View Full Version : Car rental from New York to CA - one way?

RoadTripper 912
09-14-2006, 06:12 AM

I've spent the last few days reading through all the posts around this place.

I don't do anything half-measures...I am planning a road trip in just over a month....Driving from mid(ish) October in NY to arrive in CA 4-6 weeks later.

Someone had suggested I buy a car in NYC and sell it in CA, but to be honest, as a single woman, driving across the country, I'd prefer the piece of mind of a rental. Besides I am hoping to get the car rental sponsored anyway. :-)

After seeing (on here, I think) that AVIS do one-way rentals, I looked on their site but didn't see anywhere I could get a quote.

I could pick up a car in Connecticut if it would be cheaper - or would NYC be the best bet due to volume of cars?

I'll start another thread about my rough itinerary for some of your expert opinions.

Thankfully, I run a successful website with members all across the US who are kindly offering me sofas (to sleep on), tanks of gas, food vouchers and hotel vouchers too. . .so that will at least help keep SOME of the costs down, but I already have a feeling this will cost well more than I've estimated...

Anyway thanks so much for advice/tips on the car rental...If I can manage to sort that - the rest will fall into place.


Midwest Michael
09-14-2006, 08:36 AM
Welcome to the RTA Forum!

The best bet to find the cheapest car rental price is to simply shop around. Avis, as well as all the other major rental car companies, should allow you to take the car one way. There simply will be very large differences between what each company charges for a one way drop off fee. Enterprise, for example, is usually one of the lowest priced companies for round trip rentals, but is often the highest for one ways.

Your flexability will be helpful here. I don't know if NYC or Conn would be the cheaper place, but having either place as an option will only help your effort to bring down costs.

I would start by calling the 1-800 numbers for all of the major companies and get quotes that way. Ask what the price differences are between locations. Then, I would follow those calls up with calls to the local offices to see if they give you the same, better, or a worse price quote.

Once you find a good rate, I'd lock it in ASAP, as rates have been know to change from week to week and even from day to day.

RoadTripper 912
09-14-2006, 12:39 PM
Aw thanks for the reply!

Forgot to say I am in Glasgow.

Bit of a pain...

I do have someone in NYC saying she'll call around for me.

I'll let you (all) know what I come back with on estimates.


Joseph Greybeard
09-14-2006, 03:20 PM
One possibility is Advantage -- they have advertised special one-way rates in the past with no drop charges. So be sure to check with them while you are searching.


Midwest Michael
09-14-2006, 04:49 PM
Being overseas does make things more difficult, but not impossible.

Look at as many places as you can on the web. Some of the major car rental firms should quote a one way price on their websites. If they don't, then see if the company has a local office or a number for your area.

Also look at the major online travel agencies, including the Travel Reservation section of Road Trip America (http://www.roadtripamerica.com/travel.htm). I just did a quick search there and found rates of around $600 for a NY-LA 4 week trip in October.

RoadTripper 912
09-15-2006, 04:05 AM
Hey MM thanks so much.

That 600 was for weekly :)

But I did see one for 900+ a month. 'Guess there will be a lot of tax on that.

What's Advantage Joseph? Never heard of them.

Thanks you guys - you're gems.


PS: Oh I had a look - they don't have NYC branches of Advantage. Boo.

RoadTripper 912
09-15-2006, 03:12 PM
Just called AVIS in NY and they quoted me:

For an intermediate car - 39 days:

3057.00 - They are charging 750 dollars for the ONE WAY fee.

For a smaller car -

2928.46 - Same 750 ONE WAY fee.

I am just gutted.

PNW Judy
09-16-2006, 05:41 AM
The one-way drop off is one reason why many folks decide to do a loop trip instead. You might pick a part of the country and do a big loop instead. It's a big place. No matter which route you choose, you're never going to see most of the country in a month anyway. So you might narrow your trip down to a region or two of the US and start/stop in the same place saving yourself that money towards your next trip to the US. Just an idea to consider.

Midwest Michael
09-16-2006, 06:04 AM
I am just gutted.

I'm not that surprised that you're finding rates that high, but like I said before, there is a huge swing in rates from company to company.

