California car rental prices

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My title is perhaps a little cryptic- I am planning a trip out to the west coast and have been looking at car rental prices. I am thinking of renting a car and driving between San Luis Obispo and Sacramento, but to my dismay the cost of renting an SUV (Enterprise) went from the $400-$500 range to $1100+. If I select pick up and drop off in the same location, the price is in the range of the first number I listed. Apps like Hopper show some lower prices with companies like Avis so that may be something to consider.

I would be coming in on the SWC, going up the coast on the CS, and returning on the CZ

I see three options then:
  1. Find a company with more competitive prices? (unlikely)
  2. Find two cities that aren't quite as expensive to rent between
  3. Bus to somewhere on the San Juaquin line, then connect with the CZ on the return trip (so pick up/drop off the car in the same place). The issue here is Amtrak wants to ticket you from LAX to Bakersfield directly without going up the coast.
Any thoughts? I might come back and clean this up a little, my work break is about done. :) (I'm leaving the post in rail discussion since I think it's still relevant to it.)
 

BCL

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Where are you looking to pick up the rental car? That's not all that clear but it sounds like you mean somewhere in between. Some of the best prices may be at airports, even with

However, if you're looking to take a bus/train combination up the coast, the way to do it would be multi-city ticketing where the individual segments are selected. However, it seems to be broken now. You might be able to call it in or do it in person.

Amtrak Tickets, Schedules and Train Routes
 
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Do you for sure need an SUV or will something smaller work? I have rented cars in Newhall (NHL) to visit family in the area. Enterprise will pick you up at the Newhall bus stop which is also a local train station. Why not just go to Sacramento on the San Joaquin and spend the night in Sacramento and then drive the coastal route southbound to SLO? I always prefer driving 101 southbound. I have rented from Enterprise in downtown Sacramento and out at the airport (SMF).
 

Devil's Advocate

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At these prices I would probably rent a sedan instead. I have never needed an SUV no matter where I was going. Also, when it comes to rental vehicles there is little reason to delay booking. As soon as you find a reasonable price book it and then cancel if you find something better or change your mind later.
 
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Why not take the Coast Starlight from San Luis Obispo to Sacramento?
We'd like to explore Yosemite, the Sequoia National Forest, etc. so were planning to drive north to meet the CZ.

Where are you looking to pick up the rental car? That's not all that clear but it sounds like you mean somewhere in between. Some of the best prices may be at airports, even with
Initially I was thinking San Luis Obispo but anywhere in that region is fine.

Do you for sure need an SUV or will something smaller work?
For a family of four + luggage it would be a plus if not a must.

Why not just go to Sacramento on the San Joaquin and spend the night in Sacramento and then drive the coastal route southbound to SLO? I always prefer driving 101 southbound.
I am hoping to see the coast from the train between LA and San Luis Obispo because it's such a pretty route, otherwise that could be an option and would let me pick up/drop off in the same location.

It would also be possible to pick up the car elsewhere on the San Joaquin route, return to the same city, and take the San Joaquin north to connect with the CZ. The times work with a bus transfer in Stockton.

Sorry my initial post was a little rushed, it was more or less stream of consciousness with some editing. :)
 

BCL

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We'd like to explore Yosemite, the Sequoia National Forest, etc. so were planning to drive north to meet the CZ.


Initially I was thinking San Luis Obispo but anywhere in that region is fine.


For a family of four + luggage it would be a plus if not a must.


I am hoping to see the coast from the train between LA and San Luis Obispo because it's such a pretty route, otherwise that could be an option and would let me pick up/drop off in the same location.

It would also be possible to pick up the car elsewhere on the San Joaquin route, return to the same city, and take the San Joaquin north to connect with the CZ. The times work with a bus transfer in Stockton.

Sorry my initial post was a little rushed, it was more or less stream of consciousness with some editing. :)

I didn't finish my thought on the rental. Sometimes the airport locations are considerably cheaper, even with airport fees. But it depends on the airport. The big airports often know they have a captive customer base and use mandatory rental taxes/fees to finance all sorts of things. But there's far more price competition. I don't know about now, but I remember checking some airports just for the heck of it, and I'd seen base rates as low as $5/day in less busy airports like OAK or SJC.

The coast between LA and SLO is very much visible on the Pacific Surfliner.



I've recently traveled to Santa Barbara from the San Francisco Bay Area via an overnight Amtrak Thruway bus. Once southbound and twice northbound. It wasn't bad, but picking the right seat was the key. Some are set up with a few seats with lots of legroom, but most seats are cramped.
 
