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Car Hire - LA to San Fran

Darwin, Australia
Level Contributor
145 posts
59 reviews
Car Hire - LA to San Fran

Hi

We are two couples travelling from Aus in late Nov - early Dec. We have a couple of nights in LA on arrival before we will be picking up a hire car and then driving to San Diego. We plan on spending a couple of nights there, then heading up the coast to Santa Barbara before travelling along Hwy 1 to San Fran.

All of the SUV's I've looked at (without going to a mini-van) say they fit 5 people, 3 large bags and 2 small bags. Between us, we will have 5 large suitcases and a couple of carry-on size cases. We are travelling for 8 weeks, including spending Christmas in Whistler, so I doubt we can cut our luggage down at all. In Aus, we don't have Ford Escape's or Chevrolet Equinox's, so I'm wondering whether we can squeeze in to these with all our stuff? Realistically, our luggage will only be in the car for the drives between places.

We would like to avoid getting something bigger then an SUV - last time we were there, my partner and I drove an RV along Hwy 1, which wasn't a lot of fun, so we want something that handles a little better!

Any help would be much appreciated!

Washington State
Destination Expert
for Yosemite National Park
Level Contributor
72,901 posts
133 reviews
1. Re: Car Hire - LA to San Fran

You might want a 4WD SUV for your time in the snowy mountains.

4 adults, 5 large suitcases, 2-4 carry on bags for 8 weeks including skiing.....

That sounds like a big SUV or maybe a minivan to me.

Intermediate SUV or Full-Size Crossover: Ford Escape, Chevy Equinox , Ford Edge (I think too small for 5 large suitcases plus 4 adults)

Full size SUV (seat 7 or 8, seating area can be used for suitcases): Chevy Tahoe, Chevy Yukon, Ford Explorer

Minivan: Dodge Grand Caravan

===========

Rereading your title and post, I'm confused. Are you renting a car for the drive from L.A. to San Diego to Santa Barbara to Monterey to San Francisco, and then dropping the car? And then flying to Vancouver BC?

Darwin, Australia
Level Contributor
145 posts
59 reviews
2. Re: Car Hire - LA to San Fran

We are returning the vehicle in San Fran then flying to Seattle, driving to Vancouver (including surrounds) then catching the bus up to Whistler. Having never driven in snowy conditions (and given we don't need a car in Whistler) we figure this is easier.

We won't have any ski equipment, just our clothes, but that takes up a fair bit of room. We might be able to get away with four large suitcases, but I doubt it!

It might work out cheaper to hire two smaller cars and have both couples driving, especially given the full size SUV's would go through a fair bit of gas?

Washington State
Destination Expert
for Yosemite National Park
Level Contributor
72,901 posts
133 reviews
3. Re: Car Hire - LA to San Fran

I doubt it would be cheaper to have two smaller cars, but you can compare costs. Australians seem to get good deals on car rentals that are not offered to "locals."

Do you know that San Francisco (abbreviated SF) folks recommend dropping the car(s) as soon as you arrive in the city?

Do you know that Santa Barbara to SF in one day is too far, especially with the shorter daylight hours in November? The Top Questions on the right has info.

Are you going to be in California over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend?

Here is my cut-and-paste info about car rentals:

As a foreign visitor to the US, you can take advantage of some excellent pricing offered by 3rd party booking companies.

www.RentalCars.com (Used to be CarHire3000) Using www.TravelJigsaw.com.au rather than the parent company RentalCars might work better for Aussie visitors.

www.drive-usa.com (Some options for a one way drop fee included or for underage drivers.)

www.usrentacar.co.uk (Some options for a one way route finder without an extra fee.)

Try the .co.uk version of your favorite rental company or the .au version. Be sure to tick the box for your home country.

Renting a Car in the USA (long thread from Road Trips forum) tripadvisor.com/ShowTopic-g1-i12567-k4713887

Darwin, Australia
Level Contributor
145 posts
59 reviews
4. Re: Car Hire - LA to San Fran

Thanks for all the links! I will have a look at all the different options. We are thinking that we will probably drop the car off on our arrival in San Fran, which will cut a couple of days out.

We are planning a couple of nights in Santa Barbara, one in Big Sur (or surrounds), one in Monterey (or surrounds) and then the drive to San Fran. As mentioned, two of us have done it before, but that was in an RV so it was a lot slower then we could do in an SUV.

Thanks again

Newcastle, Australia
Level Contributor
499 posts
149 reviews
5. Re: Car Hire - LA to San Fran

The equinox is rebadged as a Holden Captiva here in Aus. Drove one from Seattle back down to LA in 2012 with 2A and 2C. Met our needs, have booked another for Sept this year on the East Coast NYC to Orlando. I would check the current size, your luggage requirements will probably necessitated a larger SUV. However, each years model seems to be getting bigger.

So Cal
Level Contributor
12,386 posts
75 reviews
6. Re: Car Hire - LA to San Fran

Tessa, rather than renting a vehicle just to drive from Seattle to Vancouver, have you considered taking the bus or train between the two instead? Seems like it would be much simpler. (Well, a direct flight from SF to Van would be simplest, but perhaps that isn't working out for some reason.)

Oregon Coast
Destination Expert
for Crescent City, Oregon Coast, Oregon, Redwood National Park
Level Contributor
44,708 posts
1,112 reviews
7. Re: Car Hire - LA to San Fran

Ford Escape will not be big enough. You will need a full size SUV. Expect around 18-22 MPG (miles per gallon). A small car will get about 30 to 30+ MPG.

Figure about $4 USD per gallon. Gas prices will be higher in Canada.

Darwin, Australia
Level Contributor
145 posts
59 reviews
8. Re: Car Hire - LA to San Fran

Jenazz - we are going to spend a few days in both Seattle and Vancouver to look around. The only reason we had thought to get a hire car was because we will probably use one to go down to Olympic Penisular and the Hoh rainforest but I haven't looked into a bus or train. How does that work with crossing the border?

Washington State
Destination Expert
for Yosemite National Park
Level Contributor
72,901 posts
133 reviews
9. Re: Car Hire - LA to San Fran

Tessa

More info about crossing the border on the Washington state forum. Essentially, you are allowed to drive a rental car between countries but you pay a $$$$ fee if you leave it in the other country. Easier to take the train from Vancouver to Seattle and to pick up a rental car in Seattle when you're ready to travel to the Olympic Peninsula.

Washington: tripadvisor.com/ShowForum-g28968-i73-Washing…

Darwin, Australia
Level Contributor
145 posts
59 reviews
10. Re: Car Hire - LA to San Fran

Thanks all - I didn't actually think about the fee for leaving the car in another country! I think it might be the train!