Trying to Rent a Freaking Car from Airport to Dad's Home in the Sticks

My Dad, who definitely qualifies as Officially Old, got hit with unexpected health issues (something that tends to happen more often once one is Officially Old) — nothing lethal or from which recovery is not expected, fortunately, but some recovery down-time is inevitable, and my sister should not and shall not have to take up all the slack, so I’m headed down to do a stint.

Booked the flight with no more than the usual amount of cursing and clicking. Then on to sorting out the auto rental. Flight is into Atlanta, the parental home is way out in the empty countryside of the diagonal line that separates Georgia from South Carolina. Plane lands at 8 PM.

I go on one of those car rental booking sites for a company from whom I’ve rented a car in the past, specify ATL as pickup point, date and time, specify the little town near to my Dad’s home as the dropoff and it says “umm nothing available, please think of a different time you’d like to snag a car” or some such thing. I try a competing car rental company and get the same. WTF? So I get a phone number, and the live person I eventually reach tells me “Oh yeah, the problem is that we don’t allow one-way rentals from that location”.

Doesn’t make any sense to rent a car to get to my Dad’s place only to have to drive the damn car right back to Atlanta. If I were gonna do that, I’d just inconvenience my sister and have her meet me in Atlanta, but the idea was to not inflict that on her. She’s got enough on her plate.

I go on Expedia. I go on Orbitz. I ask them to find me any car from anywhere in Atlanta at that time that I can return to somewhere close to my Dad’s place. “Sorry, nothing available”. WTF x 2?

Try to engage customer support. “Please enter your itinerary number”. I don’t bloody have an itinerary number, I haven’t booked anything yet. Can’t continue without one. Oh yes I can, if I create a user account. So I do that. Log in. Fill out the damn form. Verify that I’m not a bot and so on. Finally have a customer support chat session with a live person.

“So what location do you want to pick up from?”

“That’s what I don’t know. I can get an Uber from ATL airport to a nearby or semi-nearby car rental location. I need you to find me one tha’ts open after 8:30 PM and will rent me a car I can return somewhere in the general vicinity of Royston GA”.

“I need you to tell me where you want me to attempt a booking. I need a zip code or a street address”

So I google zip codes in Atlanta. The employee tries it, I copy the address, answer questions, then… “Oh they close at 5 pm. Please give me a different address to try”.

“So… you don’t have any tool that lets you bring up locations that are open after 5 PM and will rent me a car I don’t have to return to the same spot?”

Nope. Apparently not. WTF x 3.

Well yeesh, I can methodically search each Atlanta zip code for car rental places and check their hours of operation as easily as I can wait for you to do so. And quicker.

Current plan, after several more iterations of this shit with other booking / travel orgs, is to just get an Uber to drive me all the way to my Dad’s house. It’s not ideal. I need to pick up some supplies for my stay. Now I’ll have to miss another day of work borrowing my Dad’s car the next day to go forth.

Aren’t these orgs supposed to figure this shit out so we don’t have to???

How are you planning on getting back to the airport from your Dad’s place and how will you get around while you’re there?

I think they expect/want you to keep the car for the length of your stay and return it back to the airport. I’m not surprised they don’t have one-way drop-offs out in the sticks, they don’t have staff or offices out there to get the car back to where someone else wants to rent it. Also the fact that you are arriving that late means your car turn-in would be in the middle of the night. I think most non-airport car rental offices just aren’t open that late.

I looked at a map. I wonder if it would be practical to rent a car from ATL to Athens, which would allow you to do your initial shopping in (or on the way to) Athens before you turn the car in, and Uber from there to your Dad’s place? It’s about 31 miles for the Uber part. You’d probably have to search around for a car rental office that is open late in Athens. Or spend the night in Athens and turn your car in and Uber to your Dad’s place in the morning.

Give U-Haul a try. I just checked their website and was able to get a few options going one-way from Atlanta GA to Royston GA. No pickup trucks, unfortunately, but a 10’ truck was an option. Plenty of space for whatever supplies you need to pick up.

I was wondering the same thing.

What they told me was that it’s not possible to rent a car from ATL to any-freaking-where. Has to be returned to the Atlanta airport. Don’t know why.

Athens would be okay as the place to return it, although I was shooting for Lavonia or Hartwell.

What a pain in the ass! Sorry, AH3 - hope you’re able to work it out.

Watch out for U-Haul. Their specialty is to get you on mileage. For instance, checking just now on a random Atlanta Zip code, I get $19.95 plus $0.79 a mile for a basic pickup truck. The time period of the $19.95 is curiously hard to pin down, but on further digging it appears to be just for 4 hours. But even if it was for a whole day (as I think it once was) consider that you’ve driven 100 miles in the course of your errands. That’s now $79 more, plus whatever extra costs like damage coverage and taxes.