Is there some reason you have to rent with Avis? Like you said before, you already found a rate for around $900/month. So I don't quite understand why you're so discouraged.

Keep shopping, you should be able to find something for much less than $3000.

09-16-2006, 06:10 AM
I would try to book the car through a local travel agent. I'm looking at doing a similar trip early next year and looked on the web and was shocked with the price. I then called a local travel agent here in New Zealand and they have managed to quote me a much lower price and have included all US insurance costs. This is often the killer when renting a car in the states...the insurance can be almost the same as the daily rental fee.

Have fun on your trip!

RoadTripper 912
09-16-2006, 10:07 AM
Hi Judy - the documentary film is based on meeting members of my website who are in different regions of the US. I have more or less planned the route from NY - CT - MA - Niagara Falls! - Ohio - MI - Illionois - then stuck on which exact route for Chicago to Houston (this again dictated by the people I am interviewing...one gal now in St Paul - which is bumming me out) It's her that's taking me off course the way I wanna go (Louisville, Glasgow (!), Nashville, Memphis)....

There is no point in me going as far as Houston and not seeing my dad in California for Thanksgiving (and early Xmas) - hence the reason it's one way.

Besides on the list of things to do before I die is see the Grand Canyon - so Carpe Diem it is.

I am 90% sure I'll get the car rental (or similar) for free now anyway so I am less "gutted" today. 'Was just exhausted and being a drama queen last night. :) Sorry about that.

I totally didn't find a quote for 900 only. There was other stuff added on to that when you went in. I'd have been happy enough with the 900. It's 39-days I am renting which is a kick.

And Scott - I am totally going to Trailfinders on Monday. I usually shop around and end up buying with them all the time anyway, so yeah you're right. I was planning on doing that. 'Just didn't want to go in today because being a Saturday it would have been super busy. Glasgow's a zoo on Saturdays!

So tomorrow or Monday I'll go and I'll let you know what they quote.

It is that insurance that's a killer - but I'd want everything under the sun - given how long and how far I am going.

Tell me, do they usually have MP3 CD players in new cars?

I think I'd go nuts without that. :)

Already working on the soundtrack to my journey!

Well after all I am DJ...tis in my blood!

Thanks folks.

Much appreciated!


PS: I've been watching SMOKEY AND THE BANDIT today while researching. What a hoot!

Kiwi gypsy
09-17-2006, 08:40 PM
Hi there,

For what it's worth, my wife and I faced similar debates when planning our US road trip from NZ. We looked into renting one-way and it was waaaaaayy too much. I'd put that in the too-hard basket. The rule of thumb we were given by travel agents was that anything over a month, forget renting and buy.
I'll cut and paste below our experiences of buying. Not easy as you'll see from our posts... But in the end much less expensive, as we'll resell at the end. To sum up the things we've learnt:
Cheaper to buy than rent.
Buying on the east coast and selling on the west is the way to go. CArs worth more in the west. Plus, we bought in New Hampshire. If you get there from NY, or Boston if you fly into there, you saved at least 5% cos NH doesn't have any sales tax.
Try and figure out insurance before you come. There may be alternatives we couldn't find in the day or so we had to urgently sort something...
REgistration will be hard, but perhaps you can keep 'topping up' your 20 day plates as the DMV told us...
Join AAA

Here's my recent post (http://www.roadtripamerica.com/forum/showthread.php?p=35958#post35958).

Mark Sedenquist
09-17-2006, 09:12 PM
The rule of thumb we were given by travel agents was that anything over a month, forget renting and buy.Not withstanding your detailed advice and experience -- the rule of thumb we use on this Forum is that the break-even usually occurs at about three months. Glad it worked for you, but we would never recommend anyone purchase a car for use of less than three months.
Buying on the east coast and selling on the west is the way to go. CArs worth more in the west. Actually cars purhased in the west and sold in the east will bring much higher re-sale values as many cars purchased in the east will have salt damage and will be discounted if sold in the west.

But, again we thank you for the report of your experience!


Midwest Michael
09-17-2006, 09:32 PM
Buying on the east coast and selling on the west is the way to go. CArs worth more in the west.

