Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

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goaties
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Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by goaties » Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:29 am

I'm planning The Big Trip to Alaska this fall, and I will be renting a car with the usual "no unpaved roads" disclaimer. I need to drive 14 miles on the unpaved section of the Denali national park road in order to get to Teklanika campground. My concern is the GPS locators which rental companies are rumored to put on their vehicles. Assuming I have no accidents/damages (and I've purchased Amex's extra protection for 24.95), what is the real risk of being "found out" by the rental car company? Do they fine you simply for having been on an unpaved road? What, exactly?

I'm renting from either Alamo or Dollar, if that makes a difference. Real-world, recent experiences welcomed.

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by Jack FFR1846 » Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:36 am

What specifically does the rental agreement say? Does it provide fines or penalties if they find you've driven on unpaved roads?

I can tell you first hand that these GPS devices will absolutely give them a map of where you went. I had one on my son's car from the insurance company and could track every place he went, what the speed was at any point on the map, excessive braking, etc. And the maps are all stored, so I could check and see that last month, to see where he went and how fast he was going. I don't know if rental car companies utilize this but I could set a maximum speed and above that, it would text me.

I have rented Jeeps in Aruba and they would circle prime offroading areas and say that they were off limits. Those were, of course, my first destination. I doubt anyone there would care. I think I could bring the Jeep back upside down and on fire and they wouldn't even notice.
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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by fishmonger » Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:52 am

I rented a Dodge Ram and drove it roughly 900 miles throughout the Kenai Peninsula in August 2016. Had no issues, but I did pay for the "extra protection" package.

It's hard to drive anywhere in Alaska without coming across unpaved roads

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by livesoft » Thu Feb 01, 2018 10:09 am

We drove many hours in BC on timber company roads and requested an SUV, but got a minivan. The vehicle was caked in mud on the outside, so we went through a carwash before returning it. I think the main risk is a flat tire or two. Several people described the many times they had gotten flats while driving big 4x4 trucks. One guy described running over a black bear who darted out in front of him.
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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by goaties » Thu Feb 01, 2018 10:23 am

Jack FFR1846 wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:36 am
What specifically does the rental agreement say? Does it provide fines or penalties if they find you've driven on unpaved roads?
No, there's nothing about fines. I think a problem might arise should you return the car with some kind of damage. At that point, the rental company (or Amex, who will be the first insurer, since I'm buying their special rental car rider) could use the fact that you drove 14 miles on a known unpaved road as an excuse not to pay your claim. I'm just wondering if anyone in the Boglehead community has had something like this happen to them.

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by adamthesmythe » Thu Feb 01, 2018 11:07 am

As noted, any insurance/ CDW coverage might not apply if you are off-road. So your liability could be up to the value of the car.

Off-road you have essentially zero chance of a collision with another car. Low-probability accidents include animals, rollovers, front end damage and cracked oil pans.

I have driven many miles in Iceland on gravel roads. In Iceland these were the better roads, the bad ones were the ones with river crossings.

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by Alaskagal » Thu Feb 01, 2018 11:48 am

The problem with the unpaved Denali road is when the tour bus/large trucks pass you or when you're behind one of them, they throw up rocks that will put a divot in your windshield. These divots lead to cracked windshields (ask me how I know!) Have fun in Denali....hope the weather's good and you can see the mountain! It's spectacular.....

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by Nate79 » Thu Feb 01, 2018 12:52 pm

Are there different rates that would allow you to drive off road?

I do not think you should be asking on this site what is the chance you will get caught breaking your contract......

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by rkhusky » Thu Feb 01, 2018 12:54 pm

In the Midwest, many main roads are unpaved, as well as some residential city streets. It is a bit of challenge sometimes to get somewhere, while avoiding all dirt roads.

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by PVW » Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:21 pm

Are you sure the rental agreement specifies the vehicle is not to be used on unpaved roads? Or does it specify any insurance coverage will not cover damage due to use on unpaved roads?

This web site says insurance coverage under a credit card agreement is usually void if you violate the rental agreement.
https://www.moneycrashers.com/rental-ca ... dit-cards/

I would call and ask your car insurance agent if your current coverage will be sufficient.

