Manageable long term car rental or alternative
May 24, 2023 5:14 PM   Subscribe

We need a temporary vehicle due to car repairs for up to 3 months or possibly more. Insurance will pay for one month. Traditional car rental long term looks prohibitively expensive. What do people do in these situations? Are car subscription services a good idea? (I saw a previous question but it was posted during the height of the pandemic so I figured there might be different information)

We temporarily need a car for 2-3 months, but traditional car rental seems prohibitively expensive. Has anyone tried one of the car subscription services? Or are there other alternatives?
My husband got into a relatively minor fender bender. The car was driveable to the shop but damaged enough that it probably isn’t driveable until they fix it.

Our insurance will pay for a rental car for a month. Because it is a newer car, the body shop says that they don’t know how long it will take for the parts to come in and that they have seen it take as long as 3 months due to relations with China/parts supply chain issues.

I’ve looked around on Google but there seem to be a lot of options from long-term rental at traditional car rental places (which seems to be prohibitively expensive) to car subscription services to car sharing? Has anyone done this before and have tips for getting a more reasonably priced vehicle alternative? Or have you tried a subscription service and recommend/not recommend it? Thank you!

We are in the Philadelphia area, if that matters.
posted by eleanna to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Can you say a bit more about your typical driving patterns?

Car-sharing (you appear to have Zipcar and Getaround locally) works pretty good for errands, but is useless for most commuting.
posted by humbug at 6:08 PM on May 24

Many universities, alumni associations and companies have corporate codes that affiliated people can use to get preferred rates on rental cars, & other ways to save.
One of your credit card companies may have a deal on a car rental.

Is your policy 30 days, or $x/day up to ___ per claim?
If your husband was not at fault for the accident, the other driver's insurance pays the rental. (Overview from a local law firm.)
posted by Iris Gambol at 7:51 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: No commuting. I commute via public transit. Mostly we use it to go grocery shopping or get to doctor's appointments, occasionally something else. We probably use a car 2-3 times a week, typically.
posted by eleanna at 8:13 PM on May 24

Can you group all your errands into 1 day a week and rent a car through Turo or any other car rental/sharing place? Get groceries delivered after the 1 month, see if some doctor's appointments can be virtual or pushed off for 2 months. Uber/left once in a while, call in a favor from a friend once or twice. That might get you through the rest of the months without renting a car for the whole month.
posted by at 8:25 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]

If you are car light already, it seems like car share (zipcar, etc) will be fine. You might also consider getting an electric cargo bike, which could replace a good chunk of your existing grocery store and other trips as well.
posted by rockindata at 3:50 AM on May 25 [2 favorites]

Lateral idea- might it be possible to ask the bodyshop if they can do partial or temporary repairs to make the car driveable while waiting for parts? I.e. crudely bash out a bent fender so it doesn't rub a tire or whatever?
You'd probably have to pay a bit (it would be extra work for the bodyshop that the insurance co wouldn't pay for) but it might be cheaper than renting long term.
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 6:01 AM on May 25 [3 favorites]

I don't know what rates you are seeing for rentals, but recently I did the math on what it would cost to acquire another car (i.e., insurance, payments, maintenance) vs entirely relying on Uber/Lyft, and it turned out that in our specific situation, we'd have to ride Uber/Lyft a phenomenal number of times a month before that became more expensive than buying a car. Obviously YMMV since it all hinges on your actual costs, the length/cost of a typical ride share trip, and whether or not you need the additional flexibility of a car sitting around ready to be used "just in case." (Zip Car and similar aren't available here, so I didn't compare those costs, but I am pretty certain those would have been the cheapest of the options.)

For finding cheaper rentals, people have mentioned professional/work promotions, credit cards, Costco, etc. And most of all, you need to check each and every company since their deals come and go based on their current supply situation. Personally, I'd check websites but also call local offices just in case you get a particularly sympathetic person who will cut you a deal.

Lastly, it's worth asking the body shop if it is possible for them to half-ass a "repair" that gets you back on the road temporarily while waiting for the real parts. I see cars driving around with duct tape and zip ties holding parts on, for example. Don't do this if it is actually unsafe, but if it is just ugly and funny looking, that's going to be your cheapest option.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:02 AM on May 25

I have friends in a similar but different city that used Zipcar and loved it. They went from two cars to one and had next to no problems as a result, but they were willing to be flexible as far as when they did grocery runs (no kids). (And 1/2 of the couple worked from home exclusively.)

Mostly we use it to go grocery shopping or get to doctor's appointments, occasionally something else. We probably use a car 2-3 times a week, typically.

It would be a pain for months, but from what you've said, I'd seriously consider just using grocery deliveries and cabs/Lyft/Uber. The main reason I have my Costco membership is the aggressive auto rental discounts and even with that, you're looking at ~$40/day these days. If you're only using the car 2-3 times a week, that $280 goes a long way towards tipping delivery drivers and using cabs. My city is pretty close to Philly in demographics and I can have an Uber here in 5 minutes between 6AM and 10PM and a cab within 15 minutes. If you're legit only using the car 2-3 times a week, I'd say that's worth considering.
posted by Candleman at 7:46 AM on May 25

You may be able to find a solid used car, ideally from friends, family, co-workers, etc., drive it for 1 - 3 months, sell it on. Send out an email saying you are carless for 3 months; ask if anyone has a car they want to sell. A surprising number of people have a 2nd car you can use once or twice a week or even longer. Or may be buying a car and happy to sell to you for the amount the dealer would pay.

Otherwise, go visit a rental agency, discuss the cheapest day a week to rent and what kind of deal you might be able to get. Ask the insurance company if you can have 30 days of rentals on cheap days. Many insurance offers are more negotiable than you think. Insurance companies may have a preferred rental agency and can help you get a deal. After andaccident you're generally super cautious and a better risk, as one rental agent explained to me.
posted by theora55 at 10:27 AM on May 25

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