Rent a Car to Save Money?

Posted by Mrs Money on August 10th, 2010

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Mr. Money and I are still trying to figure out what we want to do for our anniversary trip.  We’ve been going back and forth between Hawaii, Colorado, or even traveling up to Michigan to go camping.  I thought it would be neat to go back to the place we met and fell in love in Colorado, but it’s like a 19 hour drive from where we live.  That’s a lot of driving!

We’ve thought about just going back to Colorado and staying with his mom (she has a huge house) and doing our own thing.  We love Colorado in the fall and it would be a great trip.  However, I don’t want to put all those miles on our car driving out there.  I want our car to last many, many years since I hate having a car payment.

It seems almost silly to think about paying to rent a car to drive out there when we have two perfectly (now) operating vehicles that we own.  I’m just thinking though- if it cost us $200 for the week to rent a car it may be worth it.  It’s about 3000 miles round trip.  If we took our own vehicle, we’d have to get an oil change when we got back (or do it ourselves) which would cost around $30 roughly.  We’d also be adding wear and tear on the vehicle.  We’d still have to pay for gas, but at least if we rented a car we’d eliminate the worry about the number of miles we’re adding.

Here’s some math I’ve been calculating.  The Mileage Reimbursement rate for 2010 is 50 cents a mile.  The mileage reimbursement rate includes the cost of operating the vehicle plus gas.  If we drive our own vehicle out there, the mileage reimbursement rate would be $1500 round trip!  If we didn’t use those numbers and just paid for gas, it would cost us at least $250 just for gas.  I looked up the cost for a rental car and it’s about $222.07 for a week.  Add in gas for a compact car ($190 total) and we’re at $417.  All in all, we’re really out $167 ($417-$250) to rent a car versus driving our own.

Do you think it’s silly to consider renting a car when we own one?

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24 Responses to “Rent a Car to Save Money?”


  1. Karen says:

    I completely agree with you! I think it’s worthwhile to save the wear and tear on your car (and avoid the mileage). Plus, as you noted, a subcompact rental car will likely get better gas mileage than your car, depending on what you drive.

    There’s also an element of stress in driving your own car a long distance. If you end up breaking down, you have to deal with it. If you’re driving a rental, it’s as easy as calling the rental company. Just make sure you choose a rental company with branches in the area where you’re traveling.

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Karen- Thanks! I am glad you agree. That’s a great idea to choose a rental company that has branches where we’re going. I didn’t think of that!

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  2. sue says:

    My DH and I have done that, especially when our cars were older and/or it was a particularly long trip. Of course, we just moved across-country (2000 miles) and didn’t haul our car – we drove it. But if we had another 3K-mile trip to make, we’d probably rent something that allowed us a little bit more space to stretch out and not fret about the miles we were putting on our vehicle.

    For us, it comes back to this: we are a 1-car family and having our only car with major repairs is a major problem. If we can avoid putting excess mileage on our car and keep up on the maintenance, our one car will service us well for years to come. :)

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    sue- I am glad I’m not the only one worried about the miles. I want our cars to last a long time!

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  3. Joless says:

    Wow, I can’t imagine even thinking about renting a car when ours is fine, but I think the fact that our ‘long’ journeys are way, way shorter than that may have something to do with it. We buy decent cars so that we can put miles on them without worrying.

    I guess it totally makes sense also if you wanted a different car, for example an estate car to carry large stuff, or a people-carrier for more space, or maybe a sports car for fun :-)

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Joless- I know, it sounds silly at first, doesn’t it? :) A sports car would really be fun!

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  4. Joless says:

    I live in the UK, btw, so if you drove for 19 hours from where I live (south-west) you would end up very very wet in any direction!

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Joless-This made me laugh out loud! ;)

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  5. Kacie says:

    I think for that kind of distance, it’s really reasonable! Plus it might make the trip seem more vacation-y and special? I dunno. Shop around for some good deals and use Ebates or something when you book!

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Kacie- I didn’t even think about using Ebates- great tip!