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by an_asker » Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:34 pm

Alaskagal wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 11:48 am
The problem with the unpaved Denali road is when the tour bus/large trucks pass you or when you're behind one of them, they throw up rocks that will put a divot in your windshield. These divots lead to cracked windshields (ask me how I know!) Have fun in Denali....hope the weather's good and you can see the mountain! It's spectacular.....
My hazy memory (though it was less than a year ago when we were there) is no match for Alaskagal. I would've thought that the road is not too bad - or at least not as bad as Dalton Highway :-) But if you drive into Denali park, beware that if you drive over the speed limit, you might get reported. Our bus driver snitched on a dude who was speeding going the opposite direction!!

But if these are an issue, not to worry. You can take the shuttle bus to the Teklanika Campground (though I have no idea how much walking you would need to do from the bus stop, as we didn't camp out there).

I hope you get to see Denali as well and get into the 30%ers. We did :-)
Last edited by an_asker on Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:41 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by TravelGeek » Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:36 pm

I wouldn't and didn't drive a regular rental car onto the Dawson highway (I rented one from a local company in Fairbanks specifically for that day trip, it came with two spare tires and a CB radio), but I would not worry about 14 miles of national park roads in Denali.

Use of GPS to track customers is very controversial. Not sure about Alaska law.

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by nisiprius » Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:39 pm

What exactly is the definition of "unpaved?"

My wife corrects me every time I refer to a graded, packed, gravel road that is not covered with asphalt as "unpaved." She says if it's been packed, leveled, and graveled that is paved, it just is paved in a different way.
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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by an_asker » Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:43 pm

TravelGeek wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:36 pm
I wouldn't and didn't drive a regular rental car onto the Dawson highway (I rented one from a local company in Fairbanks specifically for that day trip, it came with two spare tires and a CB radio), but I would not worry about 14 miles of national park roads in Denali.

Use of GPS to track customers is very controversial. Not sure about Alaska law.

http://supreme.findlaw.com/legal-commen ... iving.html
Don't know about other laws, but one quaint Alaska driving law that I learned was about not leading a pack of cars exceeding five cars. Don't have a clue how they monitor and/or enforce this one. Got into a long discussion with DW about it ... as usual such discussions, it went unresolved! :oops:

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by whodidntante » Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:43 pm

You could rent a dune buggy or whatever those people drive. I rented a Jeep wrangler for off roading in Aruba once, and I told the hotel concierge to make sure it was insured for such. It wasn't cheap but I returned it with a broken hood latch and filthy and never heard a peep.

You could also buy a car there and sell it before you go. Or buy a cheap car and then take it to the salvage yard or take any unreasonable offer. Get an umbrella policy and let the chips fall where they may.

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by TravelGeek » Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:58 pm

an_asker wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:43 pm

Don't know about other laws, but one quaint Alaska driving law that I learned was about not leading a pack of cars exceeding five cars. Don't have a clue how they monitor and/or enforce this one. Got into a long discussion with DW about it ... as usual such discussions, it went unresolved! :oops:
Other states have similar "quaint" laws. E.g., Washington state: https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=46.61.427

I hate leading a group of vehicles that clearly want to go faster than I and thus find ways to let them pass get get them off my rear bumper (I usually drive at the speed limit, unless I consider it unsafe).

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by Pajamas » Thu Feb 01, 2018 2:01 pm

I don't see that anyone has mentioned the possibility of getting stuck (mud, ditch, etc.) and needing a tow. Probably depends a lot on the type of vehicle and season. (Been there, done that, more than once!)

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by an_asker » Thu Feb 01, 2018 2:06 pm

TravelGeek wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:58 pm
an_asker wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:43 pm

Don't know about other laws, but one quaint Alaska driving law that I learned was about not leading a pack of cars exceeding five cars. Don't have a clue how they monitor and/or enforce this one. Got into a long discussion with DW about it ... as usual such discussions, it went unresolved! :oops:
Other states have similar "quaint" laws. E.g., Washington state: https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=46.61.427

I hate leading a group of vehicles that clearly want to go faster than I and thus find ways to let them pass get get them off my rear bumper (I usually drive at the speed limit, unless I consider it unsafe).
Fair enough, but what about roadways that are one lane in each direction with a long "no passing" stretch? Especially on Highway between Anchorage and the Whittier turn off, it is a bit scary on some sections to bring the car to a full stop by the side of the road from 55-60 mph, so you can let the others go by. Which is why I was asking how they go about enforcing it.

