Should you rent a car for your next road trip?
When planning a vacation many people compare the costs of flying vs driving to determine the cheapest way to get to their destination. But, there is a third option as well. Although many people never consider this, it may actually be cheaper to rent a car to take on your road trip instead of driving your own car. In this article we will look at why that may be, or you can skip to the end and use the calculator to see what the cheapest way is for you to take your road trip.
Redefining your needs
The first reason that renting a car may save you some money is that knowing you have that option might change your perception of what you “need” when you buy a car. Here is what I mean:
When you buy a car, you think about what you need your car to do for you, and then purchase the car that best fits your needs for the best value. For example if you need to haul a bunch of stuff all the time, then you need to buy a pickup truck. If you haul lots of people around, then you need to buy a minivan. If you are an international spy, then you need to buy an Aston Martin with a bunch of missiles and stuff.
But how often do you really need that, all the time or just occasionally. I have known several people that think they need a pickup truck to haul stuff around even though they actually only haul a bunch of stuff around once or twice a year. Understanding that they could simply rent a pickup truck once or twice a year might allow one to buy a smaller, more efficient car that would save way more money over the course of the year than they would spend renting the occasional truck.
What about owners of big SUVs? Sure they are great for your annual camping trip, but do you really need that extra space the other 51 weeks a year? How much money could you save if you purchased the Prius or Camry that would work just fine for you 98.08% of the time instead of the huge Chevy Suburban that you need 1.92% of the time?
As for the international spy, go ahead and buy the Aston Marton. Weaponized super cars tend to be hard to find at your local rental car agency during the busy season.
The other reason that renting a car for your next road trip might save you money is much more direct. As we discussed in the article How to save money on your car the biggest expense associated with owning a car is not gas, or even the car payment, but depreciation. What is depreciation?
To put it simply, depreciation is the amount of value your car loses for each mile you drive. Imagine you buy a new car for $30,000, drive it for 50,000 miles and then sell it for $14,000. That $16,000 in value your car loses is called depreciation. In this example depreciation costs you $.32 cents for each mile you drive.
If you were to take a 2,000 mile road trip at $.32/ mile depreciation then your car would lose $640 in value. How does that compare to the cost of renting a car for a week? If you can rent a car for significantly less than your depreciation cost maybe you should consider renting a car for your vacation, even if your regular car would do the job.
So how much can you really save?
Of course, the calculation isn’t quite that simple. There are other factors to consider such as the MPGs of each car, the cost of maintenance, oil changes, new tires, etc. Check back here at ABC on Wednesday for a free trip calculator that will help you consider all of these costs and estimate whether or not you can save money by renting a road trip car.
Photo by AdamL212