Short-Term, Long-Term Auto Rental/Lease/Other?
March 1, 2007 11:31 AM   Subscribe

I live in Berkeley, CA and need to rent a commute car (to Palo Alto) only for about three months because we will be moving to Austin, TX in June. My searching has proved somewhat fruitless. What are the options for long term rental/short term lease? Or do you have a better idea? See everything I have already tried inside.

I do not want to worry about moving two cars. My family and I will be driving our main car down to Austin and don't want to pay or worry about logistics to have #2 transported or towed.

I also want a car that will be 100% dependable for my 110 mile round trip each day.

Option 1: Monthly Rental
I have looked at all the nationwide rental agencies and they are quite expensive for a monthly rate. Rent-A-Wreck seems to be quite affordable, but they are so much cheaper than the competition, it raises a red flag. Has anyone used them for rental? Good or bad stories are welcome.

Also, if I do a long term rental, will my auto insurance cover that like it would for a weekend rental?

Additionally, could I get a FasTrak transceiver and use it with a car I do not own? Obviously not a deal breaker, but if anyone knows the answer...

Option 2: Lease Buyout
I looked at, and for people needing a lease buyout and I could not find anything short of $800 to $1100 per month for Mercedes-class buyouts. All the cheaper ones were way too long or were cheap because they were already over their mileage allowance. Any other places (online or in the Bay Area) I can look?

Option 3: Buy a Used Car and Sell It When I Leave
As a final option, I was thinking about buying an older car and "flipping" it when I leave (more likely to have a family member sell it for me for a commission). What should I buy. Not as concerned with make and model as I am with fuel economy, dependability and safety. I also would like to know what your ideas on how old/used you would get to balance those three criteria. Is an older car with low mileage better or do these circumstances mean that a newer car with lot of mileage would benefit me? Or both old and well-worn?

One big drawback to this option is that I HAVE to do a private party or the tax from a dealer would definitely destroy the economy of this option, so my purchasing choices are a little more limited.

Option 4: Something I Haven't Thought of?

[Your answer here]

I am leaning towards Rent-A-Wreck (Option 1) right now, but just want to make sure I am doing my due diligence.

Let me know your thoughts on any or all of these options. It is greatly appreciated.
posted by JLobster to Travel & Transportation around Berkeley, CA (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't answer your main question, but I've used my fastrak thing in many cars that weren't owned by me without any problem.
posted by logic vs love at 11:39 AM on March 1, 2007

Best answer: I looked at, and for people needing a lease buyout and I could not find anything short of $800 to $1100 per month for Mercedes-class buyouts. All the cheaper ones were way too long or were cheap because they were already over their mileage allowance. Any other places (online or in the Bay Area) I can look?

I see these on all the time.
posted by SpecialK at 11:42 AM on March 1, 2007

If you are in a position to buy a car, that seems like the simplest way. There should be plenty of private buyers selling cars in your area, check consumer reports for their ratings of used car reliability and pick one with good mileage.

I also would like to know what your ideas on how old/used you would get to balance those three criteria
Well, older cars have lower fuel economy, are less dependable, and tend to have fewer safety features. I'm not sure what you mean about a balance of these criteria. It sounds like you want a newer car. You'll be selling it again and getting most of your money back out of it.
posted by yohko at 11:45 AM on March 1, 2007

Best answer: I would look for a used Honda Civic hatchback on Craigslist, of 1998-1999 vintage. Those cars are bloody tanks, and if you get one that's spartan enough, you should be able to pick it up for less than $2k. Look particularly for a Civic CX hatch - my old '95 was still getting 36-40mpg when I owned it in 2004. You do get nothing more than a 70 horsepower lawnmower engine under the hood, and it won't break about 70-75 on the highway, but man is the mileage good for the price. If you want to do a little better, you can get a Civic DX or similar for a few hundred more, that has a 110hp motor (I think) and slightly reduced fuel economy, but will be a little more peppy on the road. You don't want a Civic Si, they have the most powerful motor of the bunch and will command a premium for that reason.

Get one that's stick if you know how to drive it, it'll be cheaper. In terms of mileage, for the time you're going to own it wouldn't look too closely at what's already on the odometer. Instead, ask how recently things have been replaced. The radiators and clutches in those cars both tend to go in the low 100k mile range, so if neither of those has been done, it might come up. Then again, a new radiator shouldn't run you more than $300, and maybe $550 for a clutch, so it could be worth the risk for the short amount of time you're talking about.

When you're done with it, put it back on Craigslist and someone will take it off your hands inside of two weeks.
posted by autojack at 11:58 AM on March 1, 2007

I know that you said you didn't want to worry about the logistics of having your car transported, but this might actually be the most cost efficient, stress-free option. A long term rental is just going to be very expensive and you'll end up wasting more money that transport would cost. If you buy/sell a used car, you will have to deal with taxes and possible repair costs. Also, if you are going to purchase a newer model, you might as well just transport it and keep it for a while in Austin, or trade-in when you are ready for a new car.

I've once used an auto transport service to ship a car from Florida to my sister in Arizona. It was easy and reasonably priced. Again, I know you weren't considering this option, and i hate when people don't answer the question that is actually asked, but I just wanted to suggest that you reconsider because it seems like it would be a much less expensive and less stressful process than the options you are considering.
posted by necessitas at 12:33 PM on March 1, 2007

Why not just use the second car and sell it under condition that you own/use it until days before you leave?
posted by quadrinary at 12:41 PM on March 1, 2007

You're in the Bay Area, right?

For mileage and reliability, have you considered a motorcycle or larger-displacement scooter? I know lots and lots of bikers in the bay area that do exactly this. It's cheap, it's easy to transport if you want to take it to Austin, and if not, you should be able to sell it for as much as you paid for it.

Something else to consider:

If you decide to buy a car and use it ONLY for transport to and from work, the mileage will be deductible, I believe, from your taxes.

As for cheap, efficient cars, you cannot go wrong with Korea: Hyundai and Kia both have low resale value, high reliability and good mileage.
posted by TeamBilly at 2:04 PM on March 1, 2007

Re: the FasTrak: I've used mine in more than one car, but if you're going to be using it regularly in a car that it's not signed up for, you should let them know what the lic. # is. Otherwise, they might send you a letter ("is that really you using it, or has your FasTrak been stolen?"), which happened to me, or they can cancel the account, which hasn't happened to me, but I've heard it's possible.
posted by rtha at 2:44 PM on March 1, 2007

Best answer: When you buy a car, you've got to pay reg fees and sales tax. When you sell, you have to give the buyers a fresh (within 3 months, IIRC?) smog cert. So factor those costs in.

This won't be the cheapest option, but since reliability and low-hassle seem to be higher priorities, Option 4 might be ZipCar. $56/day includes gas, parking and insurance.

If commuting is the main reason for needing a car for 3 mos, maybe carpool/vanpool/rideshare would work.
posted by nakedcodemonkey at 6:42 PM on March 1, 2007

I moved last year in the opposite direction from you - Austin-Berkeley. You won't be disappointed there; but you will be so, so hot.
posted by Cycloptichorn at 11:46 AM on March 2, 2007

« Older I'm not sure I actually know how to do Kegels.   |   What else can I drink all day without gaining... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.