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by an_asker » Thu Feb 01, 2018 2:09 pm

goaties wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:29 am
I'm planning The Big Trip to Alaska this fall, and I will be renting a car with the usual "no unpaved roads" disclaimer. I need to drive 14 miles on the unpaved section of the Denali national park road in order to get to Teklanika campground. My concern is the GPS locators which rental companies are rumored to put on their vehicles. Assuming I have no accidents/damages (and I've purchased Amex's extra protection for 24.95), what is the real risk of being "found out" by the rental car company? Do they fine you simply for having been on an unpaved road? What, exactly?

I'm renting from either Alamo or Dollar, if that makes a difference. Real-world, recent experiences welcomed.
I just want to add to my other responses. We didn't have any issues, thankfully. However, before we left with our car, the Enterprise guy showed us a template (it was a real plastic template!) that showed ding sizes, scratch lengths, etc that they would come after us for ... should we had any on the car exceeding those sizes upon return.

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by TravelGeek » Thu Feb 01, 2018 2:25 pm

an_asker wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 2:06 pm
Fair enough, but what about roadways that are one lane in each direction with a long "no passing" stretch? Especially on Highway between Anchorage and the Whittier turn off, it is a bit scary on some sections to bring the car to a full stop by the side of the road from 55-60 mph, so you can let the others go by. Which is why I was asking how they go about enforcing it.
One of the five+ cars might be a cop.

But then I would just point out that the law only requires you to pull over where safe.

http://www.legis.state.ak.us/basis/aac.asp#13.08.085

"on a two-lane highway outside an urban district where passing is unsafe because of oncoming traffic or other conditions, the driver of a motor vehicle proceeding at less than the maximum authorized speed of traffic and behind whom five or more vehicles are formed in a line shall turn off the roadway at the nearest place designated as a turnout or wherever sufficient area for a safe turnout exists in order to permit following vehicles to pass."

an_asker wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 2:09 pm
I just want to add to my other responses. We didn't have any issues, thankfully. However, before we left with our car, the Enterprise guy showed us a template (it was a real plastic template!) that showed ding sizes, scratch lengths, etc that they would come after us for ... should we had any on the car exceeding those sizes upon return.
Always walk around the car and take plenty of photos from various angles, making sure the background shows that you are still at the rental pickup location. Closeups of any obvious scratches. If they, upon return, start arguing about "new" damage, tell them you have documentation of pre-existing damage. Has been helpful in a couple of cases where the return checkin agent seemed highly motivated to find damage.
Pajamas wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 2:01 pm
I don't see that anyone has mentioned the possibility of getting stuck (mud, ditch, etc.) and needing a tow. Probably depends a lot on the type of vehicle and season. (Been there, done that, more than once!)
I think the roads into Denali are generally well maintained... and if recent weather caused damage, they are probably aggressively closed, because the NPS presumably doesn't want to rescue visitors if it can be avoided. Obviously always drive carefully.

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by texasdiver » Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:07 pm

I’ve rented a bunch of cars in Alaska while traveling there on business over the years. As I recall, they don’t forbid you to drive on gravel roads or anything like that. What they do tell you is that certain notorious roads are off limits. Like the Dalton Highway up to the north slope. They will hand you a paper map and highlight a couple spots and say “don’t drive here”.

I expect it is partly for damages and partly because the don’t want to have to retrieve a broken down car from a ditch 500 miles up the north slope haul road.

What are the penalties if you disobey? For certain they would not pay any claims if you damage the car and had insurance through the rental company. Beyond that? I suppose you could get on their blacklist if they have one.

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by ddurrett896 » Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:30 pm

goaties wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:29 am
Real-world, recent experiences welcomed.
2 years ago I flew to Vegas to spent a week in UT and AZ off-road and wasn’t able to rent a 4x4 thru any nationwide rental car company.

Ended up booking a full size SUV with every company and walked the rental lot until I found a 4x4 Tahoe. Went to the desk with the tag number and request that exact one. Agreement said on road only, no paved roads.

Man I was off road for a week, 3 hours away from the nearest paved road with no cell service and had no problems. Was sure to give it a good wash before returning. There is no way someone is watching where the vehicles go. Now if there is an issue that’s going to cost them a lot of money, they might check it. Got for it!

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by Watty » Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:39 pm

adamthesmythe wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 11:07 am
As noted, any insurance/ CDW coverage might not apply if you are off-road. So your liability could be up to the value of the car.
I would also be concerned that if you are violating the terms of the rental agreement that your car insurance liability coverage and umbrella policy might not cover you.

