You’ve dreamed, planned, and budgeted. Now it's time to select the vehicle you'll drive when you hit the open road! Does the idea of renting a car make you excited or anxious? Can you save money by driving your own car? Answering these questions and the ones below can help you consider the pros and cons of driving your car versus a rental on your next road trip.
Couple in love travelling together on vacation, packing bags in car; Photo by Dragos Condrea/iStock.com
1. DOES YOUR CAR HAVE ENOUGH CARGO ROOM?
Maybe your compact, fuel-efficient car is ideal for work commutes but less than perfect for a longer road trip. Take a hard look at your storage needs. Is anyone going on this trip a serious overpacker?
In a study by OnePoll, packing is one of the most stressful parts of traveling, and 62% of Americans admit to overpacking. Despite stuffing their suitcases, the survey also found that 3 in 5 people needed to purchase something additional to wear while on a trip. Add in souvenirs and a cooler for healthy snacks—and you've got a full load. Consider renting a car for some space and some peace of mind.
Digital car odometer in dashboard. Used vehicle with mileage meter. Numbers in kilometers; Photo by Tero Vesalainen/iStock.com
2. HOW MANY MILES ARE ON YOUR CAR?
Your car's mileage, plus whether you own or lease your vehicle, are two important factors when determining which vehicle you will drive and your trip's budget. If you’re leasing your car, going over your contract's mileage could be costly. Using a car you own that has high mileage also isn’t ideal for road-tripping.
Hertz turned to the IRS for the numbers, and found that, “The established rate of $.53 per mile means a 2,000 mile trip costs about $1,070 in gasoline, maintenance, and wear and tear on the family vehicle.” Hertz calculates the total for a 10-day rental at approximately $350. Even after factoring gas, taxes, and other fees, Hertz maintains that renting “is about half the cost of driving the family car with maintenance and wear and tear factored into the price.”
Photo by merrymuuu/iStock.com
3. WHAT TYPE OF CAR IS THE BEST CHOICE FOR YOUR ROAD TRIP?
If you're thinking of renting a car, consider the sizes and styles that fit your budget and appeal to you. Do you see yourself in a convertible cruising along the shoreline? Do you envision a roomy SUV for the whole crew’s gear and snacks? What type of vehicles are you most comfortable driving, especially for long distances and/or on unfamiliar highways?
It's important to select a car that suits your needs, your style, your budget, and your driving preferences. Rental companies like Hertz and Enterprise offer general categories like economy, midsize, sedan, etc., and some even offer luxury vehicles or unique rentals. Ultimately, it comes down to the model and size that makes you feel the most comfortable.
Shell gas station located in San Francisco bay area; Photo by Sundry Photography/iStock.com
4. IS YOUR CAR FUEL EFFICIENT?
Depending on the prices at the pump, the car you drive and the miles you're getting per gallon could potentially take a chunk out of your vacation budget. With the popularity and ease of hybrids and electric vehicles, some car rental companies are expanding their offerings. Hertz now boasts one of the largest EV rental fleets in the world.
If you want to try an EV because you're considering one of your own, or you just want an EV for a road trip, you're not alone. According to a Technovio survey in 2022, “electric car rental market size is expected to grow by $8.18 trillion from 2020 to 2025.” More and more consumers are looking at EVs as a viable solution. First and foremost, it's important to research EV charging times and the availability of EV charging stations on your route.
Another budget-wise option is to rent a hybrid vehicle or a standard, fuel-efficient model.
Hertz car rental company that have rental offices located in various airports around the world; Photo by minemero/iStock.com
5. ARE YOU A GOOD CAR RENTAL CANDIDATE?
Most major car rental companies have age limits for driving a rented vehicle. Hertz requires renters to be at least 20 years old, with some exceptions that vary by state. Other restrictions and extra charges may apply, including daily fees for young drivers.
Traveling with pets? Most car rentals are pet friendly, but notify the car rental location ahead of time. Check what rules or extra fees might apply.