A road trip is either the greatest thing that lies ahead or a nightmare you’d rather avoid but for some reason can’t. Whatever the reason for hitting the road, the greatest determinator of how the trip will go, besides the company, is how you get there. So, is it best to rent a car or take your own? The answer often comes down to personal choice and preferences.
Pros of renting a car
1. YES, these miles are not racking up on YOUR car – As you drive endless miles to your destination you can be confident that the miles are not being added to your vehicle which is still ‘resting’ at home. This saves you wear and tear, earlier possible maintenance jobs and lowered resale value. It also means that you don’t spend a second of your trip worrying about possible accidents, stone chips in the paint, or dings in the parking lot.
2. The price is much cheaper than you thought – Right now rental car prices are the lowest they have been in years due to the need to compete with companies like Uber and Lyft. The car rental rates are especially cheap if you are renting for longer periods of time, generally at least 7 days. With such cheap rental rates, it may be worth it to get the car a little earlier and return it a little later that way you can get to know the car before you leave then not have to rush home to return the car on time to avoid crazy late fees.
3. That ding in the parking lot will not count against your insurance – When you rent a car for a road trip, while it increases the cost, you should always spring for the extra insurance. It usually means that if anything happens it does not count against your insurance and there are no deductibles or other fees to pay. This also protects you in case of damage, stains or rips to the interior. If you total the car, no biggie. That extra insurance has you covered. Concerned about a scratch in the parking lot? No worries, the extra insurance pays for that. While it can seem like an unnecessary cost at the time, it can really save you thousands later.
4. It’s soo nice to drive a different/newer/bigger/smaller vehicle – It is nice to drive something newer or nicer than what you already have. Renting a car for your road trip can mean that you can try something new, fresher, bolder, or even just a test drive for your next vehicle purchase.
Cons of renting a car
1. Where is the interior light switch? – Driving a different car, especially on a possibly long and tedious drive can make the little things, like not knowing where all the switches and buttons are, just that more frustrating. You will likely not have a lot of time to read the car manual prior to your road trip, and if you are a creature of habit this may be the irritant that sets you over the edge, similar to constantly looking for a lost set of keys.
2. This car handles like a cardboard box – What happens when you don’t end up upgrading from your regular car to your rental car? You go from driving a new Cadillac Escalade to being squeezed into a Nissan Versa and are HATING your life and your lack of soft butter leather seat air conditioner cooling off your bottom and back while you spend the long hours sweating on the road. You feel squished inside and are worried it may be a death trap. This does not a road trip make.
3. Does this thing not have snow tires? – A shocking thing many people don’t realize until they show up to the rental car lot is that in many districts your rental car will not come equipped with snow tires in the WInter. Couple that with driving a car you’ve never driven before and don’t know how it will handle in adverse weather conditions, now you’ve got a bad case of the cold sweats and clenched butt cheeks. Not a great road trip feeling. What you thought would be a relaxing drive in a newer or different car is now a white knuckle stress-filled drive wondering just exactly what your auto insurance does cover.
4. Lower resale value with all those new accumulated miles – All of the hours on the road will, of course, lead to many accumulated miles on your vehicle which in turn lowers the resale value. If you are a person that drives their car until it dies then this may not be as much of an issue for you. But if you lease or often trade-in and upgrade your car, the accumulated miles may result in serious shock when you hear what your car is worth to the dealership.
5. Oil change and maintenance required upon return – Many hours on the road will lead to sooner maintenance work required. Your car will likely need an oil trip upon your return and may need other maintenance work completed. The thought of dealing with this upon your return can really put a damper on your road trip. Especially if something starts going wrong with your car during the trip.
All in all, the decision to rent a car or drive your own car often will come down to cost and personal preference. With rates so low these days, the low cost may be winning out over personal preference.