If that is the case then if someone was hurt or killed in an accident you could end up being liable for a lot more than the cost of the car.

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by Nestegg_User » Fri Feb 02, 2018 1:44 am

an_asker wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 2:06 pm
TravelGeek wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:58 pm
an_asker wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:43 pm

Don't know about other laws, but one quaint Alaska driving law that I learned was about not leading a pack of cars exceeding five cars. Don't have a clue how they monitor and/or enforce this one. Got into a long discussion with DW about it ... as usual such discussions, it went unresolved! :oops:
Other states have similar "quaint" laws. E.g., Washington state: https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=46.61.427

I hate leading a group of vehicles that clearly want to go faster than I and thus find ways to let them pass get get them off my rear bumper (I usually drive at the speed limit, unless I consider it unsafe).
Fair enough, but what about roadways that are one lane in each direction with a long "no passing" stretch? Especially on Highway between Anchorage and the Whittier turn off, it is a bit scary on some sections to bring the car to a full stop by the side of the road from 55-60 mph, so you can let the others go by. Which is why I was asking how they go about enforcing it.
Then you must have had a LOT of fun going through the mountain to get to Whittier :P and at the end of the dirt road past Homer (there’s a village there with old russian orthodox church etc including children in white outfits, quite unusual and few people ever get there)

(if I remember, quite a few roads to the north west of Healy were just dirt roads a couple of miles off the main highway.)

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by bob60014 » Fri Feb 02, 2018 3:30 am

In my own car I drove from Fairbanks to the Artic Circle along the Dalton Highway with unpaved sections of roads along the way. Of course I had a flat tire. That is one problem, the other is rocks, tree limbs and dead animals.

Frankly in a rental I wouldn't risk any travel that may cause a breach in terms. What would you do if the the car died on that unpaved road?

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by an_asker » Fri Feb 02, 2018 11:46 am

Nearing_Destination wrote:
Fri Feb 02, 2018 1:44 am
an_asker wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 2:06 pm
TravelGeek wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:58 pm
an_asker wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:43 pm

Don't know about other laws, but one quaint Alaska driving law that I learned was about not leading a pack of cars exceeding five cars. Don't have a clue how they monitor and/or enforce this one. Got into a long discussion with DW about it ... as usual such discussions, it went unresolved! :oops:
Other states have similar "quaint" laws. E.g., Washington state: https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=46.61.427

I hate leading a group of vehicles that clearly want to go faster than I and thus find ways to let them pass get get them off my rear bumper (I usually drive at the speed limit, unless I consider it unsafe).
Fair enough, but what about roadways that are one lane in each direction with a long "no passing" stretch? Especially on Highway between Anchorage and the Whittier turn off, it is a bit scary on some sections to bring the car to a full stop by the side of the road from 55-60 mph, so you can let the others go by. Which is why I was asking how they go about enforcing it.
Then you must have had a LOT of fun going through the mountain to get to Whittier :P and at the end of the dirt road past Homer (there’s a village there with old russian orthodox church etc including children in white outfits, quite unusual and few people ever get there)

(if I remember, quite a few roads to the north west of Healy were just dirt roads a couple of miles off the main highway.)
Yes sir, I did (gotta confess that family had a bit less fun than I did!) :-)

If you went a long time ago, it is probably less fun now, because the train-auto tunnel has been constructed and we just drove through it.

The Russian church is a bit north of Homer, isn't it, at Nanilchik (I hope I spelled it correctly)?

And there was no dirt road all the way up to Homer. We drove by the city of Anchor Point, which is the westernmost highway of the continent too.

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by Mick » Fri Feb 02, 2018 12:56 pm

In my experience the biggest real risk was a moose.

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by dbr » Fri Feb 02, 2018 5:57 pm

My general understanding is that this is an insurance issue meaning that any coverage you think you have such as CDW, credit card, your own insurance company is void if you violate the terms of the rental contract. Violation could be driving in a "non-paved" road, a person not an authorized driver driving the car etc. Obviously the way to get into trouble is to damage the vehicle off road and get a big uninsured bill for the damage. No damage, no problem. I saw a post on some forum in the last year where someone crashed a vehicle into a ditch off some road maybe off road in Alaska somewhere and ended up essentially paying the total value of the vehicle with no insurance by the time they got it towed out and assessed the damage. This may be a somewhat apocryphal story, but that is the idea.

