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Over-estimating your experience or under-estimating the terrain in a place like Big Bend can result in serious injury or death. Use the information and advice found here wisely. Climb/Hike/Camp/Drive at your own risk.

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Rental Car choices...

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Offline auzzie599

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Rental Car choices...
« on: November 03, 2013, 08:57:01 PM »
Hello all,
So I will be making my first ever trip down to Big Bend National Park this coming January, for 8 days.  I am renting a car, and am wondering if it is worth the extra money to get an SUV of sorts, rather than the cheap compact rental car.  I know the park has an entire system of back roads that aren't paved, and I'm wondering if I will be missing out if I get a typical, cheap and low-clearance rental car. Is a higher-clearance SUV or 4WD vehicle necessary to enjoy all Big Bend has to offer?  I will mostly be hiking and back-packing while I'm there.  Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!

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Offline The Scorpion

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Re: Rental Car choices...
« Reply #1 on: November 03, 2013, 09:57:14 PM »
a 2 wheel drive SUV will be sufficient to do some of the easier back roads. However, with the right kind of car you can do some of hte back roads as well as long as the road conditions allow. It has more to do with the type of tires. most cars have shorter sidewall's so the rocy roads will slow you down a lot. Most SUV's have taller sidewalls and will do better on those roads.

these easier roads can be done in a regular car

Old Maverick Road
Croton Spring
Grapevine HIlls
Hot Springs
Doug Out wells
Dagger Flat Auto Trail


High Clearance SUV. I have a 2WD Chevy Trailblazer and have done many of the roads in the park, something like a ford escape or even a Chevy Traverse, or a Hyundai Santa Fe can do the following pretty easy.

River Road East
Glenn Spring Road
Paint Gap
Pine Canyon
Juniper Canyon
Old Order Road (North end of the road is the hardest part)
 
Probably some others as well. It is always a good idea to ask about the current back road conditions once you get in the park. Recent or current rains can really mess up the back country roads. The Park staff will ALWAYS caution against certain roads and state that 4x4 is mandatory.

Do you have any ideas yet as to what you would like to do in the park?

James

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http://jamesb.smugmug.com/BigBendNationalPark/

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Offline Quatro

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Re: Rental Car choices...
« Reply #2 on: November 03, 2013, 10:13:25 PM »
I agree with Sotol Vista except that rental prices for even a small SUV are so high I'd think about a reasonably sized sedan (and hope for the upgrade).  Clearance on the small SUVs is not that different than a sedan.  The times I've rented SUVs I've found that the fear of desert pin-striping from bushes crowding the road kept me from some of the roads I intended to take.   A Jeep Commander was the best BIBE rental I've had while a Sequoia was WAY too wide to be a good BIBE ride.

Old Ore Road (the northern part), Black Gap Road and the western portion of the River Road require 4WD, but some of the back roads are ok for a rental sedan if you take it easy.  That's partially because a rental sedan is equivalent to 3WD at least.  As El Hombre would say  "Drive it like a rented mule!"  There are plenty of hikes accessible from the paved road.
When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro - HST

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Rental Car choices...
« Reply #3 on: November 04, 2013, 06:20:15 AM »
I have been going for years and never had anything but a compact rental car.  If you are backpacking you can get to most everyplace you would want from a paved trail head.  Mariscal Mtn. is really the only place that is out of reach and even then some folks have driven sedans out to Mariscal mine.  Quatro is right that the additional cost (usually around $200 a week) is not worth it to me.
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Offline Picacho

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Re: Rental Car choices...
« Reply #4 on: November 04, 2013, 08:43:00 AM »
If you are backpacking, you will probably be on the South Rim.  You don't need an SUV to get to the trailhead which is in The Basin. 

Bring your passport or passport card with you.  A trip over to Boquillas is pretty fun.  You can get to the crossing on paved roads.  You probably won't even drive any dirt roads on your first trip to Big Bend.  The main attractions are all paved. 

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Offline elhombre

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Re: Rental Car choices...
« Reply #5 on: November 04, 2013, 09:39:59 AM »
High clearance 2 wheel drive is all you need.  Spend the extra money.  Those extra digitized Federal Reserve Notes will do so much more for you in those 8 days, than sitting in your account once you get home.

A good car means you can get around in the desert at a good pace.  (See Quatro's note above   :engel016:)  This makes the desert camp spots more convenient so you don't have to sleep next to people.  Also, a nice sunset hike out at the Mariscal mine is one of the best experiences to enjoy.  I am slowly learning that spending a few extra bucks while on vacation is much better than wishing I would have done it two weeks later when I get home.  Besides, I still love eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with cheap HEB chips for lunch/dinner while planning my next trip.   :great:
For 2 years the Fake News Media, Obama's FBI, CIA & DOJ, and Swamp dwelling Politicians COLLUDED, Illegally Spied,and LIED to America about POTUS in order to overturn an election

All the while demanding censorship and removal of opposition Conservative "hate speech" voices.  Globalists Hate Freedom

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Offline auzzie599

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Re: Rental Car choices...
« Reply #6 on: November 06, 2013, 06:29:44 AM »
Thanks all.  I ended up getting a good deal on a jeep liberty, which should hopefully give me enough clearance on some of the easer backroads.  Probably won't do any serious off-roading, but at least now I feel comfortable that I can get to some interesting hikes that aren't off of paved areas.  Thanks, and looking forward to my first big bend experience!


