Anonymous asked in TravelTravel (General)Packing & Preparation · 2 months ago

Renting a car for a road trip?

This summer I am hoping to go on a road trip.  I am from Michigan and will be flying out to California (San Francisco) and want to road trip back (going through 11 states about 3200 miles) anyone have experience with a cross country road trip car rental?  Do you think it would be better to exchange the car along the way?  I am researching and want to figure out the most cost effective way to do this. Thank you for the help!!


Thank you for those who answered. 

I wanted to clarify why I was asking about exchanging the car along the way.  My thought was maybe if I stopped midway and returned the rental and got a new rental I may save money because I am not putting so many miles on one rental 🤷‍♀️  I know a lot of rentals say unlimited mileage but I was wondering if there were small print that up charged after certain mileage.  I have only ever rented cars for trips where I drove very few miles.  

10 Answers

  • Edd S
    Lv 5
    2 months ago

    Do not rent the car at , or return it to an airport.  The extra fees can be huge.  Before returning the car fill the tank before reaching the turn in point..  their gas will be quite expensive.   Other answers covered lots of stuff to consider... Enjoy

  • 2 months ago

    What sort of route do you have planned for this return trip? I've made 3 similar cross-country trips, albeit a long time ago. You won't save any money by switching cars mid-trip. Anyway, drive carefully. The cops in the middle of the coun try can be like sharks.

  • F
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    The fees for one way hire can be steep or nothing, it probably depends on how popular the reverse route from yours is.

    If you’re going from A to B and they have a lot of people wanting to go from B to A, chances are the fee will be low or none.

    Car hire prices are so variable, it’s impossible to make recommendations but obviously you need to use a company with an office at each end, so you’ll need to go with the big companies. Don’t exchange half way , you’re adding costs and you have the hassle of getting to the office during opening hours etc. 

    Shop around for quotes and be flexible on vehicle type. Mini vans are often very expensive compared to saloon cars , so don’t hire one unless essential.

    Deductible insurance can often be bought much cheaper online as a stand alone policy than taking the additional insurance offered by the company.

    Watch out for extras like extra driver , sat nav ( use your phone) and child seats. They can make the cheapest rental suddenly become the dearest if others include them.,

  • MS
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    Check when you make your reservation.  There is usually an extra fee involved when you don't return to the original location, so switching cars midway would mean you'd be paying two of those fees.  If a rental says unlimited mileage, then that is usually the case, but you should absolutely double check that ahead of time; you are right that it could be unlimited mileage up to a certain point (often only identified in the fine print), and then you're paying additional fees after that.  If that's the case, then you may be better off switching cars - but you'd want to see if the extra return fee would be more than the extra mileage fee.  If it's truly unlimited mileage then you should just keep the same car.

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  • 2 months ago

    If you are a member of AAA and rent the car through AAA, you are probably able to pick the car up in CA and return the car in MI without any fees.

    Almost all rental car agencies allow you to do what you want to do with a fee.

    In response to the comments:

    Unlimited miles is unlimited miles. 

  • 2 months ago

    Why would you want to "exchange the car along the way"?  If the car is working properly, why wouldn't you just stick with the same care?

    You can go on Expedia or a similar travel site, and specify that you want to pick the car up in one place and drop it at another.  I've rented cars in Miami and driven to Key West and dropped it there.  Travel sites will also display the coasts, and they are all over the place.  For a trip that long, you want to pick the option where you return it with a full tank.  There are generally gas stations near airports, assuming you pick up and drop off at an airport. That said, rentals from airports tend to be cheaper than renting in a city.  

  • 2 months ago

    im from uk what i did ..ask the rental company if they have any cars that need returning to their base ..i hired a mustang and drove it to Miami ..from san Francisco ..and only paid economy price!...picked up another that needed to be returned to Seattle ..hired that one ..took it back ..via Toronto ..Vancouver ..ferry to Seattle ..

  • 2 months ago

    I can't think of any reason to exchange the car part way through the trip, unless it breaks down. Not sure what cost has to do with it. Why would it be cheaper to get a different rental car? Rental fees usually go by days used or miles used, or a combination of the two. I don't know what the terms of your rental will be. Did you leave out some info, like you'll be staying in one place for four days during the trip and won't need the car then?

  • hihi!
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    One car is good for 200,000 miles. If the clock hits that mark, switch. Read maps, too. GPS may be dead. Maps worked for 100 years, gps is ok, but...

  • Murzy
    Lv 7
    2 months ago

    Don't forget your GPS.

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