Free trade? I think not…

21 12 2007

I’m planning my March 2008 US trip now, getting flights sorted (done) and now car hire as I intend driving from Los Angeles to Portland, then on Seattle, Vancouver Island and finally Vancouver from where I’ll fly back to Australia (via Hong Kong).

My original intention was to rent a car from LAX to Vancouver, then, when no car rental company allowed me to do that, from LAX to Portland dropping off in Portland for the duration of the conference, then picking up another car in Portland and dropping it in Vancouver 6 days later when I fly home to Australia. Great intentions. Shame about the execution.

I’ve spent over a day checking out details on various car rental websites (direct and aggregator sites, both in Australia and the US), as well as looking at options with my travel agent.

I thought I had it nailed yesterday with an Australia company called Driveaway. Their prices were good, but they wouldn’t give the drop off fee for a one way rental on their website—you have to fill in your credit card and personal details before they’d let you know. I’ve been bitten with these fees before—sometimes they go into the hundreds of dollars, so I didn’t want to have to fill out my details before knowing the price. I called Driveaway and spoke to a lovely lady there. She confirmed that there was no drop fee between LAX and Portland (yippee!). But said that—despite their website saying to the contrary—I couldn’t pick up in Portland and drop off in Vancouver! I could only pick up in Seattle as it was the closest large city to Vancouver, not Portland (some 2.5 hours drive south of Seattle!). Something about the rules of all car rental companies. Unbelievable!

It seems NO car rental companies allow you to rent a car in just any city and drop it off in Canada if there’s a closer city you go through (e.g. you can rent in Boston to go to Montreal, but you couldn’t rent in Baltimore to go to Montreal).

Can you believe with all the NAFTA and other agreements between the US and Canada that I can’t rent in the US and drop off in Canada some two weeks later??? These are GLOBAL car rental companies, not “El Cheapo Auto Wrecks” on a street corner in East LA.

So this means I have to rent from LAX to Seattle (no drop off fee), park the car at the hotel in Portland for 4 days at around $20 per day, get to Seattle Airport, get all my luggage out of the car, get in line to fill in all the paperwork again, then pick up another rental car… which could well be the one I’ve just dropped off! Oh and the second rental is quite expensive because it’s not for a full week, and there’s a US$100 drop off fee.

I could just rent to Portland, then Portland to Seattle, then Seattle to Vancouver, but it’s actually cheaper to rent for the longer period of time and put the car in the hotel car park while the conference is on. Besides, that would mean THREE trips to a car rental counter and all the paperwork and declining insurance palaver…

Still, at least I’ll have a car in Portland if some of us decide to go out for a meal away from the hotel area, or take a trip to the wonderful Powell’s Books if the weather’s inclement! Or just be tourists.

And for all those wondering why I don’t just FLY to Portland from LA? Well, I’ve got friends and family I want to see in various parts of California, the drive is very pretty (along the Pacific Highway, not the I-5), and I also have friends on Vancouver Island I want to see who are some distance from the ferry terminals, which means I need a car. My Circle Pacific fare with Qantas and Cathay Pacific allows me to leave from Vancouver to go to Hong Kong then on to Perth, which means I don’t have to spend any more time than I have to in LAX! That’s always a good thing.


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3 responses

19 02 2008
Candace

Hi,

Can I ask which company allowed you to drive from LAX ro Seattle with no drop off fee? I want to drive from Seattle to LAX and drop fees are ranging from $150-$400.

19 02 2008
sandgroper14

Hertz, via my travel agent, but through http://driveaway.com.au

10 04 2008
Beth

I’m currently having the same issue, though I live in LA and want to drive to visit a friend in Edmonton, Canada. It’s really quite absurd to change the car out in Montana somewhere. Anyways, your page came up when I searched for the problem, and I just wanted to say I commiserate. 🙂

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