Renting a Car at the Airport
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I'll be on St. John in September to celebrate my 30th Wedding Anniversary. Woot, woot, wooh.
I like to rent a car at the airport, but get so much conflicting advice. Is Budget the only company that will allow their cars to travel to St. John?
No, the only car rental agency which specifically disallows their vehicles to be taken to St John is Hertz who stipulates in their contract that if you're caught doing so you'll be fined $1K.
If you are staying on St John the car rental agencies on St Thomas will require that you rent a 4WD. The agencies which receive the highest accolades in terms of service and dependability are Amalie, Dependable and Discount. Budget unfortunately comes in on the low end consistently and primarily due to problems overbooking. The three mentioned do not have desks at the airport but will meet you upon arrival and take you to their offices which are very close by to complete the paperwork and pick up the reserved vehicle. I believe in fact Amalie will meet you at the airport WITH the vehicle.
Hope that helps with the confusion and that you enjoy a wonderful visit here!
Most of my guests use Bugdet and Dependable and have been happy with their service. They can take the car to STJ but if there's a breakdown while there, you're pretty much on your own. It has not happened to any of my guests but it is a possibility that you should be aware of.
The odds are good that you won't have a problem. It's just that statistically (and remember that we have thousands upon thousands of visitors every year who rent vehicles for their stay) Budget does receive more negatives in this respect than all the other agencies. Apparently fuel is added to the fire by one particular Budget representative at the airport location whose ability to deal with disgruntled customers is rather less diplomatic than desirable. Enjoy your vacation!
Make sure you get a full understanding up front of the fuel policy when you return the car. We were standing in the Budget office one day listening to an upset customer who felt it was unfair that they were charging him for full tank of gas when he had topped off the tank prior to returning it. The Budget service associate pointed to a sign and said if you didn't tell them up front that you would take responsibility for ensuring fuel level was same level when you picked it up, then customer would be charged for the tank. Not sure if this happens every time but I would recommend you ask the question when you pick up the car to make sure everyone's expectations are set properly.
I rented with Budget last week for an overnight trip. Couldn't reserve because I made arrangements too late but no problem at all with a walk-up rental. The lot had plenty of cars at the time though it was a Thursday and not a w/e. I pre-paid for 1/4 tank of gas figuring it was easier and was plesently surprised to see the price was actually .10/gal cheaper than I would have paid myself at the station with less hassle. The agent was courteous and helpful. Good luck.
One factor to keep in mind is that only a few of the companies are actually located at the airport. The others send an employee to the air port to pick you up. Then, dirve you to their location, where you fill out forms and take posession of your car, when you return the car. You bring it back to thier lot and they drop you at the airport. This can take extra time and is kind of a hassle--IMO. Personally, after a long flight, I'd want to keep the logisitical challenges to a minimum.
When making your reservation, ask specifically about the location.
Also, I'm not entierely sure that you are required to rent a 4x4. If your rental home is on dirt road, or has a wacky driveway, then 4x4 may be a good idea. But other than that, the roads on STJ are paved.
And charge more for the plesure as well. Better off renting something so that you can come and go as you please, where and when you please, especially if staying at a private home or villa where it's like pulling teeth to get a taxi to come to your location since they wish to service cruise ship passengers, etc.
My last guests told me Discount is no longer allowing their vehicles to St. John. I need to confirm. Amalie by far the best as far as service and getting the vehicle in a timely manner. You have your car before your luggage! Dollar and Thrifty by far my least favorite. The airport is my home away from home as I do pick ups for about 30 different villas. There shouldn't be any issues with Budget this time of year. Cars are available!
I ended up renting a car from Budget. Probably not the best service, nor the best car, but I've used Budget everytime I've been on St. Thomas and they've treated me great. So I really have trouble justifying the change.
I also spent the extra money for the loss damage waiver, because I just don't want to be bothered. If I back into a tree, all I want to do is take the car back. I don't want to have to deal with my insurance company and argue about how much Budget should get for the loss of rental.
In my opinion, it's the Caribbean. It's not the cheapest place I can vacation, and I want it to be as carefree as possible.
Another positive vote for Budget. My wife and I have now rented from them (at the airport) the last 4 trips. We are just looking for basic transportation for our week on St. John; the little econo-boxes (Ford Focus, Nissan Versa, etc..) do very well on the hilly terrain of St. John, sip the expensive gas, and are easy to navigate through the tight traffic/parking in downtown Charlotte Amalie. Would I prefer a Wrangler? Sure...I own one at home, but for simple transportation around the islands we find that the cheap little cars do fine. And there is a specific lady at the Budget counter who actually recognizes us and greets us with a warm smile. Honestly, why would I rent from anyone else?
We stay on St. John and will never again rent on St. Thomas. Just not worth the trouble. A taxi will get your family to Red Hook in a fraction of your vacation time.
And NEVER use Discount Rental on St. Thomas unless you feel like buying new tires for their vehicles . Ask me how I know.
Renting a car on STT while staying on STJ doesn't work for everyone, especially if you have a
late arrival since the barges don't run to STJ after 7PM (last barge is Love Cities's at 7 and the other's leave at 6PM/6:30PM) or if you have a very early morning flight departure. See the ferry schedule on the dropdown: https://www.vinow.com/general_usvi/interisland_ferry/
If one of the barge goes out of service (as they often can), it can add another level of inconvenience, especially if the barges that are running do not honor the RT ticket you already paid for. (Boyson won't take a ticket for Global Marine or Love City Car ferries and they don't take Boyson's).
I do not advise my guests to use Discount. Budget and Dependable are the only 2 agencies my guests normally use and have not had any problems with either.
It just depends on your situation.
Sorry about your tire purchase doric.