The benefits of renting a car versus using your own on a road trip depends on many factors including the duration and length of your trip, your destination and the current conditions of your car, among others. Renting a car for a road trip can ensure you and your family are comfortable, ease the wear and tear of your car and provide you with convenient pick-up and drop-off locations. This comes in handy when different modes of transportation during your trip such as a train or a plane.
To help you decide whether you should rent a car for your next road trip, we put together this easy car rental guide with some of the benefits or renting and things to keep in mind when choosing your rental. We also include a quick breakdown of car sizes and types typically available for rent to make sure you choose the vehicle that fits your needs based on the nature of your trip and the size of your travel party.
6 Benefits of Renting a Car vs. Driving Your Own
Depending on the car you own and the type of road trip you’ll be taking, renting a car might be a better option than using your personal vehicle. Below are six benefits you can expect from leaving your car at home during your travels.
1. Reduce Wear and Tear On Your Personal Vehicle
Opting for a car rental will help avoid wear and tear on your personal car — this is especially beneficial if you’re currently leasing your car. For a lessee, going over the allotted mileage can cost around 15 to 20 cents per mile which can quickly add up by the time the car is returned. If your car is not in the best condition for a long road trip or if you won’t have time to take it in for any needed maintenance, a car rental can help avoid any damage or breakdowns on the road.
2. Lessen Depreciation Costs
A new car depreciates in value the moment you drive away from the dealership. In fact, a car depreciates around 15 to 20 percent each year. This percentage may increase with added miles, dings and dents and overall condition of the car. If you’re planning on selling your car in the future, limit day-to-day use and consider renting a car for longer trips to maintain its value.
3. Save Money
If you’re planning a budget-friendly road trip, renting a car with better gas mileage could save you a lot of money. Rental companies also give you the option to buy additional protection and insurance which can partially or fully cover any damage caused by a car accident.
4. Increase Comfort and Safety
Traveling with the whole family can be fun, but not when you’re tight on space for long periods of time. Rent a spacious SUV or crossover to ensure everyone is comfortable during your trip. Most rental companies have fleets of newer and premium rentals that feature more amenities and perks, making your time on the road more enjoyable for you and your family. These features could include anything from TV screens to heated seats, roof racks for luggage and lane departure warnings.
5. Drive Eco-Friendly
Renting a more eco-friendly vehicle for your travels is good for the environment and could save you money. If you’ll be heading to an off-the-grid destination where gas stations are scarce, opting for an electric or hybrid vehicle will keep you from having to make frequent stops for gas.
6. Test Drive Another Car
A long road trip is the perfect time to test drive a car you’ve been thinking about purchasing. Whether you’re considering buying an electric car or want an all-wheel drive to make your dirt road driving much more enjoyable, renting a car and taking it for a weekend-long trip will help you determine if it’s the right choice for you.
Things to Consider Before Renting a Car
Although rentals can be very convenient, things like your destination and length of your trip will help you determine whether the benefits outweigh the costs. Before renting a car for a road trip, keep the below factors in mind.
Pick-Up and Drop-Off Sites
Make sure the pick-up and drop-off sites for your car rental are in convenient locations based on your trip. Before booking, confirm each location’s hours of operation and whether they’ll be able to provide service on the days and times you need them. Many rental companies also make it easier to choose and rent your car online so all you have to do is pick up the keys upon arrival.
Distance of Your Trip
If you’re planning a short trip, taking your personal vehicle may be a bit more convenient — especially if your car is in good condition. For anything longer than two hours, a round trip can add at least 250 miles on your car’s meter. In this case, renting a car could help you save any unnecessary wear and tear on your car.
Typically, rental mileage policies cap off at 150 miles per day, making it essential to check for any mileage restrictions before renting a car for a long road trip. For peace of mind, look for rental plans that include unlimited mileage. Check for any other rules and requirements like refueling and the cutoff time to return the vehicle.
Accepted Payment Methods
Most companies require a credit card to rent out one of their vehicles. Check local rental companies for accepted payment methods, as well as ID and age requirements. There may be companies that allow you to use your debit card, but require additional forms of ID or a credit check.
Season of Your Trip
Summer is typically peak road trip season, so you can expect prices for hotels, plane tickets and car rentals to be a bit higher. Holidays and weekends in general also tend to have higher prices. Based on your budget, consider the time frame in which you’ll be renting your car. To save money, consider renting and dropping off your car on weekdays.
One-Way vs. Round Trip
Rental cars are an excellent option for one-way, round trips or extended trips. If you’re planning an extended trip or heading to a destination where you’ll be catching a flight, renting a car can save you the hassle of finding long-term parking for your car. However, it’s important to confirm that your rental company allows and offers different drop-off locations near your destination.
Choosing a Rental Car Size
If you decide that renting a car is the best option for your road trip, below are some of the car sizes typically available at most car rental companies. We include information on the number of people each type of vehicle seats and amount of luggage it can carry, which can vary depending on how full your main cabin is.
A sedan is perfect for couples heading out on a romantic road trip or families with younger children. The kids can comfortably sit on booster seats without feeling too cramped and the car easily fits about two to four bags of luggage.
- Passengers: 4-5
- Bags: 2-4
Choose an SUV if you’ll need a bit more space during your trip. Whether you have older children or are planning to hit the road with your pup, an SUV will ensure a comfortable trip for everyone.
- Passengers: 4-7
- Bags: 2-5
Opt for an all-wheel drive truck if you’ll be going through some rocky terrain or expect to drive on icy roads. A high-clearance rental vehicle will also help you avoid any dings and dents on your personal car if you’re heading out on a bumpy or dirt road. Trucks are also great for hauling camping or hiking gear.
- Passengers: 4
- Bags: 2-4
Perhaps the best option for large families, vans can be incredibly comfortable. Since they’re usually intended for families, they may come with additional amenities like screens and DVD players to keep kids entertained. We recommend a van if you’ll be driving long hours and want to ensure your family can take naps in between stops without being too cramped or uncomfortable.
- Passengers: 2-15
- Bags: 1-5
Treat your family to a luxurious road trip by opting for a premium car rental. Some of the perks of renting a luxury car include extra leg and luggage room, heated seats, plush interiors, GPS navigation, privacy glass windows and more.
- Passengers: 4-8
- Bags: 2-7
More often than not, renting a car is a much safer and comfortable option for long, family road trips. Use this guide to help you determine whether you should rent a car for your upcoming travels. Once you decide on the best option, start brainstorming some healthy road trip snacks and building your music playlist to ensure a good time for everyone.