When taking road trip, much to consider whether to rent or drive your own car

Posted October 18, 2013


One of the biggest challenges Jacqueline Pacheco, a Miami-based paralegal, faced when planning her trip to Orlando was whether she should drive her own car or rent one.

With gas prices on the rise, many people have looked into ways on how to save money on road trips. Some drivers are opting out of taking their own car and, instead, renting fuel-efficient options.

For Pachecho, her issue was not the gas mileage, but maintenance of her own vehicle .

“I drive a Toyota Corolla, so it doesn’t waste a lot of gas, but my wheels are not in the best condition and I don’t want to put them through the trip,” said Pacheco.

So, how viable is it to forgo use of one’s own car and opt for a rental? Well, it depends on a lot of factors like distance to drive, fuel efficiency, and long-term versus short-term costs. To begin, let’s look at fuel efficiency.

The first thing you should know your car’s miles per gallon rating. If you are not car savvy, there are several websites that will help you calculate this by using the model of your vehicle. For example, the U.S. Department of Energy has a website where it offers an estimate of your MPG.

Martha Mora, a sales associate, is planning a trip to Orlando’s Universal Studios. She owns a 2004 Jetta, which according to the website, gets 28 MPG on the highway. Her trip to Orlando will be 234 miles. It will take Mora a little over eight gallons of gasoline to get to Orlando.

“My car only takes premium gasoline, which is like the most expensive one out there. I like going to Orlando but having to take my car is a mission,” said Mora.

It will cost Martha almost $80 to travel to Orlando for a night. For someone like Mora a fuel-efficient hybrid rental could be a better option. That’s assuming she would get an affordable deal on the rental vehicle. Those deals can vary and, even if you rent a car, you still need to put gas in it.

Yet, Pacheco’s reasons for renting a vehicle were not about gasoline. For people like her, she would rather drive a new car that will ensure her no issues on her road trip than risk driving her older Corolla. This is another factor to consider when making a road-trip.

Your short-term cost will be the extra $30 to $100 per day spent on the rental vehicle, plus cost of gasoline. Yet, you might save money on having to do an oil change on your own vehicle or buying new tires. Even the miles placed on your personal vehicle are important. Every mile driven depreciates the value of your car. For those who lease their personal vehicles, they are given a certain number of miles they can drive during the lease. Anything over that agreement, the user must pay per-mile driven.

Another cost that renters should take into consideration is the added cost of car insurance. When renting a vehicle, sometimes the rental agencies will convince you into buying an additional car insurance. It’s important to contact your own insurance company and ask whether or not your insurance also covers rentals. You should also consult with your credit card company since sometimes they offer added insurance as well.

In many cases, driving your own vehicle offers many advantages that rental vehicles don’t. With your own vehicle, your only cost is the depreciation of the vehicle and the gasoline. But it also offers the ability to drive wherever you want seeing as some rental companies contain restrictions on where you can take the car. You also don’t have to deal with the check-out process and hidden fees.

In all, before you plan your to next road trip, take several things into consideration like how many miles per gallon does your vehicle take. You should also consider whether you can share the cost of gasoline or rental car with others. In Pacheco’s case, it was easy for her to rent the car because she split the cost with her friends.

Before You Rent:

  • Make sure you know the miles-per-gallon rating of your vehicle.
  • Know whether or not your vehicle is in need of repair.
  • Calculate how many miles you intend driving and how many gallons your vehicle will take up.
  • Call your car insurance and credit card companies to ask them if you can avoid buying the extra coverage.
  • If traveling in group, consider splitting the costs of both gasoline and the rental vehicle.

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