rent or drive own car long distance
January 20, 2019 2:51 PM   Subscribe

Should I drive my own car or rent for long distances?

I drive a chevy volt 2014 that's got about 50K miles on it. Sometimes if I'm going to do a long distance drive I will rent a car just to put less miles on my volt. I tend to keep my cars a while so I'm not looking to sell any time soon. Let's say I do 3 or 4 major road trips a year that total close to 1000 miles each when the whole trip is said and done so about 4000 miles of major road trips a year. Is it worth it to rent a car for my long road trips or should I put the miles on my volt? I usually drive about 10K miles per year just regular driving, etc. Does more milage eventually hurt the car and bring the value down? Or is it silly to rent a car...and I should just drive my own? Any thoughts here are appreciated!
posted by ljs30 to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I put 7k miles on my car during a single road trip last year, in addition to all the 6hr back and forths between here & big cities. In one year I put 20k miles on my car. It was super fun, but I’m dinging the resale value in miles faster than I’m paying the loan off which put me just slightly underwater. I would consider that, if you have a loan and you’re sensitive to being able to get out from under it in an emergency.

Personally, I’m looking at the final cost of renting vs wear and tear + repairs. (Don’t forget insurance for the rental in that total!) I found a calculator that helps draw a comparison cost-wise between the two and should give you a good overall picture of which one is cheaper.

In my case, virtually any trip I am going to take in a rental car, no matter how long, is almost exactly the same price as driving my own car. (My car comes in slightly cheaper, even.) BUT the depreciation isn’t worth it to me, so next time I’m going to rent.

So I would say as long as you’re not depreciating your car faster than the loan you’re carrying, it’s fine to drive your own. And if you’re ok with your car not lasting longer.
posted by Snacks at 3:23 PM on January 20, 2019


s it worth it to rent a car for my long road trips

No. Not at all. Not even a little bit. The car is of such low value anyway that it is an irrelevance - if this was a classic, or a $40k car? Mayyyyybe. For something worth south of $15k? Absolutely not. Put the money you would spend on renting into a fund for maintenance on your car and make it allow you to be more diligent or proactive with maintenance/tyres etc.

I see zero advantage to renting a car unless your car is unreliable. The financial side doesn't make sense at all.
posted by Brockles at 3:24 PM on January 20, 2019 [19 favorites]


I usually drive about 10K miles per year just regular driving, etc. Does more milage eventually hurt the car and bring the value down?

This is below average, to be clear. So you're well within normal mileage expectations and a few long trips won't make any difference.
posted by Brockles at 3:25 PM on January 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


I do this. I've never done the exact math, but to me it seemed if I could pay $30-$50 for a full day of driving and not have to worry about *any* maintenance, it was worth it. It really frees you up; you never have to think of "aging" the car, which allows you to make additional side-trips, not worry about starting/stopping the car a hundred times in a day.

Quick math:
$10,000 maintenance over 50,000km = $1/5km (actual numbers, I have an older BMW)

If I drive 500km in a day, that would be $100 in maintenance costs. Renting is cheaper.
posted by Sonic_Molson at 4:09 PM on January 20, 2019


I absolutely rent for long trips when the alternative is an old car that may fail during the trip.

For example when my primary vehicle is 12-20 yrs old I consider renting for very long trips, but when its under 5yrs old, I wouldn’t.

For me, a 2014 car with mid-high mileage is something I would ether trust for long trips or sell. It depends a bit on the make, model, model year, and history of maintenance.
posted by SaltySalticid at 4:16 PM on January 20, 2019 [3 favorites]


As long as you have convenient recharging of your car, take it. A significant portion of the estimated cost per mile that you'll see quoted includes things like purchasing the car and insuring it, which you're paying no matter whether you take it or rent something else.
posted by Candleman at 4:29 PM on January 20, 2019


The per-mile cost of driving a Volt is lower than average as well, since they use so little gas.

Think of it like this: if it was cheaper to drive the rental car, rental companies wouldn't be able to exist. There would be no profit margin. Their whole business model centers around charging you more than it costs to operate the car.

So unless your car is unreliable, or you're somewhere where you need a car but don't have access to your own, I'd just drive your own car.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:29 PM on January 20, 2019


I also consider how hard the driving is that I'll be doing. If I'm going to cruise up the Grapevine at 75+ mph with the AC on in the summer, I prefer it to be a car that belongs to someone else.
posted by ericales at 8:52 PM on January 20, 2019


You have very low mileage for a car that old. I wouldn't hesitate taking it on a long trip, myself. I've always driven my own car on long trips. I mean, that's why you have your own car. The only possible exceptions would be if, A) the car has some serious mechanical issues, or B) you're leasing it and the accumulated mileage of a long trip would seriously affect the contract.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:01 AM on January 21, 2019


if it was cheaper to drive the rental car, rental companies wouldn't be able to exist. There would be no profit margin. Their whole business model centers around charging you more than it costs to operate the car.
This is true when speaking on averages.