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by kite » Fri Feb 02, 2018 7:45 pm

goaties wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:29 am
I'm planning The Big Trip to Alaska this fall, and I will be renting a car with the usual "no unpaved roads" disclaimer. I need to drive 14 miles on the unpaved section of the Denali national park road in order to get to Teklanika campground. My concern is the GPS locators which rental companies are rumored to put on their vehicles. Assuming I have no accidents/damages (and I've purchased Amex's extra protection for 24.95), what is the real risk of being "found out" by the rental car company? Do they fine you simply for having been on an unpaved road? What, exactly?

I'm renting from either Alamo or Dollar, if that makes a difference. Real-world, recent experiences welcomed.
I've camped at Teklanika before and the road to get there is technically unpaved but it's a well made gravel road. Your car will more than likely be just fine getting there and back with no damage. A chip/crack in your windshield can happen anywhere up here. I have no insight on the GPS tracker but I've rented cars and gone places I shouldn't have in Hawaii and Utah and Colorado and they've never said anything to me.

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by tibbitts » Fri Feb 02, 2018 8:13 pm

texasdiver wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:07 pm
I’ve rented a bunch of cars in Alaska while traveling there on business over the years. As I recall, they don’t forbid you to drive on gravel roads or anything like that. What they do tell you is that certain notorious roads are off limits. Like the Dalton Highway up to the north slope. They will hand you a paper map and highlight a couple spots and say “don’t drive here”.

I expect it is partly for damages and partly because the don’t want to have to retrieve a broken down car from a ditch 500 miles up the north slope haul road.

What are the penalties if you disobey? For certain they would not pay any claims if you damage the car and had insurance through the rental company. Beyond that? I suppose you could get on their blacklist if they have one.
That is no longer the case - the national companies I have recently rented from in Alaska now prohibit driving on unpaved roads in their contracts. They only provide some roads (local) as examples, but the prohibition is for gravel. Ironically even when the rental car pickup is in a gravel parking lot.

They do not specify penalties, but they cover themselves to not honor things like their own loss damage waivers. And they make it so your credit card wouldn't have to cover damage if it chose not to. However your own insurance may still apply (assuming you have collision coverage), so you would have to check your policy for that. I believe that in many cases violating the contract would not prevent your insurance company from covering the car.

Just in 2017 I noticed that one AK location I frequently had rented from before had completely changed its attitude toward damage. When I picked up the car a rep spent at least ten minutes documenting every scratch (and I mean tiny, tiny scratches) on my car - and there were dozens! It was an amazing experience. Before nobody inspected the car with you, you just walked out to the car and drove it off, like any rental car, after checking for obvious issues that weren't marked in your agreement.

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by Nestegg_User » Fri Feb 02, 2018 10:56 pm

an_asker wrote:
Fri Feb 02, 2018 11:46 am
Nearing_Destination wrote:
Fri Feb 02, 2018 1:44 am
an_asker wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 2:06 pm
TravelGeek wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:58 pm
an_asker wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:43 pm

Don't know about other laws, but one quaint Alaska driving law that I learned was about not leading a pack of cars exceeding five cars. Don't have a clue how they monitor and/or enforce this one. Got into a long discussion with DW about it ... as usual such discussions, it went unresolved! :oops:
Other states have similar "quaint" laws. E.g., Washington state: https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=46.61.427

I hate leading a group of vehicles that clearly want to go faster than I and thus find ways to let them pass get get them off my rear bumper (I usually drive at the speed limit, unless I consider it unsafe).
Fair enough, but what about roadways that are one lane in each direction with a long "no passing" stretch? Especially on Highway between Anchorage and the Whittier turn off, it is a bit scary on some sections to bring the car to a full stop by the side of the road from 55-60 mph, so you can let the others go by. Which is why I was asking how they go about enforcing it.
Then you must have had a LOT of fun going through the mountain to get to Whittier :P and at the end of the dirt road past Homer (there’s a village there with old russian orthodox church etc including children in white outfits, quite unusual and few people ever get there)

(if I remember, quite a few roads to the north west of Healy were just dirt roads a couple of miles off the main highway.)
Yes sir, I did (gotta confess that family had a bit less fun than I did!) :-)

If you went a long time ago, it is probably less fun now, because the train-auto tunnel has been constructed and we just drove through it.

