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Car rental agencies..the good, the bad and the ugly

Evening / morning all,

It's that time of year when we get into planning the intricacies of our 2011 photography trip to the US....and are throwing up our hands at the range of car rental companies in the USA (Denver in particular) compared to Australia...have heard both good and bad reports of various smaller companies (Alamo, Dollar, Car Rental 8) as well as the big ones (Avis, Budget, Hertz)....and would love to hear of any recent (ie: 2010) experiences you guys have had with various companies from big to small. We've used Thrifty the last 2 years and have been very happy with them, but we're wondering if we can find a cheaper option which is just as good...

We're looking at a full size sedan or SUV (with a flat dash, and preferably 2 cigarette lighters) - your thoughts on models too would be good , unlimited miles (we do about 18,000 in a month going from the Gulf to the Lakes as next year we want to do part of the NE as well), 'free' extra driver (if such a thing still exists), oh, and will hire out for 40 days without having to drop it in for a service somewhere...

who would you recommend?...and who wouldn't you and what was it that you liked or irked you about them...we'd appreciate any info that you might be able to give.


...and can someone please educate me on the exact purpose of the 3 levels of LDW that many companies run ($28, $41 and $54 per day (ish)) - which should we be using and what DON'T they cover.....

a million thanks for taking the time to 'edumacate' ;) us, and we'll see you on the road next April & May,

cheers,

Jane :confused:
 
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