When you are thinking of exploring road trip in America, the best way is to rent a car. Without a car, it is pretty hard to get from one point to another (eg LA to San Diego, etc) as I hardly see any public transportation in most part of the country. (I am not talking about New York City.)
Before departing, things you need to do is book the car online from your preference car booking website. I use rentalcars.com and book Thrifty.
When you rent a car, do consider the following :
- After-hours drop-off availability
- Use of toll roads
- Mileage restrictions
- Insurance and protection product options ( I would suggest anyone to purchase the car insurance when you pick up your car at the front desk. I have experienced paying twice for the car insurance. Once from online car booking and another at the front desk when I wanted to pick up the car. The front desk won’t allow me to pick up the car if I did not pay the car insurance to them, in another words, they do not recognized the insurance from my online booking. Do note that! I have experienced paying “twice” in country such as Japan and UK!
- If you have already purchased insurance online, please remember to print out your insurance in hardcopy and show it to the front desk so that they won’t press you for another purchase of insurance.
- Deposit required upon pickup
- Renting car seats, GPS or additional equipment (some car rental company need extra charges for GPS, I would strongly recommend one as it is easier to use/see as compare to your phone google map)
Neccessary document to rent a car :
–valid driver license – In America, international licence is not needed.
–credit cards for deposit
Free pick up servise is available usually
Upon arriving at the LAX airport, go to Thrifty car rental bus stop to wait for the shuttle bus to pick you up to Thrifty Car Rental Office, less than 15 mins away from the airport.
Located at : 5440 W Century Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90045, USA
You will notice the shuttle bus is a special design bus as it has a very large space for your luggages. Saw people moving their luggages from the shuttles bus to the Thrifty car rental office. Below casing is “Live Animals”, may be a cat.
The whole process of renting a car is pretty straight forward. Queue for your turn to be served and the front desk are there to service you.
Expect such questions from the front desk:
1. Do you need additional driver? Many of the car companies include your spouse as an additonal driver for free. So do ask them back if spouses are included as additional drivers without extra fees?
2. Do you need roadside assistance? It means in case you have a flat tire or broke down on the highway, they wil send someone to help you.
3. Do you want to return the car with full tank of gas or want us to refill it for you? Return car with full tank is always cheaper than the car rental company refill it for you. If you choose the option – “to refill full when return”, then do remember to refill. If you forget to refill to full tank and return to them, you will end up getting very expensive charges from your credit card when you reach home. About double to tripple of the price of a full tank gas.
4. Collision insurance – as I mentioned, do purchase at the front desk as some rental company do not accept the one that you purchased from online. If you have accidentally purchase the insurance online, please print out the hard copy to show them as proof.
5. Toll Road Charges : It all depends where you are going. You may want to include the toll road charges if you knew you will pass by many toll road areas.
There are many type of catogories of cars; Small cars, Compacts, Standard, SUV, Convertible.
We waited for more than 10 mins at the parking lot and there is no staff to come to serve us. I then went back the office to ask the front desk. He told me to pick any car at the parking lot and the keys are all inside the car. Pretty amazing.
I have rented cars from Japan, Thailand, Taiwan and UK but all would provide me briefing of the car and show me how to use. But in America, renting a car is visiting a supermarket, pick any car you like and then drive away. Nobody will tell you how to use it, unless you ask around.
I have trouble adjusting the car seat so I have to ask the customer who is also looking for cars in the parking lot.
Nissan Altima can fit up to 2 huge suitcases.
Strongly recommend anyone to take up the rental of car GPS. It is easier to see as compare to your phone. There is an additional charges, slightly more than USD 10 per day but I think it is worth it.
Enjoy your road trip in America!
There are big and small petrol stations on the road. Fuel to pump in the car in US is petrol. In UK we use diesel. Don’t pump in the wrong fuel. In most place in California you have to pay before you start pumping in petrol. We normally pump in USD$ 30-50 dollars. If the petrol is less than the amount, the cashier will return the cash back to you. Most places acept both cards and cash but some smaller petrol station only accept cash.
Cute Version of Petrol Station in Yosemite
Always come a bit earlier as you may have difficulties finding the entrance to return the car. We spent about 20 mins to find the entrance as we passed few times. Car pick up exit and car return entrance is always not the same way so be prepared to have enough time.
The car rental staff will ask you few questions and then let you go. Pretty fast. Less than 10 mins.
Free Shuttle Bus to Airport
You can queue for the shuttle bus to go to the airport. Always have ample time if you are catching a flight home. We have waited for about half an hour for the shuttle bus as there are many people on the lines. The shuttle bus took about half an hour to reach the LAX airport. Do check which terminal and tell the driver. In total of 8 terminals in LAX airport.
Final thoughts :
Self Driving is the best way to explore America! The roads are well maintained, clear sign and many places to visit. Car rentals company are everywhere and offer competitive prices. You would love the experience! Do check out the tips above before you step into car rental company, else you end up paying more.
You may like :
- Check out the complete Self drive itinerary covering California, Arizona and Nevada.