How to find a car in Portland, OR
October 5, 2023 8:30 AM   Subscribe

As previously seen on Ask MetaFilter, we're headed to Portland - now a week away. We've reserved a rental car. But on a trip to DC in June, we also rented a car - only to find on arrival that every one of the rental outlets at BWI overbooked and there were no cars. I've heard that's common now. Any suggestions for alternate, reliable sources of cars in the Portland area?

One reason we're worried is that the wedding we're coming for also by complete coincidence happens to be the weekend of the big solar eclipse and it's a safe bet that a gazillion people are coming in and looking for cars to drive to prime viewing areas. Mrs. Blank suspects that in a green place like Portland there must be some car-shares or short-term privately run car rentals but we're open to any ideas. Thanks!
posted by martin q blank to Travel & Transportation around Portland, OR (15 answers total)
You’re trying to get to Hood River?
posted by bluedaisy at 8:40 AM on October 5, 2023

Worst case scenario: can you ask the couple if there are folks you can carpool with?
posted by hydra77 at 9:20 AM on October 5, 2023

Response by poster: To clarify: Yes, flying in to Portland, then driving to Hood River, where the wedding is. And the couple is encouraging carpooling among guests. But we're spending a few days after the wedding to sightsee, etc., so even if we could carpool to the event, we'd still want a car to tour around and return to the airport.
posted by martin q blank at 9:48 AM on October 5, 2023

When I lived in Portland, we had a guest who rented a car on their first visit. On their return visit, they did not rent a car. This is a person who is 100% car culture in their home city and literally never leaves their home except by car. Because Portland has really good public transit. Light rail (including directly to the airport), buses all over the place, even some street cars!

Unless you're avoiding transit and other indoor activities due to covid (which doesn't seem likely if you're catching a plane and going to a wedding), consider looking into whether you can catch transit out to Hood River (transit directions available on, e.g., google maps) and maybe catch that host-recommended carpool if needed for that last leg of the journey.

If you needed to get out to Hood River at precisely 3am on a Sunday, it might be a different story. But for your average Portland tourism experience, you're going to have a lot of frequent service transit options to choose from. If you're coming from somewhere else in the US, you might not understand just how usable public transit is for getting around Portland.
posted by aniola at 10:35 AM on October 5, 2023 [2 favorites]

Public transit in Portland: like a car share only it comes with a chauffeur.
posted by aniola at 10:37 AM on October 5, 2023

Best answer: You're looking for free2move. No experience with its current form, but a few corporate acquisitions ago when it was car2go it saved our butts on a Portland vacation we'd planned to do all on transit and bike until a pesky broken wrist interfered. You can rent by hour or by longer period. I think the rates are worse than traditional rentals, but I haven't actually looked recently.
posted by theweasel at 11:03 AM on October 5, 2023 [3 favorites]

Best answer: From the airport, you could take the lightrail, called the Max, to the Gateway Transit Center, on the red line. Then, you can take the CAT Columbia Gorge Express bus from the Gateway Transit Center to Hood River.

You could then take the CAT bus back to Portland, or get a ride from other guests, and then see about using our good local transit system around town. Combined with our biketown rental bikes and car share, you might find you don't need a car.

But, since you have a rental car and this is just a worst case scenario things, I'd say the Columbia Gorge Express bus is a fine plan b.
posted by bluedaisy at 12:19 PM on October 5, 2023

Best answer: one slight hiccup for trying to use a transit approach is that MAX to the airport will be shutdown during the time period of the eclipse. there is a shuttle running, so you can still get to/from the airport, but it won't be on the train.

For a car based solution, enterprise has car rental locations all over the city that might serve as a backup if all the cars at PDX are gone. Browsing individual locations is kind of a PITA though.
posted by Dr. Twist at 1:42 PM on October 5, 2023 [1 favorite]

Turo might be an alternative worth checking out. It is individual renting our cars they own (like an AirBnB for car rentals). That comes with it's own set of risks though.

Also, for what it's worth, there is just about zero chatter about an eclipse in Portland. I doubt anyone is traveling here to view it -- it'll probably be cloudy, the the actual path of the eclipse is 2+ hours away, and it's an annular eclipse rather than the much cooler total solar eclipse that happened a few years ago. I'd be surprised if it impacted your travel plans.
posted by TurnKey at 1:56 PM on October 5, 2023 [1 favorite]

(Just nthing that I too have heard little chatter about the eclipse. I first heard about it two days ago and nothing really about it being a thing that will draw crowds.)
posted by bluedaisy at 2:20 PM on October 5, 2023 [2 favorites]

Re: eclipse effect on travel: I'm traveling to Portland myself to spend time with my long-distance partner and we're taking a short trip to be in the path of the eclipse, and lodging directly in the path is definitely affected--everything is either sold out or bonkers expensive. We booked a place in a smallish town on the coast month ago and had to settle for a quality-to-price ratio that normally wouldn't be acceptable. So it would not surprise me if it affects car rentals in the region, too, and planning ahead for it seems like a good idea.

I'll also confirm that getting around Portland proper without a car is very doable, but if your plans include getting out of Portland, you will definitely want one.
posted by rhiannonstone at 5:56 PM on October 5, 2023 [1 favorite]

Portland resident here, I use Free2Move all the time. It's great. They only have one kind of vehicle - some sort of Jeep SUV thing, so you'll have no problem with bags or people. I only use it for in-city by the hour stuff but you can rent them for the day as well. I've also used Turo with some success for longer trips. Either one will work well for your needs I think.

Thirding the "no chatter about the eclipse" thing - and there's a non-zero chance people flying into OR for that are flying into/staying in or around Eugene anyway, as it's right in the path and close to the coast should that be their preferred viewing site.
posted by pdb at 8:18 PM on October 5, 2023

Turo could be an option. It can be a way to get a fun car that mainstream rental outlets do not offer, and I have had a good experience in that regard. On the other hand, it can be expensive, though: Beyond the car itself, be sure to know what you are getting into with regards to purchasing car insurance and know what mileage you are allowed per diem (and what you will pay if you go over that). My experience was not so great in that area.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:43 PM on October 5, 2023

I hope you enjoyed your eclipse. The skies distinctly darkened here in Seattle at its peak. The birds around got quite exercised and flew about making calls during and just after. I got socially distanced mobbed by the neighborhood crows a bit when I walked back to my apartment. Not having appropriate eyewear, I watched its light on trees in our western courtyard. It got quite spectral for a few minutes as can be seen here.
posted by y2karl at 2:16 PM on October 14, 2023 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I should have noted in my post that there were four of us (mom, dad, two kids) so carpooling wasn't a likely option for us.

FYI, all, we decided to just stick with our rental and cross our fingers, and it worked out fine. The Enterprise rental group at the airport was great -- incredibly friendly, helpful, made sure all our bags fit in the car before we locked in on it, and offered us a great tip for lunch. They also had a fairly short line, esp. compared to the Hertz and Avis lines, which were insane.
posted by martin q blank at 6:59 PM on November 6, 2023

« Older Python Variable "stuck"?   |   How to return found airpod case to owner? Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments