A Vacation Car Rental Adventure

Phoenix from the airplane window
South Phoenix from the airplane window

As you know from my last post, the family and I took a two week vacation in June. One of the things we had to do was rent a car. We planned to pick up our car at Phoenix's Sky Harbor Airport and return it there. At Sky Harbor all the car rental businesses are colocated in an off site facility that is open 24×7 with free airport shuttle bus service. There wasn't much price difference between the several agencies I checked but fortunately for us one of them, Avis, provided a map showing the location of all their other car rental locations in that section of Phoenix.

That map played a critical role in our car rental decision. You see it was a bit of a shock to learn that even with our discount, to rent a full size car for two weeks from Avis was going to cost us $995.00 (in line with the other car rental companies I checked). That was far more than I had expected to spend. One thing I noticed in the itemized costs were a number of surcharges and taxes associated with using the airport car rental facility.

This is where that Avis location map came in handy. I had noticed that Avis had its own car rental location in a Sears Auto Center about 5 miles from the airport. On a lark I decided to see what it would cost to rent the same car for the same time only picking it up and returning it to that Sears location. Picking myself up off the floor I confirmed that the same car rental would cost me only $430.00! That is $565.00 cheaper than renting the car at the airport – an astounding price difference.

Two downsides to not using the airport car rental facility. First: the Sears Avis location was only open during normal business hours and not 24-7 like the airport location. No problem for us since our arrival and departure were during normal business hours. Second: we had to get back and forth between the airport and the Sears location. I called the Sears Avis office and found out that it was a $16 cab ride between the airport and there. The decision was made. We would take a cab from the airport to the Avis office at the Sears location and rent our car from there – saving us 60 percent off the airport car rental price.

The day we arrived in Phoenix we grabbed our bags and a cab and set off to pick up our rental car. At the Avis office we were waited on by David who was very helpful. The best bit of advice that he gave us was to point out that the terms of our car rental agreement allowed us to return our car to the airport rental facility. That way we could take the free shuttle bus to the airport – freeing us of the need to arrange and pay for a taxi ride from Sears to the airport on our return. Fantastic.

That $565.00 we saved by not using the airport's car rental facility was a huge offset to the hotel costs that we would incur while visiting the Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Zion National Park.

The moral of the story is that it always pays to shop around because you never know what kind of deal you may stumble upon.

The Illustration

I never did take a picture of our rented car – a red Chevy Impala. I did take a number of photographs out the airplane window though. I make it a point when I fly to always get a window seat because you never know when you will see something interesting. The photograph shown above was taken out the airplane window looking south – after the airplane had performed a u-turn and began its final approach. The camera raw file was processed using Adobe Photoshop with subsequent steps to enrich the colors and to deepen the blue of the sky.

| Return to the Blog Index | This entry was posted on Tuesday, July 7th, 2009 at 9:16 pm