Review: Alamo Car Hire, Seattle to San Francisco
I had heard many bad things online about Alamo - that their cars were rubbish, that I would need to endure long rental lines, that their staff were incompetent. However I did not experience any of this 'anti-customer' phenenomena, which goes to show that people only tend to talk about their bad experiences.
Collection: Seattle Downtown
Drop Off: San Francisco Union Square
Car: White Toyota Corolla, 4108 miles on the clock
Cost: $301.97 USD, inclusive of taxes, excluding tolls ($69.65 was for the GPS)
Duration: 7 days
Miles: 500 base Asia Miles, 2,500 bonus Asia Miles
They were by far the cheapest major car rental agency that I compared with for our trip. All the other majors, including Avis, Hertz and National charged sigficiant one-way fees. Alamo had none, and also had a great bonus mile offer with Asia Miles, which is one of the more useful mileage programs for those of us in the Asia Pacific region. Unlike US frequent flyer programs, there is no 'fee' to earn miles with Asia Miles.
We were even able to drop out luggage off at the joint National/Alamo office in Downtown Seattle, and they stored it all in a shed for us while we wandered around the city. We had flown in quite early from Chicago, and didn't know where else we could store our luggage until it came to be the right time to collect the car - online bloggers recommended storing at a hotel and tipping the door staff, but Sandy thought that this was a but obtuse if we weren't staying at one of these hotels.
There were no long lines, the staff were friendly, and we were pretty much given a near new Toyota Corolla, without so much as a scratch or dent. The car had only half a tank of fuel, and I understand that this is sometimes a deliberate way of getting more gas out out the customer at the end - however I made sure to only leave half when we dropped it off ;)
Considering this was my first time driving on the 'wrong' side of the road (we drive on the left side in Australia and New Zealand), it was a daunting experience to begin with, and I kept putting on the window wipers when I meant to put on the indicator. After a few days of driving however, I felt pretty comfortable.
There were a few small issues with the car, mainly that we were driving so many kms that the service light came on, and sometimes the radio wouldn't tune properly. However these were not a big issues, and I felt that the car was completely safe.
The GPS we hired was invaluable, and I would not suggest that anyone from overseas brave the roads without one. We did not always have access to good phone coverage, and the GPS was reliable for the entire trip. Well worth the investment.
And man, do Americans speed on their freeways. While they take it slow on the windy country roads (where I would tend to drive faster, being used to these types of roads in AU/NZ), they were always 20-30m/hr over the limit on the freeways. In fact, I found it dangerous if I did not drive at a similar speed - so I did exactly that.
The drop off in San Francisco was quick and easy, with competent staff on the ball with checking the cars in upon arrival. We were out within 5 minutes.
All up, a very satisfactory driving and car hire experience, and would not heistate to use Alamo again on our next visit to the US.