April 16, 2003 -- Each spring, Canadian geese take to the air. In majestic V formations, they sweep from Florida and Mexico up through the United States to find their summer residences in the far north.
Believe it or not, cars make the same migration. During the spring, car rental firms move their fleets up from Florida to the Northeast, repositioning them for summer business. This year, Hertz is calling for your help with this task, making for some great one-way rental rates.
The rules are simple: if you rent a Hertz car in Florida before May 21, you can take it north and drop it off at one of 45 locations without paying the usual one-way rental fee. Rates for a mid-sized car are $27/day or $129/week, and you get unlimited mileage. You must ask for rate code 1WAY when reserving your car, and you must reserve 24 hours in advance.
Where's the car going? You're allowed to take your rental to Cincinnati and Cleveland in Ohio, Detroit, Indianapolis, Louisville and Lexington in Kentucky, St. Louis, anywhere in New Jersey, 11 locations in Connecticut (basically, Fairfield and New Haven counties), and 21 locations in New York (basically, New York City and its suburbs, out to the Hamptons and up to Poughkeepsie.)
To make your reservation, call 800/631-3131 or go to www.hertz.com.
An RV Roadtrip Can Bring You More Bang for Your Buck
El Monte RV, an RV rental company, also needs to move some vehicles. In their case, they're bringing motor homes from Florida to New York, Texas, Las Vegas and California, and from north of Seattle to San Francisco, Los Angeles and Las Vegas. They'll rent you a wide range of motor homes -- from 19 to 36 feet -- for $20 per day for the first seven days, with half off the usual daily rate beyond that. You must complete all travel by June 15.
But there's a catch: Only 1,000 free miles are included. As cross-country trips are more like 3,000 miles, you're guaranteed to rack up some mileage fees. (Mileage fees vary by RV size. For instance, 500 miles on a 27-29' motor home costs $135.) On the other hand, you're saving the usual $750 drop charge for one-way travel. Check out the full list of specials at www.elmonte.com/specials.htm and call 888/337-2214 to reserve a motor home.
Fleet repositioning isn't restricted entirely to summer versus winter markets. Cruise America, a major RV rental company, needs to get its land boats into and out of factories in Mesa, AZ (right outside of Phoenix) and Elkhart, IN (near South Bend and the Michigan border). If you want to play along, you can get some truly great rates.
If you're heading to Arizona, you can get a 24-foot RV for $24/day (insurance included) with no one-way fee and many (but not unlimited) free miles. Depending on the part of the country you're coming from, you get 4-9 days to deliver the RV, and between 500 and 3,000 free miles. You've got to do this by May 22.
Heading out of Arizona or Indiana, you can snag a 22-25 foot RV for $24/day including insurance. You get up to 7 nights and 2,000 free miles to get to Orlando, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Seattle or Salt Lake City.
Check out the full details at www.cruiseamerica.com/hot_rental_deals/default.asp or book by phone at 800/327-7799. Plan in advance and be flexible, as availability is very limited.
And Now for Something Completely Different: A Free Ride to the Undecided
Hertz and the RV companies make you pay for your rental, but there are other firms who are willing to let you drive their cars for free, just to get them to the right place in the USA. For the past 50 years the Auto Driveaway Company (www.autodriveaway.com) has been a leader in these kinds of quasi-rentals. If you're willing to put up with some arcane rules, Auto Driveaway can be a great way to see America by road.
Auto Driveaway gives you a free car with a full tank of gas to deliver to a specified point in a specified time. You have to put down a $300 deposit, be flexible and spontaneous (because a lot of cars are only available at the last minute), and buy any gas beyond the first tank. For a trip from Florida to DC, for example, you might get five days -- enough for some serious backroads wandering. Of course, you can't mess up the car. It's somebody else's car -- you're just moving it for them.
To see which destinations Driveaway has available, go to www.autodriveawaydc.com/carlist.html. Right now, there are plenty of cars headed from Florida and Phoenix up north, and some other cars in unpredictable places. For instance, Driveaway currently has six vehicles that need to leave Syracuse, NY for places as far away as Utah.
If this is your idea of a fun trip, fill out the driver application form at www.autodriveaway.com/driversforms.htm and see if you can get on Auto Driveaway's lists.