I'm not sure where you heard this, but this is not really the case. Cars purchased on the East Coast will be worth substantially LESS when sold on the West Coast. Cars driven in the Northern and Eastern states are far more likely to rust because of the anti-snow and anti-ice agents used on the roads in cold weather. For this reason, it can be difficult to sell an east coast car in the Sun Belt, and the selling price will almost certainly be much less than an identical car that is from the West. (Conversly, in the North and East, Terms like "California Car" are often used as tactics to boost the asking price)

In general, I'd have to disagree with your travel agents assessment of purchasing a car for trips lasting one month. I think you probably have to be gone well over a month for the costs of a purchasing a car to outweight those of renting one, especially if you are not a US resident.

In addition to the inevitable (and significant) loss you take in reselling any car, you also have to deal with paying sales tax (which easily will run several hundred dollars on any road-trip worthy car). There are also the significant costs and headaches of obtaining license and insurance when you have no US address and no US driving record.

And of course with any purchased car you are responsible for its maintenance and repair costs, which are covered in a rented car.

There is a trade off for both, and individual situations will vary, but I'd say most of the time, a foreign traveler would have to plan on being on the road for at least 2 if not 3 or more months before purchasing would really be the cheaper option.

RoadTripper 912
09-19-2006, 04:43 PM
I am definitely renting! But I encountered the same sitch when trying a Glasgow travel agents. No more than 30 days on their computer systems (which I think is odd). So I have to call the companies direct in the US.

I saw on an article (linked from here) about Budget car rentals and how COSTCO members can get some sort of discount - so I asked my dad to call in and get the voucher so I can see what that would run me.

Now that I booked my air ticket across to NYC - I can concentrate on the car business.

All have been well over 2k so far - closer to 3k.

I am off to search this forum for budgeting tips :)

Mentally in my head - I'd like to do 5000 miles with 5000 dollars (& 14 states!). That includes the car rental, gas food and lodging. About half the nights I have family / friends to stay with so maybe about 20 nights accommodation.

I am sure I am gonna way under budget but oh well. Carpe Diem :)

Thanks for all the comments on my thread. Much appreciated.


RoadTripper 912
09-27-2006, 05:39 PM
Well I booked the car through Yahoo and it's BUDGET.

I still hope to get someone to fund/sponsor/or discount it but here is the note from my receipt for the booking.

Monthly Rate
1 Month(s) @ $1,059.99 --- $1,059.99
5 Extra Day(s) @ $50.00 --- $250.00

Subtotal: $1,309.99
Taxes and Fees: $476.00
Drop Charge: $300.00

Total: $2,085.99

I have 2.5 weeks to finish planning and prepping and packing for this 2-month trip back home.

Not sure how I'll do it, but I'll do it...

'Keep you posted of any changes or of my relevant experiences.


dj toast
09-30-2006, 08:30 AM
Well after all I am DJ...tis in my blood!

There's a very disproportionate number of DJs from Glasgow on this site, it seems!

PNW Judy
09-30-2006, 09:57 AM
Glad you found a rental car deal that you like. Hope you chose a vehicle that gets good gas mileage so you're not saving unnecessary money on gas.

With only $3000 left for your trip, and 4-6 weeks to travel, budgeting yourself will be very important. Camping (just buy cheap gear and donate it to someone when your trip is done....$100 should buy what you need) and eating out of a cooler most meals are the two biggest ways to cut expenses.

Hope you have a great trip and come back after your return to write a roadtrip report.

RoadTripper 912
09-30-2006, 03:54 PM
>> Hope you have a great trip and come back after your return to write a roadtrip report.

Thanks hon...

I don't camp. It will be friends/family/my website members or cheap hotels for me!

I suspect gas will run about 500 dollars. Well that's a rough estimate used on the fuel calculator here - guesstimating 5000 miles.

I think I got a Mustang- well I could swear it said that but the confirmation doesn't say that so I am not sure what I got. (airhead)

I think I am gonna phone someone at Budget and have a chat anyway. I have questions to ask about this whole thing...

And Toast man - I shouldn't have said DJ - I shoulda said Broadcaster. Not a DJ as such but hey nice to meetcha!