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Since you want to see Yosemite, Get off the San Joaquin train in Fresno. Take a taxi to the Fresno airport (FAT) and rent a car there. I didn't have any luck finding a car rental in downtown Fresno. There is also a bus service from Fresno (and Merced) (YARTS) if you could score lodging in Yosemite.
There have been some bad forest fires in the southern parts of Yosemite so check on open roads and how much smoke will be blocking the great views.
Return the car/SUV where you rented it and then take the San Joaquin to either Sacramento or Martinez. You can board the eastbound CZ either place.
 

Sauve850

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My title is perhaps a little cryptic- I am planning a trip out to the west coast and have been looking at car rental prices. I am thinking of renting a car and driving between San Luis Obispo and Sacramento, but to my dismay the cost of renting an SUV (Enterprise) went from the $400-$500 range to $1100+. If I select pick up and drop off in the same location, the price is in the range of the first number I listed. Apps like Hopper show some lower prices with companies like Avis so that may be something to consider.

I would be coming in on the SWC, going up the coast on the CS, and returning on the CZ

I see three options then:
  1. Find a company with more competitive prices? (unlikely)
  2. Find two cities that aren't quite as expensive to rent between
  3. Bus to somewhere on the San Juaquin line, then connect with the CZ on the return trip (so pick up/drop off the car in the same place). The issue here is Amtrak wants to ticket you from LAX to Bakersfield directly without going up the coast.
Any thoughts? I might come back and clean this up a little, my work break is about done. :) (I'm leaving the post in rail discussion since I think it's still relevant to it.)
Most people rent cars from airports. I rent an economy car for 2.5 months out west in the summer. $3500 at the airport. $1700 from same company at an offsite location. its a $30 Uber ride to save a ton of money for me.
 

MIrailfan

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Most people rent cars from airports. I rent an economy car for 2.5 months out west in the summer. $3500 at the airport. $1700 from same company at an offsite location. its a $30 Uber ride to save a ton of money for me.
Yup you save on the airport surcharge they have to pay.
 
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I'd seen base rates as low as $5/day in less busy airports like OAK or SJC.
That seems impossibly low...
The coast between LA and SLO is very much visible on the Pacific Surfliner.
Yes! Which is why I don't want to bus from LAX to BFD.
Since you want to see Yosemite, Get off the San Joaquin train in Fresno. Take a taxi to the Fresno airport (FAT) and rent a car there.
I would do this except I'm planning to go up the coast on the CS or Surfliner instead.
Most people rent cars from airports. I rent an economy car for 2.5 months out west in the summer. $3500 at the airport. $1700 from same company at an offsite location. its a $30 Uber ride to save a ton of money for me.
That's what I would have expected given the demand at an airport.
 

BCL

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That seems impossibly low...

Yes! Which is why I don't want to bus from LAX to BFD.

The base rate was from one really, really odd time when demand seemed to be ridiculously low. Altogether it might have been double that because of taxes and fees. However, it was maybe a decade ago. But I was just trying to convey that it's still worth looking at airport locations. We rented a car to take to Southern California in 2019. I tried looking up neighborhood locations, but they had a lot of issues, including high base rates and often they were closed on Sundays and only open limited Saturday hours. But Oakland is a good location because their fees are reasonable compared to SFO. I've seen low daily rates that got swallowed up by fixed daily airport fees.

I recently took the 4770 bus from Emeryville to Santa Barbara, which was meant to connect to the 770 train in Santa Barbara. However, we spent a couple of hours in Santa Barbara and then took the next southbound Pacific Surfliner. It's theoretically "unreserved" except for peak holiday periods, and one is supposed to be able to use the ticket freely (which we did).

My ticket said "NO TVL 02-04APR21,28-31MAY21,02-05JUL21,03=06SEP21,23-25NOV21,27-29NOV21". The year seems a little bit weird since it was already well past 2021, but the idea is that there are some holidays (Easter, Memorial Day, Independence Day, Thanksgiving) where they have periods where they only have reserved tickets. I helped a friend with tickets around one Thanksgiving and their tickets were certainly reserved. They also had issues like a bus that was late and the train didn't wait for them, but they had guaranteed connections and they were accommodated on later trains.

The only caveat is that sometimes conductors do "bulk" lifting where they don't have the time to look around and just assume that everyone scheduled to be on that train is on the train. Doesn't work well if someone tries to do what we did. But it's right here, although it only starts at San Luis Obispo. The bus portion is in orange and doesn't show the complete schedule. The bus actually starts in Oakland and reaches (as I recall) Emeryville, San Francisco, San Jose, Salinas, and King City before the next stop at San Luis Obispo. But with the Pacific Surfliner, the unreserved nature of the ticket would allow flexibility since there are three more southbound trains from Santa Barbara every day, or possibly a later date.

