Car rental from Union Station DC?

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flitcraft

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Seeing the thread on car rental from Chicago reminded me that we have a trip planned this April where our Amtraking ends in Union Station DC. I was planning to rent a car from there, but now I'm getting nervous. There are certainly car rental offices at/near the station, but the reviews are brutal--no cars available, hours not being kept, etc. Now, I realize that people tend not to leave reviews when things go smoothly, so reviews are inherently skewed to the negative, so I thought I would ask--anyone done this, and if so, which company do you recommend? I was thinking that, worst case scenario, I'd go the DCA and rent at the airport, but I'd rather not drag myself and stuff out to the airport if I could avoid it.
 

Devil's Advocate

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It's not just local rentals that are having problems. I recently arrived at a medium sized airport with a sedan booking and found nothing but pickup trucks waiting for me. I tried to resolve the matter but the app and kiosk were useless for resolving problems. The only human around was running a check-out booth for five different marquees and didn't seem to have the ability or motivation to address my issue. After running out of options and knowing that agencies sometimes share fleets I ended up taking a car from the wrong group and hoped for the best. On the return there were no penalty charges or change fees but it took them over 30-minutes to print a receipt showing I had returned with a full tank and no damage. It doesn't seem to matter whether I choose door one (Avis/Budget), door two (Enterprise/National/Alamo), or door three (Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty). I've never used Payless, Sixt, or Fox because online reviews and word of mouth was so negative they honestly sounded more like a mafia shakedown than a legitimate rental business.
 
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anumberone

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Car rentals close to large airports are mostly reliable, mid city or surrounding agencies are very sketch for model availability and business hours.
 

Maglev

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I rented a car at Union Station, and had a heck of a time finding where to return it! We were already running late due to a long construction detour, and were somewhat lost navigating through the city. But when we got to the station, there were no signs for car rental return. In desperation, I drove through a hole in a fence trying to get into the garage--and somehow found myself in the rental car area. Then as I ran to the train (leaving my poor wife in the dust), the conductor said, "Don't worry! You've got one minute!"
 

MARC Rider

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I once rented a car for a work trip at Union Station. Never again! (Well, yeah, I'm retired, so I'll never have to do it again.) I went to the desk on the second level, they were useless, they told me to go up to the garage, which I did. Once I got the car and managed to figure out how to exit the garage, I was dumped out on H street and had to figure out how to get to I-395, so I could get to the GW Parkway and, from there, the Beltway. On the way back, the traffic on I-395 was dead stopped, according to Google Maps, so I crossed over on the I-66 bridge and drove up Constitution Ave., which is what they did once when I was bustituted on the Capitol Limited. Unlike the bus, though, I had to figure out how to get from Constitution Ave. to H Street. There is a street grid, but it gets a bit irregular in places.

Traffic in downtown DC is the absolute worst in the United States, and I even include Boston in that comparison. If you're trying to get out of town, there are virtually no direct routes to freeways that don't involve driving in bad traffic, one way streets that never seem to be heading in the direction you want to go, and endless construction that makes things worse. And if you're just trying to get somewhere in the city, why bother renting a car? Better to use public transit or taxi/Uber.

On all my subsequent business trips requiring a rental car, I didn't bother coming into the office first, I either rented at the BWI car rental center or from the local Enterprise office right near my house.
 
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flitcraft

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OK, thanks for your advice. I think I will take the Metro out to National Airport and rent from there.
 

