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Appropriate rental vehicle for touring Arizona.

Ohio
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Appropriate rental vehicle for touring Arizona.

We are planning an extended trip to Arizona in May 2014. Plans are to fly into Tucson and get rental vehicle. Travels will include Ramsey Canyon Preserve, Chiricahua National Mon., Picacho Peak State Park, Spur Cross Ranch, Sedona Red Rock Country, Granite Dells, Oak Creek Canyon Loop, Petrified Forest (27 mile scenic drive)/Painted Desert, Hopi Reservation, Canyon de Chelly (16 m So Rim scenic drive), MVNTP (17 mile Wildcat Trail), Page/Lk Powell, No Rim, So Rim (most GCNP touring will be hiking), and to Flagstaff for departure/return vehicle. I have mentioned the places that I could foresee had any potential for vehicle clearance issues. Any advice on renting a vehicle that will do the job for us would be appreciated. What rental companies have high clearance and which vehicles are those? Thanks much!

Sedona, AZ
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1. Re: Appropriate rental vehicle for touring Arizona.

Wow! How long is your trip? A month would be about the minimum needed to visit all those destinations. So you'll be carrying a fair amount of luggage. For that I'd choose an SUV over a traditional sedan for space and higher clearance. All rental companies will offer SUV options in small, mid size or full size. I'd choose mid or full.

Have you booked all of your lodging yet?

At Monument Valley plan to book a native guided tour. Your SUV might be able to handle the road, but it's not worth taking the chance. If you break down or damage the vehicle, all of your insurance and rights will be terminated. It would spoil a great vacation.

2. Re: Appropriate rental vehicle for touring Arizona.

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Tucson, Arizona
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3. Re: Appropriate rental vehicle for touring Arizona.

For two people, a mid or full-size car works just fine. Even for a couple with children, you don't really need an SUV.

You really should fly into and out of the same airport. Otherwise, rental car drop-off fees will kill you. And it doesn't make sense to fly out of Flag because you have to connect in Phoenix anyway. You will waste more time in airport waiting in Flag and PHX than it will take to drive to PHX. Likewise, it doesn't make sense to fly into Tucson if you aren't seeing anything there. In and out of PHX makes way more sense.

Sedona, AZ
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4. Re: Appropriate rental vehicle for touring Arizona.

Carracar and MikeP, those issues crossed my mind too. The OP didn't mention a budget. The trip itself is ambitious enough. I figured I'd ask a couple questions about time and lodging to find out how much thought they've put into this so far, beyond a wish list of destinations. Type of car would be way down on a realistic plan IMO.

I think we might find that that barring an unlimited budget and at least a month of travel time, this dream will return to reality and get modified.

Wickenburg, Arizona
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5. Re: Appropriate rental vehicle for touring Arizona.

Even though most of the larger rental companies do rent 4WD vehicles with very sightly higher clearance, you're most paradoxically still not allowed off the pavement with them. At MV you should take the guided back country tour anyway as it goes where you're not allowed to go on your own - at the other places, you don't need the off-roader, theoretical off-roader. Get a medium-sized, of with kids- large-size SUV for comfort and space.

tucson az
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6. Re: Appropriate rental vehicle for touring Arizona.

Ditto about Flagstaff. Not the place to use as a dropoff. And as above car rental costs will be more there. Use Phoenix or Las Vegas as your pickup/dropoff point.

You don't need high clearance or an SUV unless you want it for the interior space. The only place on your list that presents any "challenge" to a vehicle is Ramsey Canyon. The road used to be well maintained, but not in recent times. Ramsey Canyon and Chiracahua Monument are also a long way from the other things that you want to see. You would need more time. Stick to Northern Arizona unless you were to expand Souther Arizona experiences to make more sense for the driving time involved.

Your list seems to be a tourist guide list. Do a little more research. Picacho Peak is not worth drive time. I find Petrified FNP very unexciting. The Painted Desert is a huge area which you will see along I-40 and Hwy 89 to Page; nothing to visit.

Uden, The...
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7. Re: Appropriate rental vehicle for touring Arizona.

North rim will be closed to mid may. And I don't see Zion and Bryce in your plans. How long do you have for this trip? How many people in your party are there?

Ann Arbor, Michigan
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8. Re: Appropriate rental vehicle for touring Arizona.

On extended trips, you'll probably find that the car rental cost will be one of your biggest expenses, usually more than airfare, so it's worth doing some research, imo. As others have warned, one-way rentals can be significantly more expensive. I suggest you price out the rentals and see how the various choices affect the final cost. You can look for promo codes online or through organizations that you may have affiliations with, like AAA, Costco, VISA.

Also, it's incorrect that you can't go off pavement in rental vehicles. If you read the rental agreement carefully, the restriction is on "unmaintained" roads. Most of the dirt roads are, in fact, maintained. Some roads aren't maintained in winter but that won't apply by mid-May (early May is still "pre-season" in some areas at the higher elevations.) The point is that they don't want you "off-roading" in their rental vehicles.

I live in Michigan and priced a trip last fall flying into Flagstaff and was surprised that the airfare was about the same price as Phoenix or Las Vegas. It just depends on whether US Airways is having any sales, etc. since that's who flies there. And, believe it or not, travel time is, in fact, usually shorter flying into Flagstaff -- at least if you're trying to get to the Grand Canyon area. Car rental prices at Flagstaff are typically lower than Phoenix, which will offset any airfare differences. Just saying that it's worth pricing out Flagstaff as a gateway.

Edited: 08 June 2013, 13:22
Ohio
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9. Re: Appropriate rental vehicle for touring Arizona.

Thanks to all 7 of you who have replied. I tried to be concise in my question, so didn't include several of the points you touched on. I have done probably about 150 hours or more of research on this trip over many months time. I am very detail oriented in trip planning. Had to cut Bryce/Zion from this adventure as I found too much in just AZ! We are 2 fit adults and we will be there 23 days. I have done driving distance research that supports our itinerary, but I do realize it is ambitious. I didn't list things we will do in Tucson/Phoenix as my question related to vehicle concerns. I have made almost all the lodging reservations, including So. Rim and Phantom Ranch--wasn't lucky enough to score on No. Rim Park reservations, but will watch for cancellations. We'll try to minimize luggage due to flying, but will have some gear, etc. Will price in/out of Phoenix against my initial plans, of course I did realized different car drop-off would cost more, but haven't priced it yet since many sites not showing dates this far out. DetTigerFan--I had noted same language about "maintained roads" or "off-road", vs explicit prohibition on dirt roads. Still I want to be in something that will handle the places we want to see. Appreciate the info. Thx to all.

Ann Arbor, Michigan
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10. Re: Appropriate rental vehicle for touring Arizona.

CatBallou, I assume you realize that you can't drive to Phantom Ranch?