930390270_pacific-surfliner-timetable_may_2022.pdf


 

Rambling Robert

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As part of my three day layover in Spokane on the EB - Enterprise assured me a drop box and was in my contract. Enterprise picked me up at the Spokane Amtrak station (they didn’t know where it was) and the manager said NO DROP BOX - I’d need to return the car by 5PM. I asked if the airport was an option for a drop box and he raised his voice and told me he’d charge $50-$60 extra.

The short story is Eterprise and other companies are doing away with drop boxes. But week later corporate Enterprise showed them in the databard.

It wasn’t clear to me the rental period for the $400-$500. Currently I thought $60/day for a compact was the going rate but I paid $115 for a very small underpowered hatchback that Enterprise calls an SUV. Ridiculous.

There is a car shortage for anyone trying to buy new or used. I guess it effects Enterprise.

Many weeks later on my second attempt Enterprise settled and took 1/3 off.

BTW - the SurfLiner has reserved seating for HP and over 65 - lower level easy on/off. The cafe is okay - snacks.
 
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Enterprise (also owns Alamo) is in a world of hurt right now. They sold down too much of their inventory at the beginning of Covid and problems with new car supply has prevented them from stocking back up. I flew into SFO in March and they had nothing.

I ended up renting from Hertz and using my AAA discount for a reasonable price.

Try shopping around using a platform like Expedia which will show prices from vendors posting inventory in the area.
Airports usually have more inventory and wider hours, but have additional fees. Neighborhood locations are often closed on weekends or have drop-off issues, like others have alluded too. Depends on what works for you.
 
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If someone wants to rent a car along the coastal route riding a Surfliner train or the Coast Starlight, the Burbank stop is directly across the street from the Burbank airport entrance (walking distance). Avelo Airlines uses Burbank as its west coast hub with many cheap flights to various locations including Redmond Oregon.
 
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Enterprise (also owns Alamo) is in a world of hurt right now. They sold down too much of their inventory at the beginning of Covid and problems with new car supply has prevented them from stocking back up. I flew into SFO in March and they had nothing.

I ended up renting from Hertz and using my AAA discount for a reasonable price.

Try shopping around using a platform like Expedia which will show prices from vendors posting inventory in the area.
Airports usually have more inventory and wider hours, but have additional fees. Neighborhood locations are often closed on weekends or have drop-off issues, like others have alluded too. Depends on what works for you.
I had issues with Hertz & Alamo recently - I'd had to change a work trip to Atlanta due to predicted bad weather and Hertz was out of cars that day and when I arrived Alamo had a line of over an hour and then another 90 minutes to actually get the car. The very nice manager said that it was the turn around of the cars in the garage that was the issue, although there is a shortage as well (Hertz hadn't had a car available the day that I had to change to). I ended up taking a cab to and from my destination and got reimbursed by Alamo for it along with a voucher.
 

BCL

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I had issues with Hertz & Alamo recently - I'd had to change a work trip to Atlanta due to predicted bad weather and Hertz was out of cars that day and when I arrived Alamo had a line of over an hour and then another 90 minutes to actually get the car. The very nice manager said that it was the turn around of the cars in the garage that was the issue, although there is a shortage as well (Hertz hadn't had a car available the day that I had to change to). I ended up taking a cab to and from my destination and got reimbursed by Alamo for it along with a voucher.

I've accepted rentals where there wasn't really much to do other than take the first car that came back. Often wet from getting washed. Either that or wait a few hours until a car more to my liking was prepped.

Once in Honolulu we rented from Alamo, although my wife wanted a bigger car than ended up getting. But we didn't quite understand that the customer who got the paperwork just got in the cars as they arrived. However, she would have been OK with a Subaru Legacy, but we ended up with an Impreza because someone earlier claimed the larger car as it came in. But I liked it, even though it was a bit smaller with less trunk space. My in-laws were there on the trip and they brought huge bags for some reason.
 

Maglev

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I am not sure of the viability of this advice, but it makes some sense: I suggest shopping around on one's computer because each inquiry results in cookies' being placed on the computer so that the next inquiry offers a lower rate.
 
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I am not sure of the viability of this advice, but it makes some sense: I suggest shopping around on one's computer because each inquiry results in cookies' being placed on the computer so that the next inquiry offers a lower rate.
You can always clear your history and cache....
 

Devil's Advocate

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The best advice I can give is to use a business travel booking service if possible. Business rentals can be booked at half the rate that consumers are being charged. At first I thought it was just a temporary imbalance but after two years it's starting to look like consumers are simply being gouged.
 
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