The average person may rent for a a week and drive 20km/day. They may also get insurance, which is the big profit driver for rentals.

If you have your own insurance, and drive 500km/day, I'm sure the rental car company loses $ on you.
posted by Sonic_Molson at 8:12 AM on January 21, 2019


Does more milage eventually hurt the car and bring the value down?
Well, sure. EVENTUALLY, it will, but you're not even in that range by a long shot. Modern cars are nowhere near as affected by high mileage as people still think, based on historical perceptions of 'high mileage is bad' learned as we grow up. But this is from hearing stories of people operating and seeing cars that are 20-30 years into a scrap yard by now. The 'collective wisdom' of how reliable or fragile cars are seems to be consistently a decade or more behind what cars are actually producing. This does affect resale values with the same pre-conceptions from the buyer, but a 100k mile car is far more sturdy today than 20 years ago. 100k miles now is much more like the old 60-75k, basically, because cars are built better, quality control is FAR better and technology has moved at a hell of a pace.

It's an interesting phenomenon that I have noticed before, but it seems to make people over-cautious and worry too much about, what has become, a pretty cheap and reliable machine that is readily accessible to the masses but people continue to view them with their historical caution and pessimism that hasn't kept up with progress. For instance: I also consider how hard the driving is that I'll be doing. If I'm going to cruise up the Grapevine at 75+ mph with the AC on in the summer, I prefer it to be a car that belongs to someone else. - I can think of absolutely no car produced in the last 20 years that this usage would even flicker the needle or register on the scale of 'hard driving'. Highway driving, in particular, is the most banal and least impactful use case for a car that exists and the speed is essentially irrelevant other than for fuel economy.

The average person may rent for a a week and drive 20km/day.
This isn't borne out by any of the rental cars I have got (average 1-3 per month for the last 10 years in the US). They are always less than a year old and higher than average mileage, showing around a minimum of 3-4 times as much as your suggested daily average - I went back through several old statements of charges to check my numbers too.

So your play off doesn't really make sense because, as you say, you haven't actually done the maths, your generalisations don't stand up to typical industry rental usage and you're comparing it to an older car that is comparatively expensive to service (I have a BMW also).

If you have your own insurance, and drive 500km/day, I'm sure the rental car company loses $ on you.

I would guarantee that no car leaves a rental lot and makes a loss. They wouldn't be able to operate and you're just not understanding the economics of it. Brand new cars just do not need as much maintenance and certainly nowhere even in the same zip code as $1 per 5km. Hell they only need oil and filter changes till they are usually lifed off the rental fleet, and if they do that in-house it is pennies, not dollars. Rental cars are kicked off the books before their first major service, so for ballpark numbers if it is at most a set of tyres (bought direct, no mark up) and 3-4 oil changes (performed in-house) for a typical car? We're most likely talking about something like $1000-1200 service cost per car for its life on fleet, and I suspect they are rotated out at around 40,000 miles based on the mileages I routinely see. Brand new cars just do not cost as much to run (especially when doing so in bulk) as you are assuming.
posted by Brockles at 9:20 AM on January 21, 2019 [4 favorites]


I almost always rent a car for long trips. Leaving aside the things you mentioned, few things suck more than having a car problem far from home.

Depending on where you live and are driving it can be better or worse, but if something happens to your car on a trip, even a flat tire, you have to fix it. Shopping around, considering options, things like that are out the window. These things are really difficult in an unfamiliar place. I have been stuck in crappy hotels for days and spent a lot of money on minor repairs when I was tempted to drive my own car because it was fairly new.

Rental cars deals are easily available if you sign up for a membership and get unlimited miles.
posted by bongo_x at 10:52 AM on January 21, 2019 [1 favorite]


Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The: "Think of it like this: if it was cheaper to drive the rental car, rental companies wouldn't be able to exist. There would be no profit margin. Their whole business model centers around charging you more than it costs to operate the car."

Yes and no. It is more expensive for a rental company's average customer to rent verses driving a comparable car they may own (but there are intangibles that may make it worth while anyways). But there are going to be a subset of customers that effectively cost rental companies money.

EG: When I was storm chasing in Oklahoma we rented a car. This was a no brainer because driving from BC to OK would have been time prohibitive. But even if we had lived in Oklahoma renting a car would have been a smart move verses using our own car because we put 6500 miles on the rental in 13 days with a much higher risk than accounted for in our premium for hail damage. We basically used up ~1/30th of the life of a car for much less than 1/30th of the price of a new car plus had insurance that, if we had use it, wouldn't effect our regular insurance premiums. And if weather had damaged our rental the company would have supplied us with another car within a day saving hassle and time on our vacation.

Even the cost of the maintenance we ddn't have to do (two oil/filter changes plus an engine air filter) would have cost us the equivalent of a day or two rental.
posted by Mitheral at 10:13 AM on January 27, 2019 [2 favorites]


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