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Thursday, August 5, 2010

Renting a car in Portland? Start in the 'burbs.

An alert reader writes:

The research shows that the U.S. cities where travelers incur the lowest total tax burden in central city locations, factoring in general sales taxes and discriminatory travel taxes, are:

* 1. Fort Lauderdale, FL
* 2. Fort Myers, FL
* 3. Portland, OR


The cities that impose the highest discriminatory travel taxes on travelers are:

* 1. Portland, OR

Last week my sister and her family rented two full-size cars in nearby Clackamas County and saved over $100 per car... purely taxes... for one week. Car rental taxes at PDX are around 17%, I believe (including Port and Multnomah County taxes, etc.).

While I had to pick them up and drive them down I-205 to get their cars, they could return the cars to PDX when their trip was complete Note: High car rental taxes are calculated where cars originate, i.e., where the contract is written.

I'm thinking I could offer a shuttle service to Clackamas for $25 per head and save travelers tons! Those that travel without babies/ small kids: I tell them to take the Red Line MAX train to Beaverton and rent a car there. Washington County has 0% car rental tax! (And return it to PDX and at end of trip, of course!)

Ah, but Washington County doesn't have a Convention Center or a minor league baseball stadium with luxury boxes to pay for, as Portland does. Go by streetcar!

Comments (15)

In theory this sounds good, but in practicality, I'm skeptical it would work. When you get off the plane, the last thing you want to do is get in a shuttle and drive 45 minutes just to pick up your rental car.

This would really only work for vacationing travelers, who plan on spending a lot of time driving. And my guess is that most customers of rental car companies are business travelers, not vacationers.

I'm not a big "all taxes are evil" type of guy, but this tax is pretty ridiculous. A couple weekends ago I learned about this tax by searching for cars online at the Enterprise website. I checked the rate to pick up the car in Portland, and then just for kicks checked it for Beaverton as well. I was amazed that I would save over $20 in taxes by MAXing over to Beaverton and picking up my car there. True, I know the area, so those unfamiliar with Portland probably won't think of that. But avoiding that tax was worth the extra trouble, if only to make a tiny stand against unreasonable taxation!

Two words: Landmark Ford.

I took a trip to California last summer. After researching every national chain, I gave Landmark a shot. They significantly beat the chain price (as I recall, it was at least 20%) AND there were no airport taxes. The car (a 2008 Mustang...VROOOOM!!!) was clean and got fantastic mileage. Service was good too. I'm not sure how many other dealerships around have rental fleets, but Landmark is tough to beat.

So if you are a low income working stiff and you need to rent a car to get to work at night because your own is in the shop does the tax still apply?

Ayup... I come back to visit PDX a few times a year, and I always choke when I see the line item for taxes on the rental... in fact I'll be coming into town tomorrow for a few days, and out of the total rental charge, over 23% is in "taxes & fees". Which means that taxes & fees added almost 1/3rd to the total cost... yikes!

But this is purely discretionary travel, and I generally favor convenience over value, so saving the extra $50-$100/year for me is definitely not worth the hassle and extra time of trying to pick up a car elsewhere. While I'm opposed to the excessive rate on principle, it's one of those categories of taxes that I don't feel too bad about -- much like booze and tobacco taxes -- since it's a discretionary expense.

On a separate note, I agree with the previous poster about the mad props for Landmark Ford. I purchased an Exploder there many years ago, and always had top-notch service experiences. The available rental fleet was a great perk. I can't recommend them enough if you're in the market for a new car. At the time I figured they were a "good" dealership -- I had no idea how *great* they were until I later experienced the other end of the spectrum with other dealerships.

So now you see how Port of P makes its money.

Kevin - Enterprise will pick you up. Don't know where you live but since I live in outer SW PDX should I ever need a car (and I have), I would rent from the Beavertron Enterprise and get picked up by them... not sure what their rules are though...

I live in southwest Portland, close to the Washington County line. Had I known then what I know now, we'd have purchased two blocks further west and saved a ton of cash - but that's another story.

For years, rather than driving to PDX and paying for parking, I've just dropped into Beaverton and rented a car. I drive it home, toss in the luggage, and turn it in at PDX. I don't even have to pay for gas!

Zip car doesn't get hit by these taxes, either. They're harmless little taxes: only paid by Other People.

There are too many reasons to list why metro areas are becoming subsidized, monopoly regulated wastelands. I bet that saving money for a rentacar has so many restrictions that you have to physically leave PDX before another Rental company can pick you up.
FYI: A recent Disney World Vacation for four saved me $1800 in airfare and $800 for the car rental because I flew into Tampa and drove 3 hours all the way to Disney World.

Alert Reader:
I also thought about running a little shuttle deal on the side but the city has that game all locked up and sealed. I mean if you can't even have a lemon aid stand without the city thugs attacking you what chance does anybody have starting any deal?No soup for you!


I fly to Arizona frequently. If I fly into the Phoenix area, I try to rent from locations outside of SkyHarbor Airport. The rental car taxes are huge. It saves a bundle and the rental locations have a shuttle or I take their light rail. Sometimes I fly into Tucson and save even more on car rental-over $150 dollars for a week rental. People are discovering this phenomenon about Portland.

The same applies to moving truck rentals. Went to rent a big one in Clackamas County several years ago, but my size truck wasn't available there. They sent me about 5 miles down the road to their store in Multnomah County and it was going to cost about $100 more.

So what??? You folks would complain about a tax for orphans, I swear. I go to Enterprise Car Rental here in Portland, here in Multnomah County, and pay less than $20 a day on weekends and get a brand new 2010 model.

My parents just came to town for 5 days: they saved $86 by renting a mid-sized car in Tigard rather than PDX.

I'll never rent anything in Portland again.

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