Your family vacation plans for the summer are in place. You decided to drive this year because the cost of airfare for the entire family is too expensive. Gasoline prices are high, and your vehicle doesn’t get many miles per gallon, but you reason that driving is still better than flying because the gasoline costs will still be less than the cost of airfare. You decide there are no other options, proceed to get a safety inspection for your vehicle, and set off down the freeway toward your destination.
Are There Other Alternatives?:
Driving, provided a destination isn’t too far away, is usually less costly than flying. Even if an additional night or two in a hotel is added to the cost, it is still going to be cheaper than flying and the cost savings becomes greater as family size increases. Thus, many will opt for driving their own vehicle- an option that does make sense from a pure cost perspective. However, there is another option that many do not consider but that can be worthwhile in the long run: Renting a vehicle from a local Enterprise, Budget, Avis, etc.
How Much Can I Save?:
The amount of savings will vary from one situation to the next, but renting a car instead of driving your own car becomes more advantageous when:
- Gasoline prices are high
- Your destination is far away
- Your present vehicle gets very few miles per gallon
- Your local car rental company offers very low daily rates and unlimited miles
To illustrate, consider this example: Your current vehicle averages about 20 miles per gallon and you estimate the total miles (to and from the destination, plus miles driven while there) for your family excursion at 2,000. Your local car rental company is offering weekly rentals for $150 for mid- size vehicles with unlimited miles. The rental car gets 35 miles per gallon and gasoline presently costs $4 per gallon. The total cost calculation for each scenario is:
Drive Own Vehicle:
Total gallons of gasoline used: 100 (2000 miles divided by 20)
Total cost of gasoline: $400 (100 gallons times $4)
Rent a Vehicle:
Total gallons of gasoline used: approx. 57 (2000 miles divided by 35)
Total cost of gasoline: $228 (57 gallons times $4)
Add: Cost of rental: $158
Total cost of renting: $386
As the above example illustrates, renting a vehicle would actually be less expensive than driving your own vehicle and the reason is the greater fuel efficiency of the rental car. This is why, if you decide to rent, you always want to go for the vehicle that gets significantly more miles per gallon than your present vehicle.
Many of you might look at the above example and question the cost of the weekly rental. Depending on where you live, finding a car rental for a week at a cost of $150 might prove difficult. But many would argue that, even if the cost for a weekly rental was slightly more and the overall cost slightly high, it is still a good idea to rent for several reasons. One is safety. If your present vehicle is older, if could break down on a long road trip. With a rental, the cars are usually newer and therefore less likely to experience mechanical problems. And if they do experience problems, help is just a phone call away.
In addition to the direct cost, renting helps you save in another way: Depreciation/Wear and Tear on your own vehicle. By driving a rental car, you avoid adding miles to your own vehicle. This means less maintenance cost and less depreciation on your car’s value. More miles on your own vehicle means another oil change, transmission fluid change, etc., are just around the corner.
Everyone needs time off and a family vacation is a great way to relax with the kids, see some sights, and forget the worries of daily living. Many will choose driving instead of flying because of the high cost of airfare. Driving will save money in most instances but if you decide to drive, strongly consider renting a vehicle instead of driving your own. It can save you a large sum of money on gasoline and, ultimately, extend the life of your vehicle. Check local rental rates, create a cost comparison sheet like the one above, and make the choice that is best for you and your family. And have a great time on your family vacation!
Copyright 2012, Bryan Carey