Question USA Car Hire

Sean Sunley

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I'm planning on driving San Fran to Denver (visiting Heavenly, Northstar, Kirkwood, Park City, Beaver Creek, Vail, Breckenridge, and Keystone) in Jan 2020. First time in USA, will 2wd be okay or should I hire a AWD?
 

Legs Akimbo

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What will the weather be? If the weather is good 2WD will be fine. If the weather is bad, AWD will be useful. It also depends on the type of rubber in your tyres. 2WD with snow tyres is probably better than AWD with summer rubber.

The US is very good at getting roads cleared quickly, but there are occasions where more traction is useful. I once drove between Santa Fe and Albuquerque - not where you expect bad conditions - and there was carnage beside the road. I have also driven around Tahoe in a 2WD without any problems, The message? It depends where you are and what is happening in the sky at a particular time.
 
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Gregah

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Absolutely agree with you Legs. However, given specifying snow tyres on your SUV is an impossibility on rentals out of San Fran (see thread "US Car hire with winter tyres… sorry, I don't know how to create the link) its all a bit academic. Sean, I've been on exactly the same car hire journey in the last month. The unfortunate reality seems to be that you cannot "lock in" an AWD / 4WD. The best you can do is specify an "SUV" then request an AWD / 4WD variant on a no promises basis. Winter tyres, as sensible as they seem for what you will be undertaking, are a fantasy in US rental land. Best you can hope for are a good set of M+S all season tyres.
 
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gareth_oau

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Absolutely agree with you Legs. However, given specifying snow tyres on your SUV is an impossibility on rentals out of San Fran (see thread "US Car hire with winter tyres… sorry, I don't know how to create the link) its all a bit academic. Sean, I've been on exactly the same car hire journey in the last month. The unfortunate reality seems to be that you cannot "lock in" an AWD / 4WD. The best you can do is specify an "SUV" then request an AWD / 4WD variant on a no promises basis. Winter tyres, as sensible as they seem for what you will be undertaking, are a fantasy in US rental land. Best you can hope for are a good set of M+S all season tyres.

that's quite bizarre about the AWD.

Quite easy and reliable in Canada, and on top of that, AFAIK by law all SUVs have to have M&S tyres
 

Gregah

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He’s talking about winter tyres (completely different to M+S).
And here's what my Hertz contract says "Rentals commencing between Oct 01-Mar 31 in areas that experience winter weather will be equipped with all season tires, ice scraper and de-icer washer fluid." Clearly, if I were hiring out of Salt Lake City there would be no ambiguity in this statement. But hiring out of San Francisco, does it experience "winter weather" (whatever that means...)?
 

FixedGrip

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Just hire an SUV with M+S rated rubber - it's the best you can do and has always served me well. In all my years of renting SUVs out of LAX/SFO, we have never once arrived to find the car didn't have M+S hoops, but just check when you collect. Pop into a big auto/snow outlet, grab yourself a small shovel and plastic ice brush/scraper and you're set.

Looking at the current Hertz SFO fleet, your best bet will be a Nissan Pathfinder.

Your bigger issue will be the one way rental - the big depots don't like losing their cars and charge accordingly. I just did a dummy on a 3-week booking - $2k if returning to SFO, $3k returning to DEN. Unavoidable but be aware.
 
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Gregah

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Just hire an SUV with M+S rated rubber - it's the best you can do and has always served me well. In all my years of renting SUVs out of LAX/SFO, we have never once arrived to find the car didn't have M+S hoops, but just check when you collect. Pop into a big auto/snow outlet, grab yourself a small shovel and plastic ice brush/scraper and you're set.

Looking at the current Hertz SFO fleet, your best bet will be a Nissan Pathfinder.

Your bigger issue will be the one way rental - the big depots don't like losing their cars and charge accordingly. I just did a dummy on a 3-week booking - $2k if returning to SFO, $3k returning to DEN. Unavoidable but be aware.
That's good to know. And have you ever had an LAX/SFO pickup where the hire company tried to give you a 2WD SUV or have they always been the AWD/4WD model variants?
 

FixedGrip

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That's good to know. And have you ever had an LAX/SFO pickup where the hire company tried to give you a 2WD SUV or have they always been the AWD/4WD model variants?

That can be a question mark if the car you've reserved is available in both configs - you won't really know until you get there. AFAIK, Pathfinder is not available as a 2WD so a safer bet.

That said - in the low/mid range space, there's a bit of uncertainty until you get there no matter what you do. Reserve a Pathfinder and you may arrive to find a Ford Explorer waiting for you, hence 'Or Similar' when you select the car online. Don't stress - they will be able to tweak the booking and get you into a 4WD something on the spot.

My advice - join Hertz Gold Plus Rewards before you book. It's free, and means on arrival at the SFO rental car garage you can skip the half hour queue of punters trying to book Corollas, head straight down to the Gold Rewards/upgrades desk in the garage, and be well looked after.
 

FixedGrip

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yeah I can't understand why not. I dont think car hire companies would want their cars getting pranged all the time

Even the pathetic standard hoops on my Forester were M+S rated. I am sure there's competency variance across brands, but regardless, M+S 'anything' will be better than standard road car rubber. Drive to the conditions and you'll be fine.
 
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Barras

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I would also check out the CDOT website, as last month it was being reported that the government was looking at changing the law over what tyres and traction devices all vehicles need to have on the i70
 
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