The Russian church is a bit north of Homer, isn't it, at Nanilchik (I hope I spelled it correctly)?

And there was no dirt road all the way up to Homer. We drove by the city of Anchor Point, which is the westernmost highway of the continent too.

That’s on the way TO Homer before you get to Anchor Point (which used to have a salmon smokehouse and around there was a great overlook to the mainland (and in season had some great fireweed, the pictures can be great but you needed a polarizer to reduce some of the haze). The one I was thinking of was PAST Homer almost as far as Anchor Point was before you got there. It’s past Kachemak (which had a small post office/general store then). Then, it was paved just a bit past Kachemak, then went to gravel road ( looking at google maps now, it looks paved all the way now to the village (Fox River) with a lot more development; I think the church is the building in center of village on Voznesenka Loop)

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White Coat Investor
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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by White Coat Investor » Sat Feb 03, 2018 12:25 am

Define paved. In Alaska, that's an important definition. Heck, I had friends who lived on dirt roads and I lived in Anchorage. If you need a car and you need to take it on dirt roads and no one will approve you to do that, you have two choices:

# 1 Just do it anyway, be careful, and pay the penalty whatever it might be
# 2 Buy a car and sell it when you leave
1) Invest you must 2) Time is your friend 3) Impulse is your enemy | 4) Basic arithmetic works 5) Stick to simplicity 6) Stay the course

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by White Coat Investor » Sat Feb 03, 2018 12:27 am

an_asker wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 2:06 pm
TravelGeek wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:58 pm
an_asker wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 1:43 pm

Don't know about other laws, but one quaint Alaska driving law that I learned was about not leading a pack of cars exceeding five cars. Don't have a clue how they monitor and/or enforce this one. Got into a long discussion with DW about it ... as usual such discussions, it went unresolved! :oops:
Other states have similar "quaint" laws. E.g., Washington state: https://app.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=46.61.427

I hate leading a group of vehicles that clearly want to go faster than I and thus find ways to let them pass get get them off my rear bumper (I usually drive at the speed limit, unless I consider it unsafe).
Fair enough, but what about roadways that are one lane in each direction with a long "no passing" stretch? Especially on Highway between Anchorage and the Whittier turn off, it is a bit scary on some sections to bring the car to a full stop by the side of the road from 55-60 mph, so you can let the others go by. Which is why I was asking how they go about enforcing it.
They've added a lot of passing lanes on that road in recent years. It's not as big a deal as it used to be. If you get a bunch of cars behind you, you might consider speeding up! If you're the slowest tourist on the road, I'd be surprised. They're really just trying to do something about the Winnebagos doing 35 mph. Besides, there are places to pull completely off the road into a parking lot at least every 5 miles on that road. I know because I've used pretty much every one of them when rock climbing down there.
1) Invest you must 2) Time is your friend 3) Impulse is your enemy | 4) Basic arithmetic works 5) Stick to simplicity 6) Stay the course

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by Bruce » Sat Feb 03, 2018 1:11 am

These guys are an experienced and high quality motor home rental company, and spell out some of the risks of unpaved road travel here.

https://www.greatalaskanholidays.com/al ... motorhome/

They also DO include the Denali Park Road to Teklanika in their list of "allowable with caution" roads.

If you rent from them, highly suggest you spend the extra money to purchase the insurance that covers windshield chips, as that can happen on or off paved roads.
Bruce | | Winner of the 2017 Bogleheads Contest | | "Simplicity is the master key to financial success."

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by texasdiver » Sat Feb 03, 2018 2:08 pm

tibbitts wrote:
Fri Feb 02, 2018 8:13 pm
texasdiver wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:07 pm
I’ve rented a bunch of cars in Alaska while traveling there on business over the years. As I recall, they don’t forbid you to drive on gravel roads or anything like that. What they do tell you is that certain notorious roads are off limits. Like the Dalton Highway up to the north slope. They will hand you a paper map and highlight a couple spots and say “don’t drive here”.

I expect it is partly for damages and partly because the don’t want to have to retrieve a broken down car from a ditch 500 miles up the north slope haul road.

