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User’s Guide To Car Rentals In US

Pravin Sathe tells you about USA’s ‘Chariots of Hire’

Car rental companies operate out of almost all major locations,
airports, tourist spots and business hubs

A business trip to the United States is an otherwise exciting proposition till you reach the roadblock of short distance travel within the country. Between cities there is hardly any issue as inter-city flights across the gigantic land mass are run like suburban locals in Mumbai and even 9/11 cannot displace this mode of transport due to its unquestionable convenience.

On the ground however, road and rail public transport in the US is like the Himalayan ‘yeti’ - everyone has heard about it but no one has actually seen it. In such a scenario, and where petrol prices are so cheap as to hardly make a dent in one’s pocket, your own vehicle remains the only way to move about even if it is a few hundred miles.

Persons of Indian origin or your hosts there will go out of their way to pick and drop a fellow desi but for how long and how many times? Try a cab and you will nurse the hole in your pocket for the rest of the trip. So, is there a solution? Of course, buddy, as a local would say. Rent a car.

Today, car rentals is a multi-million dollar industry with the biggest players being Hertz, Avis, Thrifty, Alamo etc. They operate out of almost all major locations, airports, tourist spots, airports and business hubs. The ease of renting the four wheels will make you wish to start a business on the same lines when you return to India. But we will let that pass.

Public transport can rarely be seen in US roads

The rented car however comes without a driver. You need to don that role temporarily but then it is not so bad when you realise that except the President of the country almost everyone is his own driver. Rents start at around US$ 32 or so per day (indicative). They may vary depending on local competition, state and federal levies and special schemes that may be bundled by airlines and hotels for their frequent flier/users programmes.

Also specific levies in states as well as airport drop/pick-up additional charges would apply if you wish to drop off the car at a location different from where you picked it up. Specifically, on weekends you can negotiate even better bargains. However for Indian drivers depending on the state you wish to drive in, an International Driving Licence (preferably not more than six months old) along with a local Indian driving licence is absolutely essential besides some personal identification and an international credit card.

Top US Automobile Rental Agencies
  • Avis - http://www.avis.com
  • Hertz - http://www.hertz.com
  • Budget - http://www.budgetrentacar.com
  • Dollar - http://www.dollarcar.com
  • Alamo - http://www.goalamo.com
  • Enterprise - http://www.pickenterprise.com
  • National - http://www.nationalcar.com
  • Thrifty - http://www.thrifty.com
  • Payless - http://www.paylesscar.com
  • Advantage - http://www.arac.com
  • Rent a Wreck - http://rent-a-wreck.com

Also, for a society as litigious as the US, the buying of a third party insurance policy or some ‘Extra Protection’ is advised. This again varies from location to location and will add approximately US$12 or so per day (indicative) though here again a combination of your credit card risk cover etc. may help alleviate matters. In any case, the final amount compares extremely favourably with taxis as even a fairly short distance ride of an hour will cost you approximately US$ 50 or so and even more if you hire the slightly more luxurious ‘limo’ to impress your client.

Recently, the use of newer technologies by car rental companies has meant you might get a smart car which knows where to go after you feed in the destination and keeps guiding you when confusion sets in. Also if you run errant, remember Big Brother is watching you as in-built tracking systems in the cars means you are constantly on the radar of the rental company and trying to beat an untrodden path may invite censure.

All said and done, the sheer ease and comfort of the car rental system beats the other disadvantages if any. So, what are you waiting for? Go ahead and zoom away.

On US roads your own vehicle remains the most convenient mode of transport