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Car Rentals - Hidden Fees???

Central New Jersey
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Car Rentals - Hidden Fees???

I will be in Arizona for a week in May and plan to rent a car while there. I have come across several forums regarding car rental from PHX, some positive, but many negative.

It sounds like the best bet is to rent from one of the top agencies.

I am considering renting through Hotwire, which guarantees a car rental from Alamo, Hertz, Enterprise, Thrifty, Dollar or National. Are all of these considered top agencies?

Also, the price paid through Hotwire includes "taxes and fees". Is that the final price or can I expect to be blind-sided with paying more at the time of picking up my car?

The same goes for renting directly from one of the agencies. The price on the website shows the break down of taxes and fees. Is that the final price? Or again should I be concerned with surprise fees when picking up the car?

After reading some of the reviews of these agencies, I am worried that a simple car rental can make or break my vacation!!

Sedona, AZ
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for Sedona, Arizona, Monument Valley
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1. Re: Car Rentals - Hidden Fees???

Those are all top providers. You can get a breakdown and itemization of the taxes and fees too if you ask. Nothing else will be hidden, but it's a good idea to read the fine print. It's normal for agencies to ask if you want to upgrade the vehicle, opt for a fuel fill up choice (it's always better for you to return the car with a full tank of gas) and you need to be aware of the coverage that your own insurance company provides and what the rental company accepts.

Booking through a third party broker like Expedia can save you money, sometimes, but canceling or changing can be very costly.

The biggest controversy in PHX is that you'll pay an extra tax at the airport rental center. Renting somewhere off site can save this tax, but the costs of transport and timing for your flights etc can make it less than cost effective.

Central New Jersey
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2. Re: Car Rentals - Hidden Fees???

Thank you very much for the clarification. Approximately how much is the airport tax for the car rental?

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3. Re: Car Rentals - Hidden Fees???

The airport tax will be included in the price breakdown and you will pay this tax when you book with Hotwire.

For the record, most other 3rd party sites such as Expedia do not require payment when booking a car so there would be no cancel fee. Same if you book direct with the car company.

Ann Arbor, Michigan
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for Grand Canyon National Park
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4. Re: Car Rentals - Hidden Fees???

Anytime you make a reservation, whether through the rental car company or through a third-party site, you will get a full quote that details all fees and taxes. Most of the "hidden fees" complaints I read seem to be from people who are pulled in by ads for "$20 per day" rental fees then fail to read the entire quote at the end. When renting from the Phoenix airport, the extras often add up to more than the base rental fee. Lesson there is to READ THE QUOTE. Some also seem to get pressured into purchasing additional insurance at the rental counter. I think that's simply a "just say no" situation.

It's worth doing a search for promo codes (discounts.) I usually start with a simple google search. Organizations that you may belong to -- like Costco, AAA, AARP, VISA, etc. often offer rental car promo codes to their members as well. You can usually save 20-25% of the rental fee this way but note that discounts won't apply directly to the taxes (though these will be lower if the rental fee is reduced.)

>> For the record, most other 3rd party sites such as Expedia do not require payment when booking a car so there would be no cancel fee. Same if you book direct with the car company. <<

Actually, many rental companies are offering "pre-pay" discounts lately which are usually NOT refundable. And if you use the "make a bid" or "mystery" options to book a rental through sites like Priceline or Hotline, these are also not refundable. Again, read the fine print!

My usual strategy is to search for promo codes and reserve through the car rental company websites. Then, a few days before my trip, when the risk of having to change or canel the trip is very low, I make a bid on a site like Priceline. I've been successful getting a car at about half the reserved price this way and haven't had any issues with the rental itself.

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5. Re: Car Rentals - Hidden Fees???

How about 4 double fees because car was dropped off in different state? Estimate of charges reflected only one charge each, but final bill doubled airport tax, state taxes, county stadium tax and vehicle license fee! Rented from Thrifty, picking up in Arizona, dropping off in New Mexico. Bummer!!!!

tucson az
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for Tucson, Arizona, Northern Mexico
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6. Re: Car Rentals - Hidden Fees???

Becket: If you originally made the reservation as a one way, picking up in one city and dropping off in another, the car rental company would have given you an estimate for all charges and fees, often much more for a one way rental than returning in the same city. If you changed and dropped off the car somewhere different than the reservation, the contract was voided. This is not hidden fees or relevant to the OP's questions.

Edited: 20 October 2013, 19:29
York, Pennsylvania
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7. Re: Car Rentals - Hidden Fees???

Yes, what Bob B said.

I have never been surprised with the bill upon dropping off a rental car. We did a one-way rental from LAS to PHX in August and were charged exactly as expected. Yes it was more costly to do a one-way... but we knew that at booking. I compared LAS roundtrip with LAS to PHX, so I knew how much extra we were paying to do it as a one-way... but we reserved the one-way trip. So there wasn't any additional charges at drop-off.

Reserve what you want from the get-go, decline upgrades and extras at the counter, and return the car on time... and you'll be fine.

Edited: 20 October 2013, 19:54
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8. Re: Car Rentals - Hidden Fees???

We used Advantage at the Phoenix airport in Sept 2013 and will never use them again, anywhere.


We paid in advance online, so that the process of picking up the car would be quick and easy. It was not. We waited in line for over 45 minutes just to get to a representative and there really weren't that many people in line, maybe 6 or 7 in front of us and 2 reps to take care of them. Then we had to put up with the hard sell to try to get us to pay for more things. After we listened to 2 or 3 of those, we shut down and stopped listening, just kept saying NO before they could offer us anything. It was late in the afternoon, and with no DST in AZ, it was already getting dark and we had to drive several hours yet. We were tired and hungry, so the wait and hard sell were even more annoying.


Because we paid in advance, and turned down all extra offers, everything was supposed to be included. They ended up tacking on about $55 extra when we returned the car. When we questioned them about it, they gave us some fast talk about extra fees. Those were not listed on our original agreement, so we expected no extra fees. After returning home, I sent an email about it and got no satisfaction from the main office either.


The car had not been washed. No one even bothered to clean the windshield and back window.. The seats were stained. Someone had left a CD from a library audio book in the player. There was trash in the car. It had not been vacuumed. Other times we rented cars from other companies, they had been thoroughly cleaned inside and out..


We drove to Flagstaff which is at 7000 feet of elevation. Every time we were going uphill ---even a fairly low-grade hill, it felt like the car was struggling. We were constantly worried that the transmission would give out. On many of our drives, we asked ourselves what our options would be if the car broke down.


Even though the rental was supposed to be cheaper than some of the other companies, it ended up costing as much and we were dissatisfied with what we got. The worry about whether the car would climb a hill, or even make it back to the airport, added to our distress.

9. Re: Car Rentals - Hidden Fees???

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