Midwest Michael
09-30-2006, 08:52 PM
I certainly would double check the paperwork. A Mustang is considered a premium car, and as a result, has exceptionally high rental rates. If you found one to rent for a month

dj toast
10-01-2006, 05:00 AM
I'd originally booked a Mustang for my last trip there and even though it was by no means the cheapest option the rental company offered, it was still cheaper than even the smallest car here in Glasgow, we really get a poor deal here in Britain. Makes it all the more tempting to get something "interesting" on holiday in the states.

RoadTripper 912
10-02-2006, 02:46 PM
Mustang seems the way to go eh? How very American - though in my fantasy it would probably be a 67 convertible 'stang...

Anyway, I called the company and my fears were confirmed that quote was sans insurance...but thankfully - I phoned my Californian insurance guy and spoke to him about the policy and it appears I am covered (though a high deductable and for 12 bucks added on today I have road side assistance for the journey).

So alas I can sleep alright once more!

Take care folks...


Mark Sedenquist
10-05-2006, 05:23 PM
This is often the killer when renting a car in the states...the insurance can be almost the same as the daily rental fee.The other surprising thing about rental car expenses is the amount of the local taxes. In some American cities the taxes can run as much 91% of the daily rental charge. Here in Las Vegas the rate is about 43% -- and many a tourist has been astounded to discover that actual cost of the rental at the end of trip is MUCH higher than they expect. Good advice about the local agent!


RoadTripper 912
10-09-2006, 02:27 PM
There is good news and bad.

The bad first (always the bad first!) - I have to add on about three more days. I was due to drop off the car on the Friday and now I want to drop it off on the Monday.

The good news is that I found a sponsor to fund the trip (enough to cover the car rental, the camera, the food and lodging!!!)


One week and counting.

Cali :)

06-13-2011, 11:01 AM
Hey, new here...but took quite some roadtrips already in the States...
The next one we are planning is a trip from CA - NY...

I was wondering, if you take a car one way to CA from NY...
Wouldnt there have to be a way to rent that car cheaper and drive it back to NY?

Drop fee i have encountered so far is around 1200 dollars and we are trying to cut that offcourse :)

Have fun!

Midwest Michael
06-13-2011, 11:27 AM
Welcome to the RTA Forum!

Wouldnt there have to be a way to rent that car cheaper and drive it back to NY?
Cheaper than what?

One way drop fees are a standard part of the industry, and and the rates are going to depending upon a variety of factors. $1200 is a little high, but certainly not unheard of.

If you don't want to deal with the fee, then make a plan to do a loop trip.

06-29-2011, 01:28 AM
Thanks Michael, this was exactly my point.
I'm used to paying for drop off fees on my last roadtrips in the states.
My practical side just says...
All the cars that are being dropped off in LA have to be driven back to NY right?
So, im willing to drive one back for them, and pay for it as well :)
I mean, the drop off fee is already paid for.

But i guess this kind of flexibility is too much too ask from for a big rental company.

Midwest Michael
06-29-2011, 01:57 AM
You've got some flawed logic in your thinking.

Yes, a one way fee is charged, but you're making the assumption that people are only driving from NY to LA and then all of those cars have to be shipped back to NY.

The one way fee already factors in that some of those cars will be driven back the other way by other renters, and in fact, that's why the drop fee will be different depending upon the city and the expected demand. If they had to ship every car back, then the $1200 drop fee you're talking about could easily be $2000+.

Also, some times rental companies will want cars in certain places, so they'll raise the fee if they've already got too many cars, and lower them if they are trying to get cars moved to a different location. So if there are a lot of extra cars in LA, the drop fee might be $500 instead of $1200.

Now what you are talking about does sort of exist, although not with rental car companies. The concept is called a "Driveaway" and you can get a car for next to nothing if you drive it to a specific destination. The problem is that you need to be flexible enough to take the car to where it needs to go - and not just where you want to visit. For example, they might not have a car that needs to go from LA to NY, but rather a car that needs to go from LA to Milwaukee. Going that way also typically means you'll be somewhat limited in the amount of time and miles, so while you can do some site seeing, you can't be taking big detours or plan to spend a month driving it to the destination.