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Rental cars for western travel

MommaBear

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I think you just need to get lucky, unless you rent a larger SUV class where any possible vehicle has 4WD. As previously mentioned, no guarantee of AWD on even the smaller SUVs/crossovers.

I got lucky (definitely a bunch of dumb luck) today on my drive JAC-SLC. Originally booked a standard sedan (probably a bad idea to begin with), and asked at pickup if they had anything AWD. Turned out they needed to get a Suburban down to SLC for tomorrow morning so they were able to send me with that.

Nice! Trying to avoid the big ass ones. Drove a Suburban for several years. Great for hauling kids and gear, sucked to use and park in day to day stuff. But I guess we will see what we get!

Thanks to everyone for all the info! Lots of ideas to run with. :beer:
 

BenedictGomez

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I think you just need to get lucky, unless you rent a larger SUV class where any possible vehicle has 4WD. As previously mentioned, no guarantee of AWD on even the smaller SUVs/crossovers.

And assume nothing!

I once rented a RAV4 thinking it would be 4WD.

Keep in mind this is no crazy assumption given RAV4 literally stands for, "Recreational Activity Vehicle: 4-Wheel Drive".

Nope. Believe it or not they make 2WD models of the "Recreational Activity Vehicle: 4-wheel drive", which rental car companies do own.
 

skimagic

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And assume nothing!

I once rented a RAV4 thinking it would be 4WD.

Keep in mind this is no crazy assumption given RAV4 literally stands for, "Recreational Activity Vehicle: 4-Wheel Drive".

Nope. Believe it or not they make 2WD models of the "Recreational Activity Vehicle: 4-wheel drive", which rental car companies do own.

I'm heading to CO shortly and have a RAV 4 through advantage which I know will end as 2wd. It looks like Payless has some 4wd wagons, anyone ever use them? I saw the chaos at the Fox rental counter in SLC and would never ever use them .

If its supposed to snow, I might just do Turo to ensure a 4wd but tim unsure how the insurance works out.
 

mikec142

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We were in Utah two weeks ago and rented from National. We got a Toyota Highlander AWD. I asked about snow tires and the agent said that none of their cars had them. I did see a few cars with ski racks (probably 20%) and most cars were SUV's.

I do like the idea of buying chains and keeping the receipts. My bigger concern is that I have zero idea of how to put chains on the car and I would imagine that I'd be attempting to do so in poor conditions.
 

machski

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Still blows my mind that rental car companies inside the US will not rent you chains with the cars. When we were in NZ, all the big US rental companies offered chain rentals with the cars straight up front out of Queenstown. Could have rented chains too out of Auckland when we were on the North Island but didn't as both Ruapahue resorts have sealed roads (even though they have chain requirements too at times). I do not get why out west US they do not rent out chains with their cars since they will not equip the rentals with snow tires. They seem to in other parts of the world.

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mikec142

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Still blows my mind that rental car companies inside the US will not rent you chains with the cars. When we were in NZ, all the big US rental companies offered chain rentals with the cars straight up front out of Queenstown. Could have rented chains too out of Auckland when we were on the North Island but didn't as both Ruapahue resorts have sealed roads (even though they have chain requirements too at times). I do not get why out west US they do not rent out chains with their cars since they will not equip the rentals with snow tires. They seem to in other parts of the world.

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While I agree that it would be a good way for the rental co's to make a few bucks, I'd be curious as to two things. Is there a possibility of damage to the car if the driver doesn't put the chains on correctly? What is the liability to the company if the driver doesn't know how to use the chains correctly and injury occurs?
 

BenedictGomez

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I do not get why out west US they do not rent out chains with their cars since they will not equip the rentals with snow tires. They seem to in other parts of the world.

