Short term car usage while travelling in the US
July 14, 2011 5:23 AM   Subscribe

What is the best option for getting a car for four months while on vacation in the US?

My mother is going on a kind of working holiday in America. She normally lives in Australia but has decided to spend about 4 months visiting her family in Columbus, Ohio (being a Columbus native). She would like to work while she is there (e.g. she is a teacher so can substitute teach or could find other temporarily work). The problem is that it turns out that you can’t really get around Columbus, OH without a car.

I am trying to think of ways she can get access to wheels for the duration of her trip. I’ve looked into standard rental car places (e.g. Enterprise rent-a-car, etc.), but it seems like they would be quite pricey, at least in terms of the advertised rate.

The only other option I thought of was just buying a used car and trying to sell it when she leaves. This option, however, seems like quite a hassle and somewhat risky. Plus, I am not sure if she could easily get rid of it. (how quickly and easily can you unload used cars?) She could possibly leave it with a relative, but then the relative will have to deal with getting rid of it. The only experience I have with used vehicle buying/selling is when I bought (and later sold) a scooter on eBay here in Australia – this was extremely easy, but I'm not sure this is typical.

We have tried hitting up all our friends in Columbus, but no one we know has a spare vehicle.

Are there any other options for temporary, flexible transport that I am missing?

Budget wise, we have plenty of spare cash, but just don’t want to spend/lose too much on transport over the course of the trip.

Basically, I’d be happy to hear any opinions about the best way to overcome the transport dilemma we’re now facing!
posted by strekker to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
Just for the heck of it I priced out a 4-month rental of a compact car in Columbus. Enterprise wants over $6k, which is ridiculous. It doesn't even include insurance.

If she buys a car, I think she'd be able to unload it fairly quickly if she priced it well. She wouldn't be able to hold out for top dollar, but she wouldn't lose $6k either. Newer cars depreciate faster, so maybe get something 4-5 years old?

But, you'd want to contact the Ohio BMV and ask about titling / licensing a car with a non-US residence and driver's license. So... maybe see about titling & licensing the car in a relative's name, get herself added to relative's insurance, then do the work of selling it before she leaves..
posted by jon1270 at 5:45 AM on July 14, 2011

It looks as if Zipcar has a fleet in Columbus. Your mother could sign up for Zipcar then rent Zipcars as needed for local use. If she needs something for longer trips, then she chould rent through the usual car rental agencies as needed.
posted by Elsie at 6:10 AM on July 14, 2011

This doesn't answer your car question, but does directly speak to whether or not your mom can work as a substitute teacher while she's in Ohio.

The Ohio Center for Substitute Teachers.
posted by cooker girl at 6:58 AM on July 14, 2011

A quick Google reveals a Rent-a-Wreck location in Lancaster which wants about $3800 for four months. Still not great, but better than the Enterprise rate mentioned above.
posted by Johnny Assay at 7:04 AM on July 14, 2011

Buy a car on craigslist, then sell it the same way. When purchasing the car, be sure to buy something fairly common. You want something that will be easy to sell later. Plan on spending a few thousand dollars so it isn't a complete piece of crap.

When you're ready to get rid of the car, price it $1000 under the going rate. It should be gone in a day or two.

(BTW, the proper tools for this job are craigslist and cash. No dealers, no checks of any kind, no other web sites.)
posted by ryanrs at 7:05 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Sheesh, for $3800 you can buy a perfectly serviceable car and throw it away when you're done!
posted by ryanrs at 7:07 AM on July 14, 2011

If you have your own insurance, Enterprise's Month or More program (in which I rented a vehicle for 5 months for after first getting to S. Florida in 2008) was $600 for the first month, and $450 each additional. It's not advertised on their site as memory serves me, you have to call, and then asked to be transferred to their "Month or more" department. While it will run ~$2,000 for four months not counting insurance, you're not dealing with anything other than gas and insurance. During my 5 month posession of the vehicle, the battery died, the registration expired and it needed an oil change and new tires, all of which were done at no charge due to the fact it was a rental. It's a very hassle-free experience.... although I had to stop in once a month so they could look over the car and renew. You can also upgrade for a month for a nominal fee if you want a larger car or just a different one.
posted by Debaser626 at 7:42 AM on July 14, 2011 [3 favorites]

More info about Enterprise's Month or More program.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:08 AM on July 14, 2011 [1 favorite]

Thanks all for the answers. I think I will suggest the buying a cheap car and selling it later idea, and then if it turns out to be too much hassle, trying the Enterprise deal (which sounds pretty convenient and relatively affordable).
posted by strekker at 8:20 AM on July 15, 2011

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