Save Big on BZN Rental Cars

‘Tis the season for Holiday price gouging, and nothing is more seasonally inflated than rental cars in Bozeman. So instead of having a heart attack when you see that to rent a Suburban from your favorite Franchise to take your family of six for their ski vacation in Big sky will cost you over $450 per day, take a deep breath and a small step back.

The best way to save money on your Bozeman Airport car rental is of course to book in advance.  Chances are you don’t want to hear about this, so we won’t talk about it. Hindsight 20/20 and all.

Want to save 10% on your BZN rental car right now?

Your second best option to book your rental SUV from an Off-Airport rental car agency. The vast majority of the operating budget at BZN is funded by the rental car concession fees, which to our knowledge and research, are the highest in the state of Montana. Your base “Fees” from a franchise rental car at the Bozeman Airport are a 10% Airport Concession Fee (on the total rental price), $1+ daily Licensing Recovery Fee, and a $4.25 daily Customer Facility Charge.

Here is a breakdown: a Suburban rental from Hertz 12/21 – 12/28/17 (Via Expedia search on 12/19/17) has a base price of $428 per day. There is a mandatory State of Montana 4% rental vehicle tax, $120.15. Then there are the Bozeman Airport fees; an additional $339.85! 

If you booked your exactly-the-same rental Suburban from one of the off-airport companies, you could save this amount right away. Chances are you would also get a better vehicle and better service from one of these companies according to current Yelp reviews for Car Rental Bozeman Airport. 

A rental Subaru Outback in Bozeman

How is it possible to save this much on BZN Rental Cars?

Here is how: in the spring of 2017 the state of Montana Public Service Commission changed the laws for legally licensing taxi/ livery services. Prior to this decision, it was nearly impossible for a new taxi company to open. As a result, the old, pre-existing Taxi operators were just that: old and pre-existing. Also often unreliable. And usually pretty gross. Consequently, the ‘option’ to take a Taxi to one of the off-airport rental cars was simply not worth the risk.

Starting in 2017, UBER came to town.  Bozeman also has a new locally owned option, VEXIRIDE. This has been a game changer; all of a sudden the off-airport rental car companies do not need to pick up their customers at the Bozeman Airport. As a result, they do not have to charge the renter the required 10% BZN concession fees.

There are three off-airport rental car agencies operating in Bozeman; Ressler Rentals(a Toyota Rent-A-Car program TRAC), Journey Rent A Car (Also sometimes known as Ace Rent-A-Car), and Explore Rentals. All of these companies have superior reviews compared to the BZN franchise rental car agencies. They have also all been in business for well over five years. In full disclosure, I am the owner of Explore Rentals, so I am biased, so I will just stick to the facts: Ressler Rentals is 9.3 miles from BZN and rents mostly the full line of Toyota Vehicles. Journey Rent A Car is 8.6 miles from BZN. They rent Suburbans, passenger vans, and economy cars/ SUVs. Explore Rental is 2-miles from BZN. They rent Suburbans, Subaru Outbacks, and Mercedes Benz 4×4 Sprinter vans.

An Uber or VexiRide to Explore Rentals is about $10, to the others about $25. Still, if you were willing to make the effort, you could potentially save hundreds on the BZN concession fees.

Want to save more money on your BZN Rental Car?

The third option will only work for certain scenarios. Many of the flights arriving into BZN in the winter touchdown well past dark. The drive to Big Sky is perfectly fine most of the time, but is always a bit more tricky (AKA Risky) in the dark. Forget the stress and stay the night! If you were to stay locally the night of your arrival at one of the hotels with a BZN shuttle (like the Holiday Inn Belgrade), you could pick up your car the following morning at one of the off-airport rental car companies. This would save you the Vexi/ Uber fare, the 10% BZN concession fee, and a full day rental. These savings will often pay for the hotel room and a nice meal!

BZN to Big Sky, The Conclusion

  1. If you are going to Big Sky, a rental car really is the best option. The resort is a long way fromtown, and if you aren’t ski-in/ski-out, or want to go out to eat/ drink, it is imperative. Check out this article on BZN Ground Transportation Options.
  2. You need a 4WD or AWD vehicle. Please do not risk the safety of your family in the winter. It is not worth it. Here is a good article on “How to Rent a Car That Will Keep you Alive in Montana”
  3. You can save 10% off your rental car price, and likely have a better experience, by booking from an off-airport rental car agency, and hiring a ride to their location.
  4. You can potentially save even more by staying the night of your arrival locally.

And finally, be safe and have fun! Big Sky is awesome, and we hope you have an epic experience!