I'm planning a trip from Chicago to San Francisco and wanted to drive and was looking for one way car rentals and there charging upto a $95 daily return fee making a 7 day journey with $1200. I looked at hotwire priceline and all individual car rental websites. I was wondering if such a rental would actually cost that money. Any tips to waive the one way rental fee.

  • I only ever did one 1-way rental in the US, but the arrangement was different. No per-day return fee, but I had to pay a per-kilometer fee. I think it was Avis, back in 2008 or so, Las Vegas to Phoenix via a very long, scenic path was around $700-800 if I recall correctly. Perhaps you can find a similar per-kilometer deal, may be better for you depending on the itinerary. – Eugene O Apr 3 '16 at 14:39
  • Hmm, sorry, just saw that this is Chicago to San Francisco... per-kilometer may not be such a good idea then : ) – Eugene O Apr 3 '16 at 14:40
  • CarTrawler does it for a bit less (book.cartrawler.com/…), but not too much less. – MastaBaba Apr 3 '16 at 14:52

You should be able to find a bit cheaper, but yes, generally you pay dearly for one-ways.

The concept behind it is that the rental company needs to pay a guy to drive the car back and fly home. Some one-ways even out, of course, but not all, as tourists have preferred directions. For example, many people drive down the East coast and end in Florida, so Florida ends up with having tons of extra cars. They often run specials where you can get a car one-way out of Florida for 49 $ for a whole week. Route 66 is the same - most people go Chicago to SF.

You should check for such specials on your way, and also consider driving the other way round (if this works for you).

Another trick I used often is to split the rental in two, for example if you spend the last 3 days in SF, you return the one-way car right away and rent another one for the remaing days (which is much cheaper as it is not one-way). You could also split into two one-ways, by 'changing' cars in the middle, etc.

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