For some folks, the perfect vacation starts with the perfect road trip, whether it’s for the purpose of sightseeing on the way or just to enjoy the ride. And if driving to your vacation-home rental property sounds good to you, you may be thinking about renting a car to get there instead of taking your own. Just remember to ask yourself these nine questions before you do.
Should I Rent A Car Or Drive My Own? How To Choose For A Road Trip
1. Does it make financial sense?
This seems like an obvious place to start, since renting a car will add an extra daily cost to your trip. But there also are a range of “hidden” financial factors that have to be accounted for here. For example, every mile of your vacation road trip means a bit more depreciation for your own car, and even that has to be balanced against the rental rates. If you’re leasing that car, you’re also facing big penalties for going over your mileage limits. Renting may be the answer when you can’t afford to put a lot more miles on the odometer.
2. Is fuel-economy an issue?
Even with gas prices at relatively low levels, fuel costs add up quickly over hundreds or thousands of miles of driving. If your own car or truck has a particularly notable thirst for gasoline, renting a vehicle with higher EPA ratings can be a key way to keep costs down—and help protect the environment at the same time.
3. Is your car safe?
When you’re spending hours behind the wheel, the latest high-tech driver-assistance measures can be literal lifesavers. Indeed, some can tell that drivers may be getting drowsy, then “suggest” a stop for coffee or a rest. With that in mind, renting a car can supply the top-notch safety grades—and occupant-protection technologies—that may be missing from your personal daily driver.
4. Is your car reliable?
Stopping at local attractions on a road trip can be fun; stopping for a breakdown is much less entertaining. So if your car isn’t up for a marathon, renting can give you a choice of newer, more well-maintained vehicles. An alternative is to get your own ride into better condition. Don’t forget, however, that any outlay for repairs is another cost factor in the overall rental vs. personal car equation.
5. Can your car carry your luggage and other cargo?
No matter how well-furnished your vacation rental home, you’ll have your share of luggage to bring. Renting a vehicle is a solution when it won’t fit in your car’s trunk, or if you need cargo space for vacation-enhancers, from skis to scuba gear. Consider: The best-selling car in the country has 15.4 cubic feet of trunk space, yet the country’s best-selling crossover has 37.2 behind its rear seats.
6. Do you need all-wheel drive?
Snow sends many people south at this time of year, but for others, winter is time to hit the slopes and enjoy snowboarding, skiing and other outdoor activities. Of course, getting to those activities from your rental home—or any kind of travel in a cold-weather vacation location—is made easier with all- or four-wheel drive. Also easy: renting a vehicle with AWD if your car doesn’t have it.
7. Does your car have navigation?
Perhaps the most important road-trip resource of all is a good navigation system. Many of us use our smartphones to guide us where we need to go, but we all know that it’s not the perfect solution, especially in areas of spotty service. If you don’t have a nav setup in your own car, buying an aftermarket unit isn’t all that expensive anymore: There are smaller systems, with 5-inch screens for around $60. But there’s also something to be said for renting a vehicle with integrated navigation and a larger display.
8. Does your car have modern-day infotainment technology?
Going off the grid does have its appeal for some vacationers. That said, if you want to stay connected, even during the time it takes to get to your rental place, hands-free calling is a must. It’s also a technology nearly all new rental vehicles have, along with hands-free audio streaming, while a growing number boast more sophisticated connectivity services, including mobile Wi-Fi.
Charles Krome is a car expert and consumer advocate. He enjoys sharing advice on car buying and ownership as a writer for CARFAX. For more tips, visit Krome on Cars on Facebook.