    I’m kind of sad we aren’t going to do something bigger, but I think it’s something we will enjoy. :)

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  6. Little House says:

    I think your calculations show it would be better to rent a car! Have you looked into flights? I’m thinking you could probably find some inexpensive flights to CO and it would still be under the $1,500 you calculated with the gas reimbursement. Don’t forget about rental car coupons (you can usually find them on eBay) and AAA discounts. I personally love Colorado and would think it could be a terrific trip.

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Little House- It’s about $600 for both of us round trip. My hubby wants to take the dogs versus boarding them. :(

    That is a great tip about looking for coupons. I didn’t think of that!

    [Reply]

  7. Bob L says:

    “The Mileage Reimbursement rate for 2010 is 50 cents a mile. The mileage reimbursement rate includes the cost of operating the vehicle plus gas. ”

    Although I am very much in agreement that renting is the best way in many cases, this number is WAY higher than reality for most people reading this blog. You have to look at your real costs, not some inflated figure. There are some things that cost the same whether you drive the car or not such as insurance and registration/taxes, although it could be argued that by wearing out your car faster that you will end up having newer vehicles more often so these costs “could” go up I suppose. For my purposes, I use $.10/mile “Purchase Price”, which includes major repairs, modifications and subtracts selling price ( a $9,000 car, with $2,000 of major repairs that is sold for $1,000 should have lasted you 100,000 miles). For maintenance and general repair, it depends on your vehicle and how much you do yourself, but I use $.10 for that as well. Gas is what it is for the vehicle you want to drive, but let’s say $.10 for that as well. Your numbers may vary, but at 3,000 miles, thats 3,000*.30 = $900 for the trip, but you would use gas either way, so $600. Of course, if driving and having a car available was not important, you might do as well or better flying, but I suppose that is not what you want to do.

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Bob L- Great points! I do think the 50 cents a mile is a bit much, but I like to justify my thinking sometimes. ;) I checked into flying and it’s about $600. We haven’t made any decisions yet, so it will be interesting to see what we decide!

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  8. Jennifer says:

    We considered this for our 12-hour drive we’re starting tomorrow but ended up deciding to take our regular car. But we were considering renting a minivan for extra space. It would have gotten similar mileage to the car we always drive but the weekly rates for a minivan are quite high, so we opted to take out regular car. Our car is 6 years old now though, so in another year or two we may rent a car just for peace of mind (we haven’t had any issues with it yet, so we feel pretty confident it will make the trip fine). In the end we decided to save money now on a certain cost (not paying for the car rental) rather than maybe saving money on a future cost (needing to replace our car soon, or repair it sooner). Who knows we may end up replacing our car sooner than we anticipate anyway (not due to some huge mechanical failure).

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Jennifer- I hope your trip goes well and your car lasts a lot longer than you expect :)

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  9. We have a Prius as my husband’s car (our family car), so we always take it. Just less gas…

    [Reply]

    Budgeting in the Fun Stuff Reply:

    Oh, in your situation, I’d probably rent a car. :-)

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    BIFS- It would be different if we had a Prius. I would consider taking that then! I am totally lusting for a Prius.

    [Reply]

    Budgeting in the Fun Stuff Reply:

    I am lusting for a Prius of my own too…I know the feeling. I am super jealous of Mr. BFS on a regular basis, lol.

  10. Forest says:

    That’s a really interesting thing to analyze. Looks to me like the car rental is worth it for a number of reasons. Peace of mind is good with a rental car too.

    [Reply]

    Mrs Money Reply:

    Forest- I know, right?! Plus, it would be fun to drive a different car for a week.

    [Reply]

  11. Becky R says:

    My car would not make that much of a trip, so renting would be my only option. But in my area with terrosit daily fee, taxes, and insurance it would be closer to $600 just to rent a small car for a week. I live in NJ. I would have to get the comp and collisoin as I only have liability on my car and would not want to be responsible for any damage to the rental (like a rock hitting it or a shopping cart.)
    Did you look into taking train?
    If you are taking dogs renting a car makes sense. Boarding them is very costly.

    [Reply]


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