran some actual data through USAA, and a 22 year old taking a car from Lake Charles to Sacramento from Saturday to Wednesday can get an SUV for just over $600 when paid online ahead of time. Smaller cars get you under $600, insurance is extra, and until the final screen everyone lets you think the rental's gonna be closer to $400.

Budget, for example, says the credit card needs to be presented at during pickup. I'll leave that as an exercise to the reader, but will mention that I would fully expect USAA to both approve and then overnight a credit card for your son. They like to take care of you and are set up to serve the needs of service members, especially those who are younger and not always financially stable.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 8:56 AM on August 1, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think part of the issue is the fact that it's a one way rental. When I've looked into doing that before, the cost has been much higher than a normal rental.
posted by TurquoiseZebra at 9:04 AM on August 1, 2017 [2 favorites]

Best answer: If he has sufficient cash available to pay for the rental plus a deposit on his debit card (assuming it is tied to a bank and is not a prepaid debit card), he should be able to rent a car, assuming he has even marginal credit. They will hold somewhere between the cost of the rental and the cost of the rent a plus $500. Most of the companies have the individual location's debit card policy on their website if you use the locator to view an individual store.

Corporate discount codes can significantly reduce the cost of a trip like this, as can some affinity programs. AAA members have the under 21 fee waived with at least one of the rental companies, for example. Others might waive drop fees on one ways. With Hertz, the price goes up so much because they charge a higher daily rate with no drop fee, while other agencies do it the other way around.

Also, if you have an Amex account, check with them about expediting a card. They've express shipped replacement cards to me when I've asked in the past. Maybe they wouldn't for a new authorized user, but it could be worth a shot if you don't think he can rent a car otherwise.
posted by wierdo at 7:03 PM on August 1, 2017

I presume this is its own hassle, but what about buying a car for the trip and selling it on the other end?
posted by spindrifter at 11:21 AM on August 2, 2017

Response by poster: So ultimately I applied and received an expedited Amex card. Genius! My son was able to rent a car. Now we are letting them use the card here for urgent needs so we can track what they owe us once my son gets back to work (and yell at him about the charges, like, "dude, Ihop breakfast is not a necessity"). Also, huge shout out to the mefi member who reached out to me privately.
posted by routergirl at 12:53 PM on August 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

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