Could it be mandated by local legislation in Australia? I'm thinking in the US it's probably because they're worried if a chain gets thrown or broken it will damage the rental car. Given we turn-over rental cars to the secondary market at pretty low mileage in America, I can see how that's not a small concern to the rental car company.
 

machski

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Could it be mandated by local legislation in Australia? I'm thinking in the US it's probably because they're worried if a chain gets thrown or broken it will damage the rental car. Given we turn-over rental cars to the secondary market at pretty low mileage in America, I can see how that's not a small concern to the rental car company.
It was New Zealand but I know in Europe they rent out chains as well. It could be due to our loose litigation society here in the USA. My guess is that it is a lack of perceived demand in the US. Even in mountain locations, I bet the majority of US drivers don't even know tire chains are a thing and renters probably even less so!

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cdskier

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My guess is that it is a lack of perceived demand in the US. Even in mountain locations, I bet the majority of US drivers don't even know tire chains are a thing and renters probably even less so!

I was with a friend of my dad's last weekend (that skis a lot) that was talking about how years ago people used these things called "snow tires" in the winter but now all-seasons are good enough. Me and my dad both proceeded to tell him that we both have snow tires on our vehicles and would never trust all-seasons. He seemed surprised to find out people still swap tires in the winter. So yea, I wouldn't at all be surprised if most US drivers don't even know tire chains are a thing.
 

MommaBear

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I do like the idea of buying chains and keeping the receipts. My bigger concern is that I have zero idea of how to put chains on the car and I would imagine that I'd be attempting to do so in poor conditions.

We lucked out in OR as all they had left was a suburban when we arrived to pick up our standard SUV. 2nd day to the mountain, huge dump, roads not plowed, traffic backed up and we are sitting waiting for it to move again. Several cars ahead of us and one behind had people hop out and start putting on chains. At one of the cars ahead, a woman is standing in the middle of the road with the instructions spread wide while two guys were kneeling in the snow trying to figure out how to get the chains on. Couple of guys from another car hop out and help them out. Amazing how quickly they got them on! All the "chain up" areas weren't plowed out so either, so next best thing was out in the road while traffic was halted.
 

Teleskier

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Not being able to reserve a legal AWD rental is simply the very start of the madness

So I'm going through similar hassles putting together my next western trips.

This probably belongs in the various (IMO completely apocryphal) “western airline ski trips are always cheaper and easier than New England car ski trips” threads, but I find this is pure bunk regarding all my western trips! They are always 4x to 10x the costs. New England is cheap and easy by comparison!

The room prices in Whislter, Vail, Kirkwood (etc) are completely insane compared to New England! What’s the typical average nightly room price at every one of these, around $400/night? $$$$

The various western local road enforcement branches require you to rent SUV AWD! At ski resort airport hubs, in high demand when it snows! Or they will turn your car around at barricaded road closings - only SUV's pass, they never check their tires. So now, on your way there, do you hope for snow or no snow on your western trip? That will drive you insane - it does me. Ski resort airport SUV AWD = $$$$

Try finding cheap direct flights within a reasonable driving distance to western ski resort towns. Aspen, Telluride, etc local airfields are all $$$$. Never mind these are not direct flights either, for all that $$$$ extra ‘luxury’ cost. How many lost skis have I had doing that? Never lost a single ski “anything” while driving in my car on NE trips.

Or you end up flying to Sea-Tac or SFO for the cheaper flights, only to have to drive half a day through snowy rush hour city traffic for longer than any New England drive would ever take from Boston. Leave work Friday, land after a long flight at midnight, worried about your skis the whole time, driving 6+ hours without sleep to get at the ski resort at 6AM, now do you sleep or instead wearily ski without sleep that day after crappy flight + crappy stressful drive?, etc. I’ve done that enough times… to try to defray a little on high western extra costs… not sure it’s worth it anymore. You’re wiped and stressed when you finally get there, it’s a crappy ski day, never mind how the lack of sleep makes you look to the customs guard while crossing the Canadian border, where that 15-30 minute interrogation at 4am is no fun on no sleep. “Really! I’m not here to stay to steal your healthcare! Do you know how expensive this western trip is!”

Whereas a typical ski trip from Boston, in your own car, with your already-good AWD and your already-good snow tires, driving a car where you already know how it behaves in snow, where it’s entirely a pleasant rural countryside drive, all for the price of one tank of gas. And people complain about this vs all the hassles of flying out west? There really is no comparison.

