Inexpensive, decent car rental at Seattle-Tacoma Airport?
April 24, 2018 10:13 AM   Subscribe

I have an upcoming June business trip taking me to Olympia WA, flying into Seattle. Would like to have a rental car available for getting to/from the airport and doing some touring of Seattle before departure, but the booking prices for cars at SeaTac run 50-100% higher than what I'm accustomed to at most US airports, except for a company (Fox) that has decidedly mixed reviews. Not sure I can justify the expense vs. taking airport shuttles + cab for local travel. Any advice from frequent and/or recent Seattle travelers?
posted by Creosote to Travel & Transportation around Seattle, WA (16 answers total)
I took a cab off-airport at SeaTac to an Enterprise car rental place about two miles away. Car cost about 1/3 of what it would have on-airport.

Fox is decidedly downmarket but okay in my experience. There can be pretty long lines for the service desk as compared with the mainline rental companies.
posted by killdevil at 10:22 AM on April 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Are you a member of Car2Go? That can’t get you to Olympia but it could cover your Seattle touring needs?
posted by matildaben at 10:24 AM on April 24, 2018

In the past I have taken the free shuttle to a hotel and then arranged an Enterprise rental car be brought to me at my hotel. It was cheaper for me at that location at that time but as always YMMV. Now that we have Uber and Lyft you could possibly get a shuttle to the hotel and then take an Uber or Lyft to an offsite rental car site and make it work for you.
posted by Justin Case at 10:25 AM on April 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

You might look at hopping the light rail into town for $3.50, then getting a car from there so you aren't paying SeaTac prices.
posted by CrystalDave at 10:26 AM on April 24, 2018 [5 favorites]

Be warned that parking in Seattle is going to cost money every time you park.
posted by Wild_Eep at 10:58 AM on April 24, 2018 [1 favorite]

Yeah. I wouldn't bother renting a car for touring Seattle; you'll waste too much time looking for parking.

You can easily take lightrail to downtown, Capitol Hill, the University District, where you will likely want to do most of your sightseeing. And to get further out you can use Car2Go or one of our three bike-share options.
posted by brookeb at 11:06 AM on April 24, 2018 [2 favorites]

For future reference (although a car doesn't sound worth the hassle in this example) always get a shuttle away from the airport and rent at a normal city location if your timescale allows it. Also, Costco members can get killer deals on rental cars (at or not at the airport).
posted by Brockles at 11:11 AM on April 24, 2018

I once rented from the Hertz at the Seatac Marriott and it was cheaper than the airport Hertz. There's a reason for that though - they have fewer cars, reduced hours and if you arrive before your scheduled arrival time - you car most likely won't be ready. Cheaper though and you can take the free Marriott shuttle to hop over there.
posted by rdnnyc at 11:13 AM on April 24, 2018

Join Car2Go when you get to Seattle and use that - it's all inclusive (you don't pay to park on the street; no lot parking)
posted by clseace at 11:17 AM on April 24, 2018

I see there's also Silvercar at SeaTac - it's $69 a day for an Audi A4 most weekdays. The rate goes up on Fridays and the weekends. I've used them in Brooklyn and have been very happy. You can usually find a discount code to apply too.
posted by rdnnyc at 11:29 AM on April 24, 2018

I have rented with Fox at Sea-Tac. The car was good, customer service to rent was great. I returned the car early (on a busy high demand weekend) and was charged a hefty fee.
posted by jennstra at 1:16 PM on April 24, 2018

I travel through Seattle frequently and can share these thoughts..
  • Weekend prices are lower than weekday prices -- often much lower.
  • Off-season prices are lower than summer season prices.
  • For longer rentals, Costco rental rates are sometimes very good but I usually don't find much advantage if only renting for a day or two.
  • I have rented many times from Fox in Seattle, usually without any problem.
  • People are correct that renting from a non-SeaTac location will likely be cheaper (albeit less convenient.) Every rental at SeaTac charges a facilities fee to recoup the cost of building the new rental car center there and has extra taxes as well.
  • Rental car reservations rarely involve pre-payment and can generally be cancelled without penalty, so I would advise locking in the best rate you can find and then searching further. Cancel your lock-in reservation if/when you find something better.

posted by Nerd of the North at 1:27 PM on April 24, 2018

I have rented with Fox at Sea-Tac. The car was good, customer service to rent was great. I returned the car early (on a busy high demand weekend) and was charged a hefty fee.

Literally, the company charges an extra fee if you return a car before the scheduled drop-off time? Not sure I've run into that one before.
posted by Creosote at 2:07 PM on April 24, 2018

You run that early return risk with every normal rental agency out there. Weekend rates often require you to keep the car until at least Sunday morning, for example. So rather than paying $40 for Friday, Saturday, and Sunday on the weekend rate that you booked, you return the car on Saturday night and end up being billed the $30/day daily rate and thus pay extra to return the car early. If you were doing a Friday-Monday rental, on the other hand, you'd not get rerated for returning Sunday, but you likely would pay the same amount (daily taxes/fees aside) either way since it's usually exactly the same price. Same goes for returning a weekly rate car after 5 days. Since the weekly rate is usually 5x the daily, the only way you pay less is if you return it very early.

That said, the big ones will often override the rerate if you call beforehand rather than just showing up or if you are a regular customer at the given location. Also, returning a few hours early on the scheduled day should not cost extra from any reputable rental agency. Always book for the full time you can without increasing your rate. Yeah, maybe you're getting in at 5PM and leaving at 8AM, but if you book it through 5PM on the day of departure, you don't run the risk of paying late charges.

If you work for a large company, you are almost certainly eligible to use their fixed rate contracts. Check your intranet or whatever third party benefits/perks website they contract with. Also, the agency's websites often have deals that further reduce the cost or at least will get you a better car.
posted by wierdo at 4:30 PM on April 24, 2018

car2go is good within the city, but you have to return it to the "home area" in order to end a trip; they do have a day rate if you want to take it into Olympia, but it's unlikely to be cheaper than even an airport car rental.
posted by batter_my_heart at 6:50 PM on April 24, 2018

If you work for a large company, you are almost certainly eligible to use their fixed rate contracts.

Man am I glad you reminded me of this... have access to a travel booking service via the company's travel booking portal (not required for travel, so I hadn't used it in the past), and it turned out that going that route saves about 50% on car rentals at SeaTac for two major companies.
posted by Creosote at 11:59 AM on April 25, 2018

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