Reasons To Rent a Car for a Road Trip

Disney California Adventure
Amy at Disney California Adventure Park, June 2016

The Great American Road Trip

Like many Americans, I’ve taken a lot of road trips over the years. It’s a great way to see our big and beautiful country and experience the fun and interesting things it has to offer.

With the exception of flying to a destination and then renting a car, I’ve always used my own vehicle on a road trip. Mainly it was to save money by not having to rent a car. Depending on the vehicle I owned at the time, it may have been a good car for a long road trip, but not always. However, when I think about it now I’m most likely going to be renting a car on future road trips.

3 Reasons for Renting a Car on a Road Trip

While there’s nothing wrong with taking your own vehicle on a road trip if you own a good car that you would prefer to take with you, there are also some reasons you might want to consider renting a car. In these situations, spending the extra money on a rental could be well worth it.

  1. You can drive a new vehicle and not put the miles and wear and tear on your own car. This is also a good opportunity to try out a different type of vehicle. For example, it you own a compact car for daily commuting around town, etc., you can “upgrade” to an SUV or Crossover vehicle just to have more room and a more comfortable ride for your trip. The little bit of difference in cost could well be worth the extra comfort.
  2. Hopefuly you won’t have a mechanical failure on your road trip, but if you do when you’re hundreds of miles from home in your own vehicle, it could ruin your trip. If you’re out in the middle of nowhere and need repairs, the time delay and cost will certainly put a damper on the fun of a road trip. Of course rental cars can break down also, but at least it’s on the rental company to fix it, and depending on where you are, it might be possible to just swap it out for a different vehicle and be on your way.
  3. Worse than a mechanical failure is getting in an accident, even more so when away from home. In that unfortunate event when travelling in your own car, depending on the damage you could have a delay of days or weeks if it has to go to a body shop to have repairs made. At that point you either have to stay in a hotel while it’s being fixed, or rent a car during that time and go back to get your car when it’s repaired. Those costs would most likely be more than renting a car in the first place, as well as being more trouble in the long run.

Luckily I’ve never been in an accident or had any mechanical failures while on a road trip, but moving forward I now prefer to spend the extra money on a rental to hopefully have a better experience getting back on the road should something like that happen.

Things to Consider When Renting a Car

While my reasons for renting a car seem pretty logical to me, there are some downsides to renting a car as well. Nothing bad really besides the extra expense, but more time and stress to find the best deal for the trip.

The last time we rented a car, we had to get it from the airport so there was only so much choice in the matter based on the few rental companies serving the airport. When taking a road trip though, you might have more choice in finding rental cars. I like Enterprise because it has locations in many cities and neighborhoods as well as airports, so you have a lot of choices on where you can rent without having to get one from the airport like some companies.

It’s my nature to take the time and be logical and analytical when deciding on most things, especially when they cost hundreds of dollars or more. Since we have AAA, AARP and Costco memberships, I check those three first to see who has the best deal. Sometimes I also do an internet search to see if there’s anything else interesting or better that I can find.

On our last trip over the Christmas holiday, Costco seemed to have the best deal at the time. While they were all fairly close in price of the rental, Costco included the second driver at no extra cost which the others didn’t. It might not always be that way though, so it’s a good idea to check the best options for your road trip.

Of course those aren’t the only places to rent cars either. There are plenty of websites and apps to look for car rentals also. I’ve seen commercials on TV for one app where you rent a car from an individual owner, not a big car rental company. That might work out fine for some people depending on where they’re renting, but what if you rent from an individual and are hundreds of miles away on your road trip and have a breakdown or get in an accident?

How much support can an individual give in getting the car fixed and getting you on your way, or would it be all your responsibility to get it fixed, just like if you would have drove your own car in the first place? I don’t have the answers to that scenario, but if you’re thinking of using an app like that and renting from an individual, it would be worth asking those questions before renting.

It’s possible that some of those apps or websites might be pretty good compared to the big companies for certain rental situations. So far I’ve only used the big companies and just stuck with our membership pricing, as they seem to work with the well known rental companies and usually have better pricing or extra perks than if you go directly to those websites yourself.

Car Rental Insurance

In the excitement of your upcoming road trip, don’t forget about the car insurance. It’s just as important (if not more) than what kind of car you’ll rent and the price of the rental. Yes, you can purchase insurance directly from the rental company, but it’s usually more expensive that way.

Check with your own car insurance first. Most likely it will insure the rental car the same as it would your own car, depending on the company and coverage, and where you’ll be driving. If your own insurance won’t cover it, many credit cards will have rental car coverage as a benefit when you use that card to pay for the rental. So hopefully between those two options you’ll be covered and save that extra expense.

Returning the Rental Car with a Full Tank of Gas

One last thing to consider when renting a car. You will need to return the car with a full tank of gas, since it should be full when you get it. While it might be tempting to take the rental company option of letting them fill the tank after you return it to save you the trouble, it will cost you. Of course they are happy to offer that as a convenience to you, but you’ll pay a lot more. It’s better to stop by the nearest gas station before returning the car and saving your money.

Time to Go!

So now that I’ve covered a few reasons why you might prefer renting instead of taking your own car on your next road trip, and provided some basic car rental tips (which you may have already known), it’s time to get on the road. No matter whether you choose to take your own car or rent one, enjoy the great American outdoors and drive safely! 🙂


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