Getting back to the subject of western AWD SUV rentals “as required by law”… two warnings:

  1. Enough abusers have done this that many western stores now charge extra re-stocking fees on chains for all the people doing this ‘free’ chain rental idea.
  2. Chains are strictly forbidden by most (ALL?) rental car agencies - huge fines if found. Nevermind when/if the chains slip off and mar the wheel well area, from someone who has never installed one before, trying to do so out of the shrink-wrap package for the first time in the whipping snow, along the slippery side of a dangerous snowy CA highway.
It’s personal preference whether western skiing is worth all the extra costs and hassles or not, but it is certainly NOT cheaper or easier than local New England skiing.

The western price of (impossible to secure ahead) airport AWD SUV rentals is just one example of the many extra $$$ costs for western trips, for me, in all my western experiences.

Expensive is one thing. Being forced to consider breaking the law and possibly stranding yourself and family in snow because you cannot reserve these ahead of time, is another.

Every western trip I ask… is it really worth all this stress and hassle? Getting to the airport 3-hours ahead of your flight, usually fighting Friday city rush-hour traffic to get there, worried about high priced airport parking total for the week, worried about wading through long sweaty security lines, worried about your skis getting damaged or even being there for you when you land, worried about driving all through the night after a long crappy dry-air (will I catch a cold?) flight, worried about the customs/border crossing (did I buy too much wine at the 24-hour grocery store when I landed and shopped on no sleep, are the various cheeses I bought legal?), worried that you will find your rental keys at 6am, etc, etc. When your ski mountain could all be western bare or western cement when you finally get there?

It makes a NE car ski trip seem like bliss!! For much less cost. Your mileage may vary.

But not being able to find and reserve a legal AWD rental is simply the very start of the western madness….
 
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BenedictGomez

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Seeing this thread bumped made me realize I never updated post my March/April Utah ski trip playing the "will it be or wont it be" SUV rental game.

It wasn't.

I received a non-4WD Kia Sorrento as my promised, "GMC Acadia or similar" when I arrived in SLC. Now, I personally own a GMC Acadia, and I'm here to tell you a Kia Sorrento is nothing like a GMC Acadia in terms of niceness & quality. The fact it wasn't even 4WD was just salt-in-the-wound. Like showing up at a restaurant for a "Ribeye steak or similar" and getting a White Castle burger.
 

gregnye

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The key is to go to Colorado. Their traction law doesn't require chains for passenger cars (at least in the front-range stuff like I-70). Chains only required for trucks.

Or go to Utah and take the UTA bus. The ski bus (which is actually just a normal route on the public transit system) is actually pretty reliable and saves you the cost of even renting a car! However this only allows you to go to Alta, Snowbird, Solitude and Brighton.

Also I've never understood the point of non-4 wheel drive SUV's. Like the point of an SUV is to go off-road.

Most of the people driving an SUV today would be better suited with a minivan. Particularly those who drive things like the Honda CRV and Toyota Rav4. Minivans are underated. You can move furniture (like a truck), people (unlike a truck), sleep in it (unlike a truck), and toyota makes an all-wheel drive version. I'm young with no family and drive a toyota sienna minivan and find that it's the perfect east coast ski mobile.
 
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abc

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Every western trip I ask… is it really worth all this stress and hassle?

When your ski mountain could all be western bare or western cement when you finally get there?
In the middle of ski season, I would ignore this because I'd be too busy skiing...powder out west!

But this is summer. I have not much to do except roll out of my door on my bike for a 50 mile loop. So I have a lot more spare time in hand...

I pity those who are so convinced the western mountain are bare or cements. Plenty of people are equally convinced lobster taste no better than chicken (and chicken taste like wet cardboard). Keep thinking that way. At least you won't be pushing up the airline prices, or the room prices in Whistler.

If only everyone else think like ... Teleskier, there'll be tons of spare rooms in Whistler and I can stretch across 3 seats on my flight to Vancouver.