What are the penalties if you disobey? For certain they would not pay any claims if you damage the car and had insurance through the rental company. Beyond that? I suppose you could get on their blacklist if they have one.
That is no longer the case - the national companies I have recently rented from in Alaska now prohibit driving on unpaved roads in their contracts. They only provide some roads (local) as examples, but the prohibition is for gravel. Ironically even when the rental car pickup is in a gravel parking lot.

They do not specify penalties, but they cover themselves to not honor things like their own loss damage waivers. And they make it so your credit card wouldn't have to cover damage if it chose not to. However your own insurance may still apply (assuming you have collision coverage), so you would have to check your policy for that. I believe that in many cases violating the contract would not prevent your insurance company from covering the car.

Just in 2017 I noticed that one AK location I frequently had rented from before had completely changed its attitude toward damage. When I picked up the car a rep spent at least ten minutes documenting every scratch (and I mean tiny, tiny scratches) on my car - and there were dozens! It was an amazing experience. Before nobody inspected the car with you, you just walked out to the car and drove it off, like any rental car, after checking for obvious issues that weren't marked in your agreement.
That's a big change then. I always rented cars at the Anchorage airport and it was essentially the same as at any other airport in the US. Go to the counter, get your contract, walk out, grab the car and drive away. Done in 5 minutes tops. There must be something driving this recent change. What you describe sounds more like the experience of renting a car in Costa Rica or Peru or someplace like that.

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by tibbitts » Sat Feb 03, 2018 2:26 pm

texasdiver wrote:
Sat Feb 03, 2018 2:08 pm
tibbitts wrote:
Fri Feb 02, 2018 8:13 pm
texasdiver wrote:
Thu Feb 01, 2018 9:07 pm
I’ve rented a bunch of cars in Alaska while traveling there on business over the years. As I recall, they don’t forbid you to drive on gravel roads or anything like that. What they do tell you is that certain notorious roads are off limits. Like the Dalton Highway up to the north slope. They will hand you a paper map and highlight a couple spots and say “don’t drive here”.

I expect it is partly for damages and partly because the don’t want to have to retrieve a broken down car from a ditch 500 miles up the north slope haul road.

What are the penalties if you disobey? For certain they would not pay any claims if you damage the car and had insurance through the rental company. Beyond that? I suppose you could get on their blacklist if they have one.
That is no longer the case - the national companies I have recently rented from in Alaska now prohibit driving on unpaved roads in their contracts. They only provide some roads (local) as examples, but the prohibition is for gravel. Ironically even when the rental car pickup is in a gravel parking lot.

They do not specify penalties, but they cover themselves to not honor things like their own loss damage waivers. And they make it so your credit card wouldn't have to cover damage if it chose not to. However your own insurance may still apply (assuming you have collision coverage), so you would have to check your policy for that. I believe that in many cases violating the contract would not prevent your insurance company from covering the car.

Just in 2017 I noticed that one AK location I frequently had rented from before had completely changed its attitude toward damage. When I picked up the car a rep spent at least ten minutes documenting every scratch (and I mean tiny, tiny scratches) on my car - and there were dozens! It was an amazing experience. Before nobody inspected the car with you, you just walked out to the car and drove it off, like any rental car, after checking for obvious issues that weren't marked in your agreement.
That's a big change then. I always rented cars at the Anchorage airport and it was essentially the same as at any other airport in the US. Go to the counter, get your contract, walk out, grab the car and drive away. Done in 5 minutes tops. There must be something driving this recent change. What you describe sounds more like the experience of renting a car in Costa Rica or Peru or someplace like that.
I've rented in several locations in Alaska from the same company, managed by the same person (at a regional level), with completely different experiences. In this case the experience was completely different at the same location just months later. I was completely caught off-guard by the micro-examination of the car. It was a car with maybe 30,000 miles and it's going to have some minor cosmetic issues, but they documented every one of them, spots on the interior, normal luggage-type scratches on the rear bumper, etc. etc. I had never encountered anything like that anywhere.

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Re: Alaska rental car - what is the real risk with unpaved roads?

Post by bhusa » Sat Feb 03, 2018 2:55 pm

Make sure to thoroughly check any pre-existing damage to the car before driving off, chances are all Alaska rentals have some minor damages, need to have them documented, preferably call them about the damage before driving off. The rental company do thoroughly check the returned car, In my case, the rental clerk was quite nice, she noticed the damage in my returned car had been previously paid for. So I was off the hook for window crack damage.

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