It's one of the best-kept secrets in vacationing: the annual Florida Drive Out.
This is the time of year when the big rental car companies need to rebalance the distribution of their fleets. To convince customers to help them shift their inventory away from winter vacation destinations by the start of the summer travel season, they mark down their prices to nutty levels. And I mean crazy low.
Normally, one-way rentals, during which you drop off a car in a location far from where you rented it, come with massive extra fees. We're talking prices around $1,000 for even the shortest rental periods. But the Florida Drive Out doesn't just eliminate the one-way rental penalty. It also offers sensational daily rates with unlimited mileage. You can drive to every state in the Lower 48 as long as you get it done in three weeks.
This year, 2013, the offer comes from Hertz and Alamo, which are offering one-way rentals from Florida for $9.95 a day for a vehicle from Economy to Full-size class. For a Midsize car or an SUV, it's $15.95 a day, and for a minivan, it's $25.95.
At those rates, renting a standard car for the full three-week allowance will cost just $209. It's insane! How can you resist a cross-country drive at that price? Rates that low could be even make it worth it to fly to Florida just to pick up a car and travel.
The usual taxes and fees are added to that, but at that level, they don't amount to much. To bring the cost even lower, pick up your car at non-airport locations, where there are fewer government-mandated surcharges.
Both Hertz and Alamo are offering cheap one-way rates as long as you pick up your car by May 31, so you could be on the road until the third week in June if you plan things correctly. You have to pick up your car in Florida, but you can return it anywhere else in the Continental United States.
For the past two years in May, I myself have ruthlessly exploited the Florida Drive Out to explore up and down the East Coast of the United States, using the maximum three-week rental period to check out every national park, battlefield, and historic site that I always meant to see.
Last year, I used the super-low minivan rate to transport some family heirloom furniture that would otherwise have cost me thousands of dollars to ship. And because three weeks is plenty of time, I had the pleasure of meandering from discovery to discovery on the scenic back roads of America — and entirely avoiding the monotony of the Interstate Highway System.
To book, go through Hertz's promotional page for the Florida Drive Out, which you can find by clicking here.
For Alamo's deal, click here.