Do I need Four Wheel Drive rental car to drive from the Bozeman Airport to Big Sky in the winter? Yes.
This photo was taken while exiting the Bozeman Airport, from the car. The foreground is the road. The next 50+ miles to Big Sky will be worse. Please be safe and make sure you either have a rental car with 4WD or AWD and good tires, or your transportation company/ UBER/ LYFT has 4WD or AWD with good tires. Safety is a necessity in these condition!
It has been a while since we have done an update on the Bozeman Airport ground transportation options, and some thing have recently changed, so here you go!
Bozeman Airport Taxi And Shuttle Service
The biggest news is that Montana has taken major steps to deregulate the Public Service Commission on transportation. This means the taxi Monopoly has been broken and competition can enter the market. Great news, because Bozeman Taxis are terrible!
The first to enter the market has been Big Sky Shuttle. They have a long history in transportation and have entered the market with new Nissan 15-passenger 4wd vans and GMC Yukon Denalis. All black of course.
Rumor has it that Uber has recently been approved in Montana, and the Bozeman Hipsters are lining up to earn some money driving mommy’s lexus for some extra bucks. Good news there.
Prices do not seem to have adjusted much with the going rate for a Suburban from the airport to Big Sky is right around $225 each way. Plus tip, you are right around the same price of renting a car.
It looks like Shuttle to Big Sky and Taxi has updated their fleet of Suburbans (finally), and it looks like they have peeled off the “Yellowstone Rental Cars” stickers on the windows. This is good news as using the same vehicles for livery (aka Taxi service) and rental cars requires two separate insurance policies- and you can’t do that on one car.
Classic/ Bozeman Limo is still running their AWD Lincoln Towncar wagons and also have some nice new 2015 Suburbans.
The only Karst Stage ‘Premium’ (their private shuttle service) vehicles we have seen are their slightly long in the tooth Cadillac Escalades.
Conclusions: New players have entered the market, which is good news. Bozeman Taxi services still stink and are not recommended. Shuttles to Big Sky are still expensive, but more options will certainly enter the market soon forcing more competition.
Bozeman Airport Rental Cars
Not a ton has changed with available rental cars at the Bozeman Airport. This past summer Hertz Bozeman Airport added a few Maserati Quattroportes to their fleet and some Cadillac Escalades. Sweet if you are one of those guys that just have to have it. It is worth noting that most cars with values over $75,000 are specifically excluded on the ‘Rental Car Coverage’ of your personal auto insurance policy- meaning if you want to rent one of these things you have to have a rider added to your policy to get any coverage- or risk being out of pocket $3,000 for an Escalade headlight (yup, that is how much they cost). Lord only knows how much a new windshield for a Maserati would be….
We have been continually seeing a number of the abysmal Chevrolet Captivas and Ford Escape 2wd’s from the airport franchises as their options of mid-size/ compact SUV class. These are terrible cars, be careful if you intend on going anywhere except on pavement in dry, sunny conditions.
The long standing dominant Big rental car, the Chevrolet Suburban was updated in 2015. The on-airport fleets seem to all have the new models (although some inferior Ford Expeditions still exist). The new models are great, except they have even worse 4-ply highway tires than before. It seems that in order to get the most fuel mileage possible out of the Suburbans, GM has put on the most fuel efficient tires possible: tires that are AWFUL in snow and on gravel. We saw a lot of 2015 Suburbans returned with flat tires this past year. And we all know the Kardashians ‘slid’ off a perfectly flat road in Four Corners last year driving a 2015 Suburban with these tires… You have to wait for it at the end:
Also proving the point, Al Roker got a flat in a 2015 Suburban on his Montana weather tour this fall:
Although the on-airport franchise companies still dominate the Bozeman rental car market, but the off-airport companies continue to gain market share. We assume that this is due to social media reviews of these smaller, locally owned companies. Last time we checked Yelp! Car Rental Bozeman, off-airport rental car companies Phasmid Rentals had a total of 57 – five star reviews, Journey Rent-A-Car had 13 five star reviews, and no other rental car company in Bozeman had ANY five star reviews. Frankly, if we were going to rent a car in Bozeman it is clear who we would rent from!
We know Ressler Toyota-Rent-a-Car has continually increased their fleet size, and have even added some new Cadillac Escalades, however it seems that they are concentrating more on the local business rather than incoming airport visitors. Rarely have we seen their vehicles at the airport over this past year.
Journey Rent-A-Car seems to have bought into an Ace Rent-A-Car franchise or done something else similar. Regardless, we have seen the same guys roll up to the airport in ‘shuttles’ with big Ace Rent-A-Car magnets on the side. It seems the direction of their fleet has been moving to the cheaper/ more economical options with some new Korean cars (Kias and Hyundais) in addition to their Chevy Malibus and similar. We have also noticed that their options through Ace are now visible through major booking engines like Expedia and Orbitz. On that note, we did see over the Christmas Holiday they had posted the highest rate of all companies for a Suburban rental. “Economical” this is not.
The other off-airport player, Phasmid Rentals, seems to have a smaller but much more specific fleet. They only rent AWD Subaru Outbacks and 4WD Chevrolet Suburbans. We have noticed they are putting SNOW TIRES on their rental cars in the winter. So far this is the only rental car company in Bozeman to offer this awesome safety feature. Not a wonder Phasmid Rentals is the best rated car rental agency in Bozeman.
That is all the news we have for now!
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