I dealt with U-Haul only once, for a pickup truck to take a bunch of garden waste to a transfer station. The U-Haul location was right next to the transfer station, and the stuff I was disposing of was only a few miles away. The total mileage was ridiculously low and the cost was very low, but the U-Haul guy looked visibly disappointed as he made up the bill! :wink:

Is this a function of how screwed up the whole car rental business has been since COVID? I haven’t rented a car in a while - are they still crazy expensive? I wonder if demand is still outstripping supply so much that they just have no incentive to accommodate anything other than straightforward rentals.

I like to use the AAA website to compare rates before choosing who to rent a car from. For a one-way rental from ATL to Hartwell, it shows Hertz as the only available option.

You might also look at an off-airport location for Enterprise. They tend to have more local offices that might serve your needs.

Crap, @AHunter3. I feel your pain. That seems like an utterly impossible situation.

In honor of your conundrum, I present Georgia’s own R.E.M.

My companion and coconspirator allthegood said to me: “So why don’t you order the merchandise and have it delivered down there instead of wasting a day going out to shop for it locally once you get down there?”

I said: “Umm…^#@W

Ordered the devices, they’re scheduled to land down there on Wednesday, first day after my late-evening arrival. That solves that part.

The problem is that the OP needs a branch open after 8:00 pm. See what you can find at:

The problem is that they don’t seem to be open late in the evening except at the airport and the OP apparently tried there.

I think it is.

I recently had to rent a car at the airport in Saint Louis from noon Sunday to noon Monday. I’ve done this trip 2x/year for the last decade, always in mid-Mar & mid-Sep, so off-peak dates.

Pre-COVID I usually paid $50 for basic car or $75 for a nice car, and once in awhile I’d snag a $20 special. Plus taxes, BS fees, etc.

Last week it was $185 for a VW Passat. Plus taxes & BS fees. Almost $250 total. For 24 hours. And that’s with me declining all the optional insurance crap, add-ons, etc., and not counting what I spent to refill the fuel tank.

Back to the OP:
IME one-way rentals are difficult and stupid expensive even if you’re going from one big city to another. And always have been.

I hate to sound unsympathetic, but expecting to one-way a car to a small town is expecting a flying unicorn. Doing that in the evening to late night is expecting a talking flying unicorn. The problem here is not the rental industry, it’s the customer expectations.

Enterprise is about the only possibility for multi-city off-airport pickup & drop-off. And they’re pretty much purely a 9am - 5pm operation. Also their reservation system is a lying pile of electrons. They will totally let you reserve a car at a location that they are dead certain will not have any cars available then, and probably not for another day or more.

A good friend runs a car repair business and relies on Enterprise for replacement cars for customers whose cars are in his shop. As such he’s pals with the local managers who’ve given him the straight scoop on this. Once someone’s been dropped off at the Enterprise store they know they have a captive customer for whenever a car might come back. That’s how Evil their Corporate HQ is.

Uber is telling me it would cost $112 from ATL to Royston, GA right now.

Getting back might be tricky.

There are shuttles to Athens.

I’m curious if any driver would actually take that deal. They are 114 miles apart and 1 hour and 57 minutes. I doubt a driver would expect to be able to get a return fare, so that is probaby 228 miles and probably 4 1/2 hours of time (I would guess a half hour for the pickup at Atlanta with delays there of one kind or another). Assume Uber takes 30% of the fare that leaves 78 dollars. Currently the IRS has a standard car mileage fee of $.65/mile (gas, depreciation…), so for 228 miles that is $148, leaving the driver with a loss of $70 for the trip. If you assume he can get return fares that still leaves him nothing for his time driving there.

I really think the best option for the OP is to have the sister pick her up in Atlanta (or if it is going to be a short stay for the OP to rent the car for the duration of the visit and return it to the Atlanta airport).

Got it!!!

Just kept plugging away. Combo of Budget Rental and Travelocity, damned if I know what magic different thing I did, but I have a car rental for 9 PM the evening my plane lands with a return date the next day in nearby-to-the-Dad-farm Athens GA.


I was prepared to overnight at a motel and rent starting the next morning, thinking the airport rental car places were the least likely to let me have a one-way rental and the others won’t be open late when I land, but I don’t even have to do that. I got what I wanted.

A tip of the hat to the person who suggested U-Haul. That was a clever idea and I was going to try that next.

How much will the cost be?

$249 and refill the gas tank.

ETA: $317 with taxes and fees and stuff.