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  1. Default 2nd trip: cross country, but this time I need to rent a car...

    I've cross-country tripped before. I did in 2006 in a Volkswagen Gulf by myself for 3 weeks. Great experience. It's not 2010, I'm married, living in NYC, and don't own a car.

    So here's the situation: My wife and I want to go cross country, but we need to rent a car. We plan on staying in NYC, so buying a car is not an option at this time. It seems the experience is mixed based on reading the threads on the board. Many veteran roadtrippers say they've rented a car and put 8,000 miles on it without an issue. I need some advice on this:

    1) Cross-state insurance was mentioned as an issue. Should we buy insurance on our own and decline coverage from our rental? How hard is this to do- even if you don't know the type of car in advance?

    2) Has anyone had any problems getting/returning a cross country rental? We're going to return it back in NYC so it's going back to the same place it came from (maybe outside the area a bit in NJ if there's a better rate)? Do you have to be shady to make sure they don't know you're taking the car 8,000+ miles?

    3) Any other advice from cross-country renting experiences? Anything you think I should know?

    4) Ballpark, how much does a 3 week rental cost? (in your experiences, gas prices, sleeping and food I'm familiar with...)

    We're excited and looking to be doing this in June or July. I missed the northernmost states and southernmost states last time, so we're hoping to expand the loop this time to go from enchanted highway to grand canyon and places in between.

    Thanks for your assistance!

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

    Default its the fine print

    Simply put, you just need to make sure whatever car you rent includes unlimited mileage. As long as that is in your contract, then it doesn't matter if you drive 8 miles of 8 thousand.

    The other thing you'll have to make sure is that your contract allows you to travel to everywhere you plan to go - 48 states would be the most common for your situation. Its not uncommon to see a limit of your renting state and the surrounding ones, so that's an important one to check.

    Otherwise, you really don't need to think of this as a cross country rental, because you are doing a round trip. The logistics of your rental really aren't any different than if you were just planning to use it to drive around town for 3 weeks.

    Insurance, if you don't have a personal car insurance policy already, it would likely be easiest to deal with the rental car company directly. Otherwise, you should look at companies that provide travel insurance and other policies specific to rental cars. A regular personal car insurance policy is going to be sold in a 6 month or a year long term, so its not what you want anyway. Crossing state lines shouldn't be an issue, as long as you are driving within the terms of your rental car agreement.

    Costs are so variable its really hard to say, but if I was going to put a ball park number out, $300 a week sounds about right for an average car. However, you really just need to shop around to the various sites and get a feel of that for yourself.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Problems: Big and Small

    Welcome aboard the RoadTrip America Forums!

    First the little one: If your rental car contract calls for unlimited miles, that's what it means. I have put as many as 7,000 miles on a car in a little over two weeks, and just turned it back in without comment. They know that it all averages out with the businessmen who rent the same car and put 10 miles on it in a week driving from the airport to their hotel and occasionally down the block to dinner. The one thing you will want to check for are any geographic restrictions. 'Unlimited Miles' doesn't mean much if you can't take the car out of the tri-state area, and all rental cars are equipped with GPS chips, so they will know where you've been.

    The bigger problem is insurance. Since you don't have a car of your own, you presumably don't carry auto insurance. Since it is typically sold for a minimum of 6 months, buying it just for this trip might be prohibitive, but you should check with an agent and get a quote just to compare it to what the rental company will charge you (a LOT!). The one other place you should check is with your credit card company. I know that mine automatically offers a very comfortable level of coverage if I rent the car using their card, but that will vary with the bank which actually issues the card.

    Finally, just as a ballpark figure, I generally look for rental rates of $200-250 per week or less for a mid-sized/intermediate sedan.


  4. Default

    Great, thanks for the tips. The cost of a rental car actually seems as if it might be the least of my worries. If i can rent the car for under a thousand or close to it, that was less than I was anticipating.

    I think the hard part might be finding the right company. For example, do you think it would be a red flag if I called all the car rental companies in advance looking for an "unlimited miles, unlimited states" rental? Ideally, I'm going to want to make sure that I know where i'm renting the car well in advance of actually going on the trip so I don't have to shop around and negotiate too much in the couple days before? Specificially, are there certain companies where this is easier to get? I'm pretty sure no Enterprise i've ever rented gave me more than one state....

    Thanks again for the feedback,

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Tucson, AZ

    Default Don't Ask, Read

    There's no need to ask anybody anything. Most car rentals these days are arranged on-line. You can go to each rental car company's website and read the fine print there, or you can use one of the many search engines such as Expedia, Orbitz, Kayak, Travelocity, etc. and compare deals. What you are looking for are two things: the term 'unlimited mileage' and any listings covering geographic restrictions. If you've got the first and none of the second in the fine print on-line, and a price you can live with, go ahead and sign up. One thing I have noticed in the last few years is that it occasionally makes a difference if you are renting locally, making it more likely that you WON'T get those terms from everybody, but I'm sure you can find some company for whom it is still SOP.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Green County, Wisconsin

    Default take a breath

    I actually think you are really psych-ing yourself out here and making a much bigger deal of the situation than you are actually facing.

    If a company has a policy of unlimited miles in the 48, they're not going to say no and change their policy just because your calling them raises a "red flag" and they'll suddenly think that you'll be taking them up on the offer. There are times were each location can have different policies - Enterprise being an example where I've rented a car and been told that I need to keep it within nearby states, and at other locations 48 states has been standard..

    Buck is right of course, that by shopping online you can see for yourself what the fine print is.

    But really, I don't think renting a car for a major roadtrip is nearly as uncommon as you are making yourself think. Shop around -and tell them what you are looking for/read the fine print on the offers you get - that's the only way you'll be able to know how much it will cost to get what you need. You don't need to make a big deal out of your plans, because while the vast majority of rental cars never go more than 100 miles from the rental agency, what you are doing really isn't unique.

  7. Default Breath

    Okay, thanks for the heads advice again. I've had a bad experience with a car rental company in the past which has made me a little leary of involving them in my plans, but it seems based on the solid advice here that I should move on to worrying about the fun parts like "where am I going to go?" and "how often are we going to camp?"

    I'll make sure to watch the small print and not try to over-think it.

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