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Rental vehicles are among the more mundane aspects of travel, but today TPG Senior Points & Miles Correspondent Jason Steele shares 5 fun rental options that should interest savvy travelers and car lovers alike.
By now, you know the standard rental car drill, including a schlep to a distant parking lot, picking up some boring econobox, and trying not to get stuck in a line or ripped off by a myriad of fees and surcharges.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. Renting a vehicle can be quick, easy, inexpensive, exotic, and lots of fun (though probably not all of those at once). Here are five fun rental car deals that will give you a fresh perspective on the whole experience:
1. Doing laps in an exotic car
Sure, you can rent an exotic car in Las Vegas and try to impress people by driving up and down the strip at 35 miles an hour, or you can take one out on the track at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway and experience these cars as they were meant to be driven. Several companies (like Exotics Racing and Dream Racing) offer you the chance to do laps there in all manner of exotic cars. Exotics Racing also has a location at the Los Angeles Auto Club Speedway
Prices start around $200 for five laps in some of the more mass produced sports cars (such as Porsches, Corvettes, and Audis), but can reach into the thousands when you start doing 10 laps or more in some of the more exotic Ferraris and Lamborghinis.
Unfortunately, both of these companies have credit card merchant codes that classify them as recreation or amusement facilities, so you can’t earn extra points on cards like the Ink Plus that offer car rentals as a bonus spending category.
2. Porsche rental in Frankfurt Germany
If you ever find yourself at the Frankfurt airport, and you love sports cars, I highly recommend renting a Porsche. While there are many companies that offer these iconic German driving machines, there’s only one I’m aware of that is reasonably priced. Avis and Lufthansa have a partnership to offer HON Circle elite members and first class passengers a three hour rental for just EU 99.10, currently about $123. For this price, customers receive fuel, insurance, and up to 93 miles allowance.
I took them up on this offer earlier this year before embarking on a Lufthansa flight in first class. I rented a Porsche 911 Carrera S convertible. No one ever asked to see my tickets, so you may be able to get this deal even if you don’t meet the stated qualifications As far as your credit card issuer is concerned, this is just another car rental that earns all the same bonus points or miles as any other. For additional details, see my post on Tips for Maximizing Lufthansa Porsche Rentals in Frankfurt.
While few people dream of renting a Smart car, the idea of having quick, easy, and affordable rental cars available all over town is pretty amazing. With Car2Go, customers pay a one-time $35 sign up fee, and can then rent from a fleet of Smart cars for 41 cents a minute (plus tax). The best part is that there’s no need to deal with a rental counter; you simply pick up a car on the street, drive it to your destination, and then clock out to end your rental. Gas, insurance, and even street parking are included.
In most cases, a quick drive across town is just a few dollars—far less expensive than a taxi, or even a ridesharing service like Uber. Most customers are urban residents who don’t have enough need for a car to justify owning one and paying for a parking spot, or couples who use this service instead of buying a second car.
However, since Car2Go is currently offered in 15 US cities, and registered users can pick up one of their cars in any of those markets, this service also works well for travelers. Since Car2Go is classified as a transportation service, you can redeem miles from your Barclaycard Arrival Plus to pay for your rentals.
Silvercar is another unique rental option, and one that I find very exciting. The company only rents Audis, which may be less exotic than Porsches, but just as luxurious and more practical. However, the Silvercar experience goes beyond the vehicle itself, as this innovative startup is trying to fix everything that’s wrong with the traditional rental car experience.
Customers register ahead of time and download a smartphone app to reserve their car. After scanning a bar code in the windshield of any car on the lot, the door opens and the keys are found inside. Returning is just as easy, as you just drop off your car and receive a receipt via email.
Cars come with several free amenities like GPS, WiFi, satellite radio, and even child car seats. Where other companies try to rip customers off with inflated rates and surcharges, Silvercar passes through electronic tolls with no markup, and will refuel the car at the local pump price plus a mere $5 flat fee. Prices are around $70-$80 a day, which is competitive considering the car you receive, the time and fees you save, and all of the amenities you get for free.
Through the end of today, Silvercar is giving away a full year of free rentals (a $9,000 value) to a TPG reader. You can register through 11:59 pm PST on Monday, December 1, 2014.
New Silvercar renters can save $50 off their first drive, plus a $50 cash reward when you complete your first drive of 2 days of more! Simply enter “thepointsguy” at sign-up in the Referral Code field and your coupon will be available in the Silvercar app’s Message Center.
5. Dig This Heavy Equipment Playground
It’s not exactly a car rental, but it’s unique enough that I had to include it on this list. Dig This is a heavy machinery playground in Las Vegas where you can play games and build sandcastles with full-sized earth moving equipment.
Starting at $249 for a 90 minute experience, customers get an orientation in a Caterpillar bulldozer or excavator before being let loose with a pile of dirt and fun activities like stacking 2,000 pound tires and playing “Bucket Basketball.” Operators are in constant radio contact with instructors, and the cabs are even air conditioned. Its what every kid dreams of, but only adults can afford.
What are some other unique rental vehicles you’ve encountered?
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