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July 17, 2009

News & Features

Summer Driving Series Part 5: Road trip dream cars

Special to NWautos

BMW

A BMW Z-4 is just one of the high-end cars you can rent from Aero Rent-A-Car in Redmond. (Cody Ellerd)

It serves its purpose of getting you from point A to point B, but aside from the temporary thrill of an unexpected V-6 or well-placed cup holder, there's usually not much excitement to be found in a rental car.

There is a world of choices beyond compact, midsize and full-size, however, that can turn a rental experience into a joyride. And surprisingly reasonable prices just might tempt you to leave your car at home this summer and take a fun rental on that weekend trip to the Olympics or the Gorge.

Hertz's Prestige Collection is a fleet of dream cars that includes the Hummer H2, the Cadillac Escalade and the sporty Mercedes C Class of cars. The company's Fun Collection -- a small inventory of fast, sporty types -- includes the Ford Mustang, Hummer H3 and Chevrolet Corvette ZHZ.

Specialty car rentals
  • Aero Rent-A-Car: 15260 Bel-Red Road, Redmond; call 425-562-1850 for reservations
  • Alamo: The Cadillac DTS and Escalade are rental highlights
  • Avis
  • Budget: Fleet includes Ford Mustang convertibles and Mitsubishi Eclipse Spyders
  • Enterprise: Luxury cars include the Cadillac DTS and Lincoln Towncar
  • Hertz
  • National: The Cadillac DTS and Escalade are available

Rental rates range from $75 to $200 per day, and members of the auto club AAA receive a discount. Prestige rentals also come with satellite radio, GPS navigators and an expedited rental service that allows you to skip the stop at the desk during pickup and drop off the car anywhere within 15 miles of the rental facility.

"We get a real crossover of customers reserving these," says Hertz representative Paula Rivera, including "people going on special vacations, weddings and reunions, or business people who want to show up to the meeting in something impressive."

Hertz also has an exclusive model of the Ford Shelby Mustang: the muscular Shelby GT-H, which was built as a throwback to the original Shelby GT350H "Rent-A-Racer," a run of high-performance cars Ford and Shelby built for Hertz in the 1960s.

Rivera says it's possible to reserve the specific make and model of car you want, but that chances of getting it are better the earlier you call to reserve. Also, the prices go up the closer it gets to the rental date, so reserving early will also get you a better rate.

Avis also offers a line of specialty cars, including Camaros, convertible Corvettes, Volkswagen Beetles, Toyota Prius hybrids, Jeep Wranglers and luxury cars such as the Chrysler 300 and Cadillac CTS.

Aero Rent-A-Car, based in Redmond, rents convertible and luxury cars such as Mustangs, Mini Coopers, BMW Z-4s and Beetles, plus SUVs and 4x4s that owner Shaun Hollenbeck says are popular in the winter for mountain drives and ski trips. The 40-year-old, family-run lot rents its upper-end vehicles for $60-$80 per day.

Hollenbeck says the company gets a lot of customers who rent its specialty cars for a day when they're considering buying that car and want to drive it around without the pressure of a salesman in the passenger seat.

He also says short-term rentals are a big hit on prom nights and other special occasions: "A wife will come in and say, 'My husband has always wanted to drive one of these,' and she'll get it for his birthday."

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