MARC Rider

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It's not just local rentals that are having problems. I recently arrived at a medium sized airport with a sedan booking and found nothing but pickup trucks waiting for me. I tried to resolve the matter but the app and kiosk were useless for resolving problems. The only human around was running a check-out booth for five different marquees and didn't seem to have the ability or motivation to address my issue. After running out of options and knowing that agencies sometimes share fleets I ended up taking a car from the wrong group and hoped for the best. On the return there were no penalty charges or change fees but it took them over 30-minutes to print a receipt showing I had returned with a full tank and no damage. It doesn't seem to matter whether I choose door one (Avis/Budget), door two (Enterprise/National/Alamo), or door three (Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty). I've never used Payless, Sixt, or Fox because online reviews and word of mouth was so negative they honestly sounded more like a mafia shakedown than a legitimate rental business.
I can beat that story. Once I rode the Silver Meteor to Savannah, took a taxi to the airport where I (well, our agency travel software) had reserved a rental car. It's kind of weird, on a Wednesday morning at about 7:30 AM, the Savannah airport is reminiscent of a mausoleum.

I found the rental counter (due to agency policy, we were required to use the cheapest car rental quote we could get, I'll leave out the name of the rental company to protect the guilty), and lo and behold, my car's not ready! I'd have to wait, like an hour and a half. I mean, I had made this reservation weeks ago, and I was the first customer of the day, heck, there are no other customers, what do you mean there are no cars available?

But there were cars available at the other companies. But if I did that, it wasn't what the travel authorization specified, so maybe I wouldn't get reimbursed. (Did I mention how happy I am that I'm retired and don't have to deal with this stuff any more?)

I called my boss, which wasn't as bad a move as it sounds, because he was already at the office, so it wasn't like I was dragging him out of bed or something. He didn't have an answer to my question -- could I still be reimbursed if I used another rental car company? But then, the clerk at the original company, who had undoubtedly overheard me calling to see if I could arrange a rental with competition, called me over, and it seemed that somehow, magically, my car was ready.

Well, that was that, and I happily motored off to my day's activities, enjoying the almost total lack of traffic on the approach roads to the Savannah airport.
 

VAtrainfan

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Jan 26, 2017
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I've arrived at medium sized airports with a premium sedan booking and found nothing but pickup trucks waiting for me.
Last time I flew to Denver this happened to me. I booked an econo-box expecting to be able to spend 4 days in downtown Denver on a couple of gallons of gas. When I get to the rental lot, this company (Fox) that showed over a dozen different classes of automobile on its website instead rented literally nothing but Chevy Suburbans. I tried to refuse the land yacht but was told "that's all we rent." Not "we're out of everything else" but "we only rent Suburbans" :eek: I still paid the rental rate for the Metro but paid 6x as much for gas as I was expecting to and had a hell of a time parking the damn thing.

I've often wondered why there is a distinct lack of rental car facilities anywhere near many mid-sized Amtrak stations. I can see it not being worth it at small stations. But for stations big enough to be staffed and that get a dozen or more trains a day, some of them LD trains, why is the nearest car rental company several miles away with no option for getting there except a taxi or Uber?
 

flitcraft

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Joined
Jan 10, 2018
Messages
271
I've had good luck renting at the Hertz counter at Union Station LA. Done it three times, going from the Coast Starlight to spring training at Phoenix. Of course, I don't pick up the car till the following morning...
 

PVD

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I've had good luck at Denver with the nearby downtown Hertz picking me up.
 

tricia

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I've had good luck at Denver with the nearby downtown Hertz picking me up.
I lost two hours at that Hertz once. Loooonnnng line at counter, staff more interested in upselling than in moving the line along expeditiously.
 

PVD

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That's what makes the world go round...2 people show up at the same place and have totally different results... If Amtrak discovered consistency, this board would have half as many posts.......
 

MikefromCrete

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That's what makes the world go round...2 people show up at the same place and have totally different results... If Amtrak discovered consistency, this board would have half as many posts.......
What's Amtrak got to do with the Hertz office in downtown Denver?
 

PVD

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Only mentioned because it's the office that most people use arriving DUS on the CZ, since they pick up at the station and drive you to the office. The point was that across the board in customer facing situations we see widely varying results. The second sentence was just a reference to how much discussion on this board arises from Amtrak's inconsistency. It is not an attempt to tie Amtrak to the Hertz office, just an observation about the state of customer service today.
 
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