Save Money by Avoiding Airport Pickups Of Rental Cars

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Dec 28, 2014
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#1
Airports are regarded as cash cows by those who govern them. Thus everything costs more at the airport: food, parking and rental cars.

When travelling, we compare cost of rental cars when picked up at the airport with the cost of the same car when picked up off the airport. Sometimes the airport pickup adds a hundred or more dollars to the rental in the form of a local government surcharge.

Instead, we ride a public transit train or bus to a convenient downtown or suburban location of the auto rental agency. Frequently the rental car can be returned directly to the airport drop off without invoking any airport surcharge.

Of course this does take a little research. We use Google Maps and/ or the website of the local transit agency to find a rental car office on a transit line that serves the airport. Most transit agencies now have very good access to/from airports at very little cost. Another option is to take a taxi to a nearby off-airport rental office.

A recent example was taking the suburban PACE bus from Chicago O'Hare to a rental car office in Skokie. The drop-off at O'Hare was without additional cost.
 
Likes: AMA
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bodega3

Guest
#2
Yes, off airport locations can be less expensive due to a variety of reason, such as fees imposed at the airport, but not at a city location. However, there are some disadvantages to a city pickup location. Main one is hours of operation and less staff. If you are a frequent user of expedited service, a city location isn't well set up for this even if they have a part of their counter set aside for renters to checkin. Parking in many cities is a good reason to hold off getting a car until you need one.
 
Likes: VoR61
Dec 26, 2014
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#6
We took Super Shuttle from LAX to our hotel in Anaheim. Enterprise had a rental service in our lobby, which made it convenient for us to rent a car only on the one day, mid-stay, when we needed it.

Pros - The rental agency was onsite, although we had to be driven offsite a few blocks to get to our vehicle. Orange County has a few of those cashless toll roads that Chris wrote about a few days ago. Enterprise let us take care of paying this ourselves through the toll roads' web site. Because we were already in the hotel, we weren't lugging luggage (which Super Shuttle bad already handled ably for us and would do again when it was time to go home).

Cons - Due to our spur of the moment desire to take this side trip, Enterprise only had higher-priced vehicles available. We decided to splurge instead of postponing this trip until later in our stay and reserving a lower-priced one for then. We had realized that our lack of planning ahead could lead to this situation. The counter closed at 5:00, with the hotel's valet parking handling the return. This after dark return in an area of poor lighting did not allow me to follow Chris' oft-repeated instructions to take photos of the car when returning it. However, they have not come after us for anything additional, and it's been a few months.
 
Jan 8, 2015
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#7
Totally agree with the caution about location hours. Most off airport places have standard 7 or 8am to 5 or 6pm hours. not very convenient when you are flying, especially considering how flights can often be delayed for a time.

Another thing to be aware of is that the car may actuially be cheaper at an airport location than at a location like a hotel. The savings that you get by avoiding airport fees can be negated by higher rental fees. At an airport location, if something goes wrong you might be able to just walk to another rental counter. Not so with cars rented at an off site location. off sit elocations typically have less cars in inventory as well. just one more way to have a problem.

For the trip I'm taking in February, renting at an airport location saves me nearly half what the the non airport location would cost, even factoring in the almost 75% in fees. ($58 rental plus $42 in fees) Where the non airport location was almost $200 for the rental period with taxes.
 
Likes: Grant Ritchie
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bodega3

Guest
#8
Nothing is set in stone as what is the perfect way to pick up a car. We have picked up cars in downtown location that have saved us time and money from having to get back out to an airport, parking, etc. We have had two horrible experiences of picking up a car in a downtown location due to lack of staffing and too many others picking up their cars. Nothing is 100%.
 
Likes: VoR61
Jan 7, 2015
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#9
Agree with most comments posted above.
1) Look at the open and close hours of offsite locations very carefully. If your arrival flight is near closing time or you need a Sunday dropoff/pickup, the airport may be your only option. However, a few times we have returned a car picked up at an offsite location to the airport location on departure with no extra charge.

2) Luggage may be a hassle to bring to an offsite rental location by train or bus. But for a rental of a week or longer, the convenience of a taxi may still save a lot of money.
 
Jan 7, 2015
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#10
Another thing to consider: renting a car to drive one-way to/from an airport with better airfares.

Twice we have found much better airfares from JFK to Europe than from our home in Philadelphia. A one-way rental car is sometimes only $60 or $100, and with two or more airfares you might save $400 or more. Yes, you have to do it both directions, and it is more hassle and time, so you have to do the calculation on how much money the extra trouble is worth.