Manual shift car rental in/around Seattle area
July 8, 2019 3:50 PM   Subscribe

I have a friend looking to brush up his manual shift skills before a trip to Europe, in the event he is not able to rent an automatic cheaply or easily. Are there any Seattle-area rental shops that have stick-shift cars available for rent?

It is unlikely that big-chain outlets (Hertz, Avis, etc.) have anything but automatics. Another option is to call local rental shops directly, but I am asking in case anyone has specific knowledge of what might be available, to save this person time and effort. Thanks!
posted by They sucked his brains out! to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
A friend of mine just went through this quest. Turo is the answer. Almost no corporate agency rents MTs anymore in the US, not even high performance cars. You might find a Miata-renting agency in Seattle is the only possibility.

Turo is like AirBnB for cars, with all the attendant negative aspects as well. But maybe look for a cheap and basic MT car on there and not someone’s high performance baby. Anyone who rents out an MT surely expects abuse, but practicing on something durable and basic probably trumps even the risk, insured or not, of toasting a $2500 (or more) clutch in a BMW.
posted by spitbull at 4:06 PM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Also these guys are reputed to rent Miatas and other performance cars in Seattle and just may have an MT on the lot.
posted by spitbull at 4:10 PM on July 8, 2019

Your friend may want to get some quotes for renting an automatic in their European destination before going down that route. I wouldn’t expect a significant cost differential if they add the cost of both. And driving their rental in Europe will be different from driving whatever they can get their hands on. In every car I have ever driven the clutch has a somewhat different bite point for starters. And especially at popular destinations for American tourists they seem to maintain quite an inventory in automatic cars. I’ve been offered one multiple times after booking a manual at London Heathrow airport over the last few years.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:35 PM on July 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

Concur. Any country that sees a substantial number of American tourists will have automatics for hire. My wife and I went to Ireland several years ago and had no difficulty getting one.
posted by kindall at 10:47 PM on July 8, 2019

Get quotes, for sure, to see if this is necessary, and it depends where you're going, but my own experience has been the opposite of koahiatamadl and kindall - I did eventually find a place that would rent me an auto to drive around Brittany, but the big international chain I first contacted did not have one closer than CDG airport (428km/ 266 miles away). You will also likely save a lot of money renting a manual transmission vehicle vs an auto in Europe.
posted by Cheese Monster at 2:04 AM on July 9, 2019

I have rented an automatic in a part of Yorkshire that has possibly never seen an American tourist. They weren't sure they had one , asked if we could drive a manual and then realised they did, saying "Oh, that's why they delivered that white car earlier this week." The price difference was something like £7/day, which will add up quickly if you need a car for more than a few days--my mom just booked a rental car at the Manchester Airport and the difference was well over £100, which is galling if you know how to drive a manual.

More directly to the original question, I do think it's worth your friend getting their hands on a manual if they can. Every trip to England in my childhood memory starts off with my mom stalling while reversing out of the parking space at Manchester Airport. Once we got out of the airport, she was good to go, pretty much. This was more than a decade after leaving the UK and driving automatics. On the other hand, I have an ex who, at one time, knew how to drive a manual. We tried to have him practice driving my car and it was an abject failure, which is partly why I was renting an automatic at the start of this comment. (Though I'm sure it would have helped if I'd gone back inside and left him to it.) While I wouldn't want to use a stranger's expensive car to practice on, he's not likely to ruin the clutch--our clutch survived both my brother and I learning to drive plus another 10 or so years (that car met its end at the hands of a pickup truck before the clutch died).
posted by hoyland at 3:10 AM on July 9, 2019

Yeah modern clutches can take a fair bit of abuse. Gotta say driving a manual transmission is challenging even for the experienced when you have to switch to RH drive, opposite hand and foot, and drive to the left. So if your friend is renting in the UK that raises the challenge bar.
posted by spitbull at 6:00 AM on July 9, 2019

Gotta say driving a manual transmission is challenging even for the experienced when you have to switch to RH drive, opposite hand and foot, and drive to the left

Just a quick note - opposite hand, yes, opposite foot, no. Pedal layout in a manual is the same whether it's a Left-hand or Right-hand drive. But yeah, I did once reach for the door handle while trying to change gears when leaving Rome Ciampino airport *cough* years ago...
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 7:58 AM on July 9, 2019 [2 favorites]

Good point, my bad. I only had to do it once many years ago.
posted by spitbull at 8:21 AM on July 9, 2019

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