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Offline presidio

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Re: Rental Car choices...
« Reply #7 on: November 06, 2013, 09:09:35 AM »
Hello all,
I am renting a car, and am wondering if it is worth the extra money to get an SUV of sorts, rather than the cheap compact rental car.

Keep in mind that while rental car companies will be very happy to rent you an expensive SUV/4WD most, if not all, specifically prohibit you (via the contract terms) from taking their vehicles off pavement, 4WD notwithstanding.

So, you should carefully check the terms of what you are renting. Undoubtedly, many rental vehicles are taken "off road" (in the parlance of rental terms), but if you do so and encounter problems/damage, you will be on the hook for the entire cost as any rental insurance you obtain from the company will be void. Coverage via a credit card also likely will be void. Read the contract (better yet, call them before you rent to sort this out).

I experienced both situations (successfully for me) in Hawaii. I had a sedan on the big island. On the first day some moron in an unlicensed vehicle backed into me broadside in a county park parking lot and then ran. I got photos of the cretin as he fled and the sheriff's deputy indicated he was a known entity to them. I heard nothing further about that but since I was on pavement, my credit card company picked up the full cost of the damage (I always decline rental company coverage).

Later, I took the same sedan (just sheet metal damage...didn't want to deal with the hassle of swapping it out) on the 9 mile round trip gravel road (extremely well maintained) to the summit of Mauna Kea. According to my rental terms, this was a prohibited use. While the POS rental was struggling a bit at the 13,796' elevation, I had no issues with the trip. I routinely drove on unpaved roads on three islands, but always was cognizant of the rental terms and what it meant if I got damage traceable to such use.
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Offline Jonathan Sadow

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Re: Rental Car choices...
« Reply #8 on: November 12, 2013, 02:09:02 PM »
Thanks all.  I ended up getting a good deal on a jeep liberty, which should hopefully give me enough clearance on some of the easer backroads.  Probably won't do any serious off-roading, but at least now I feel comfortable that I can get to some interesting hikes that aren't off of paved areas.  Thanks, and looking forward to my first big bend experience!

You should be fine with this.  I have a Jeep Liberty and have driven on most of the roads that Sotol Vista listed with no problems.  I don't know if you have 4WD on your rental vehicle or not, but once I drove most of the Old Ore Road in 2WD, only engaging the 4WD at one place that had a steep attack angle (I wasn't using 4WD all the time because the vehicle was making a funny noise when 4WD was engaged, which I later found out was due to the ball bearings in the front wheel drive assembly essentially being completely worn away).

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Offline whiteout

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Re: Rental Car choices...
« Reply #9 on: December 16, 2013, 11:46:43 AM »
Thank you for this thread. I was looking for information about this and this thread helps.

Just FYI, the reservation that I made, the difference is about $50-$60 between a full size car and a mid size SUV ($246 vs $302 for 9-day rental).

Right now, I'm thinking I'm gonna stick with an SUV.

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Offline mule ears

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Re: Rental Car choices...
« Reply #10 on: December 16, 2013, 12:46:00 PM »
Thank you for this thread. I was looking for information about this and this thread helps.

Just FYI, the reservation that I made, the difference is about $50-$60 between a full size car and a mid size SUV ($246 vs $302 for 9-day rental).

Right now, I'm thinking I'm gonna stick with an SUV.

My experience is the cost differential all depends on which airport you are flying into.  Rental cars are always more expensive out of Austin compared to San Antonio for example.
temperatures exceed 100 degrees F
minimum 1 gallon water per person/day
no shade, no water
http://40yearsofwalking.wordpress.com/

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Offline whiteout

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Re: Rental Car choices...
« Reply #11 on: December 17, 2013, 08:29:16 AM »
Thank you for this thread. I was looking for information about this and this thread helps.

Just FYI, the reservation that I made, the difference is about $50-$60 between a full size car and a mid size SUV ($246 vs $302 for 9-day rental).

Right now, I'm thinking I'm gonna stick with an SUV.

My experience is the cost differential all depends on which airport you are flying into.  Rental cars are always more expensive out of Austin compared to San Antonio for example.

San Antonio is where I'll arrive. The quotes now are a little bit better for full size car. Now $233 vs $302 for 9 days, which I think are pretty good rates. I think I'll stick with mid size SUV. Hopefully, I can get something like Nissan Rouge or Toyota Rav 4.

 


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