Denver Airport Car Rentals: Rocky Mountain High Prices

Jun 30, 2018

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To The Point

Grandpa Points loves a good deal and inexpensive getaway to the scenic corners of the country, but some Rocky Mountain high car rental prices are causing problems at Denver International Airport as they try to stretch their retirement dollars on unforgettable vacations…

This is a guest post from my dad, Grandpa Points. He and my mom are in their late-60’s, are (mostly) retired, DSCN4512and are ticking off “bucket list” destinations quicker than they ever thought possible thanks to miles, points, and travel deals. They have an intense love of this country, of its National Parks and treasures, and have no problem with a clean budget hotel room and an economy airline seat on a low-cost airline as long as it gets them where they want to be. A photographer by trade, he often tells his story not just with his words, but with his images. Today he brings us a story from planning another one of their adventures. 

Rocky Mountain High, Colorado. I love that song by John Denver. But, unfortunately, I am now associating those lovely lyrics with the car rental prices at the Denver International Airport in Colorado, because they are, unfortunately, Rocky Mountain (sky) High.

What gives with the car rental prices in Denver? Do the rates include a hotel stay? Three meals a day? A free day on the slopes? Free samples from the Denver Mint? There must be some sort of unadvertised bonus to justify the disproportionately high rates that can be found there.

We have a 58-hour trip planned to the Denver area in early August to catch a concert at The Red Rocks Amphitheater. We will need a car for 2.25 days. Nothing fancy, just an average car. The all-in rates (base rate plus all the fees and taxes ) we are seeing for a Denver airport rental for our specific dates are in the $400 – $500 ballpark range, chauffeur not included.

We have always found Denver car rentals to be much more expensive than our other rental destinations, but this time seems egregiously so. We did some comparative pricing at random airports in the United States for the same rental period. At eight of those destinations, Seattle was the only one close in price and it still came in at about 25% less than Denver. Chicago was sitting at $230, Atlanta checked in at about $210, Dallas at $185, Los Angeles $175, Washington DC at $170, Las Vegas about $150, and Orlando was a comparative deal at $130. I will also admit that all these prices are higher than we normally pay due to our vigilant monitoring of the rental price fluctuations that traditionally occur in the months/weeks prior to our trips.

Mommy Points Tip: Use to track car rental prices if you don’t have time to check daily as Grandpa Points’ does.

This can’t strictly be a case of supply and demand as there seems to be the normal numeric representation of agencies at the airport, and Denver certainly does not see the same number of visitors as Orlando or Vegas. Is there a conspiracy? Collusion? Coincidence?

We have pursued off-airport prices and they are approximately half the price of the on-site rates. We actually have speculative reservations right now at both. One obvious disadvantage of off-site rentals is the necessity of procuring independent transportation to and from the airport. Silvercar has also entered into the equation as the VINFINITE 30% discount brings the price into range (or even lower than) some other options. If my wife rented her first Silvercar rental, we could both pick up a $25 Visa gift card in the process thanks to their referral program.

We have even looked into Turo, the private car rental program. We did not even know of Turo until now, but expensive times call for alternative measures.

What I do know that paying too much for any part of the travel equation is disconcerting as it detracts and diminishes from what should be a positive and anticipated experience. This is not unlike the diminished affect and negative effect that resort and parking fees have for us in Las Vegas. Maybe a young entrepreneur will venture into the Denver car rental market with a fleet of cars and charge a consistent base rate of $30 to $60 a day at an off-site location with free shuttle service. And maybe that same young capitalist will have a business model that does not try to up-sell insurance coverage, roadside assistance, and prepaid gasoline. Maybe they will just provide good customer service at a reasonable rate. Build it and they will come. People will most definitely come.

We will keep our fingers crossed and hope that prices fall in the next few weeks, In the meantime, we are still scratching our heads about why car rentals cost more at the Denver airport. Wish us luck and stay tuned.

Safe travels to all!


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