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  1. Default Another rental car question

    I am doing a loop road trip in August which will include Glacier and Yellowstone. I will be coming in from the UK. I have driven a lot in the USA, so that's not a problem. I was last in the US about ten years ago and when I look at the rental sites, I don't recognise the models shown.

    The question is, what to rent. It will be around 1300 miles over two weeks and may include gravel roads which I think the more minor ones are. Obviously comfort over long distances is important. I quite fancied a 4x4 but they don't seem to be easily available.

    Any ideas will be gratefully recieved. :)

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin


    Welcome to the RTA forum!

    4x4 is typically very easy to find - the problem is that it really is an expensive and kind of pointless option. You still can't take a rental SUV off road or really anywhere that you can't easily get to with a regular sedan.

    You'll get the best value in a sedan. You'll have to pick the size based on how many and how large the people are in your group. Typically it doesn't cost too much more to go from an economy/compact up to a standard/full size. You'll usually get better extras, like cruise control if you go with a slightly larger vehicle too.

  3. #3

    Default Time to "cowboy up"?

    Hello Malcy,

    As one who has flown in to Denver and Salt Lake City for winter ski trips many times, I am surprised you've had difficulty finding a 4 wheel drive. I assume your arrival airport is in the West since your loop includes Yellowstone and Glacier. Perhaps the rental agencies bring in their fleets of 4 wheel drive SUVs primarily for ski season.

    And Midwest Michael is, as always, dead on with the point that rental contracts like to bar the renter from taking a vehicle off-road. Trouble is, the contracts apparently aren't unanimous in terms of what "off road" is, as a detailed discussion thread here in RTA once discussed. Some state "paved highways only" while others specify "numbered US, State, or local roads only". The former excludes the many, many tens of thousands of miles of graded gravel roads which make up the lion's share of county, Forest Service, and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) roads in the West. The latter is far more inclusive.

    Generally more useful than 4 wheel drive itself is the higher ground clearance in a 4WD, which generally allows travel over the rougher of the numbered unpaved roads. Add the higher ride height and the improved visibility it provides, and you've got my own personal preference in a rental vehicle. When I rent in Salt Lake City, I look for a standard or full-size SUV and I make sure the description included 4 wheel drive or All Wheel Drive (essentially a 4WD without an "on/off" switch for its front drive axle. If you've searched on similar lines (similar terms) and not found them in good supply, I don't know what to suggest. If not, look again under "SUV" and you'll likely find what you're looking for.


  4. Default

    Thanks for the replies.

    I am planning to fly into Idaho Falls, Idaho as it puts me right on the planned route and fits well with the overall timing.

    I have seen the SUV option ion the rental web sites but I thought that the pictures shown looked more like people carriers than what I would consider an SUV e.g. Landrover Freelander etc. Unfortunately I am not up on current US models.

    The point about road restrictions is a good one and I will look into it as I am sure that I will come across gravel roads at some point.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Get Into the Fine Print

    You will need to get well down into the fine print of any rental contract to determines which roads you can drive on. You want to look for one of two phrases. If the rental is restricted to 'paved roads', then dirt and gravel are out and there is absolutely no point in renting anything other than a comfortable sedan. If, however, the rental is restricted to 'regularly maintained roads' then graded dirt and/or grave4l roads are permissible as long as the roads are maintained, generally that means that they are re-graded at least every year. But even then, as has been noted, getting a 4WD or AWD car (Land Rover type) is a waste4 of money, as you will in no case be allowed to take any rental vehicle "off road". In the case that the contract restricts you to paved roads, be sure to ask about park and forest service roads into camp grounds and whether they will invalidate the contract. But, and this is important, in no case should you assume that you can take a dirt road and "just won't tell anyone". Essentially every rental car in today's fleets is equipped with a GPS chip and the rental firm will know that you have taken it off road. At that point you have invalidated the contract and are essentially driving a stolen vehicle with no insurance. Not a good idea.


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