It makes a NE car ski trip seem like bliss!! For much less cost.
Try a ski simulator! Since you can't tell the difference of snow anyway, you will find the simulator just as much "a bliss". Save your tank of gas. Ski in your basement.
 

abc

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I've never understood the point of non-4 wheel drive SUV's. Like the point of an SUV is to go off-road.
No, the point of SUV is to keep up with the Jones. It's fashionable to have an SUV.

My friend, who like you are young and single, drives a minivan. People ask how many kids he has. Like they don't even ask if he's married. They assume since he has a minivan, he must have been already married and have kids! There goes all the eligible young single women! :(
 

Teleskier

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Ditto - stay in NJ and go to Utah when it snows here!

In the middle of ski season, I would ignore this because I'd be too busy skiing...powder out west!

And don't think the hypocrisy of you, the person who apparently lives inside EWR who constantly falsely extols how cheap western airline ski trips are over NE car ski trips, who says driving to NE is ‘so hard and terrible’, suddenly got in a car and drove to NE when it dumped here for spring skiing the other month, wasn't noticed by me.

I had the same exact thought as you just said… she should fly to Utah this weekend instead and keep our NE roads and trails clear for the people who truly DO value and enjoy NE skiing. Go to Utah when it snows here!

IE - Ditto!
 

deadheadskier

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The key is to go to Colorado. Their traction law doesn't require chains for passenger cars (at least in the front-range stuff like I-70). Chains only required for trucks.

Or go to Utah and take the UTA bus. The ski bus (which is actually just a normal route on the public transit system) is actually pretty reliable and saves you the cost of even renting a car! However this only allows you to go to Alta, Snowbird, Solitude and Brighton.

Also I've never understood the point of non-4 wheel drive SUV's. Like the point of an SUV is to go off-road.

Most of the people driving an SUV today would be better suited with a minivan. Particularly those who drive things like the Honda CRV and Toyota Rav4. Minivans are underated. You can move furniture (like a truck), people (unlike a truck), sleep in it (unlike a truck), and toyota makes an all-wheel drive version. I'm young with no family and drive a toyota sienna minivan and find that it's the perfect east coast ski mobile.
I drive an AWD Sienna minivan for work. It without a doubt offers better utility than most SUVs. I absolutely love the automatic sliding rear doors. When you're heading to the van with a few bags of groceries and a baby in your arms, it's a real easy system. Great in parking garages too. I'm kinda surprised automakers haven't figured out how to get those kind of doors onto full size SUVs.

With snow tires this winter it did pretty well. Only complaint is the ass end certainly can fish tail pretty easy if you aren't paying attention. The handling in general kinda sucks compared to most SUVs. In bad weather, I'll take my Golf All Track every time. The Alltrack is a beast in the snow.

As for why they make SUVs without AWD? Probably 60% of the population in this country never really sees snow or ice driving. Probably another 30% only deals with it a handful of days a year. The vast majority of people never take them off road. So a 2WD system is fine and appealing due to lower cost and better fuel economy.

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dblskifanatic

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I am surprised at some of the rant by Teleskier! In Colorado you are not required to have an SUV anything AWD is fine and do not require chains. In most cases, chains are need for mountain passes if not AWD otherwise not needed.

When we lived in New England and made a trip to Colorado we rented a small SUV for $360 for 6 days so I found that to be reasonable. We rented an AirBnB for $900 in Dillon because we were not interested in one resort. We cooked our own food brought our gear and got a great deal on a flight from Boston to Denver. Driving from Denver to Aspen is not that big of a deal 3.5 hours with no traffic or weather (timing is everything with I70) but for about $150 more you can fly into Eagle County - just looked it up for a January flight.

When we travelled to Alberta to ski Sunshine, LL and Kicking horse. The means of transportation was the shuttle or bus. We stayed in Banff so getting around was walking. It was a group deal so the trip was reasonable.

There are plenty of people that pay the crazy prices of staying at the resort eating at the resort and rent monster SUVs but clearly they are not to concerned about the cost. As long as some want to compare ski trips in a car to ski trips out west or other fly to destination then there is hope that fewer will return.

With planning you can travel most places at reasonable costs. Comparing costs for a car trip vs flying some where is apples to oranges. One is a destination trip the other is probably a common weekend trip.


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