Should I drive and get the car, or pay to have it shipped?
December 25, 2007 9:22 PM   Subscribe

Should I drive from Austin to Minneapolis to pick up a free car, and then drive it back to Austin spending approximately $380 on hotels and gas, or should I pay $750 to get the car shipped?

My wife and I are currently in the process of moving from NYC to Austin, TX. We don't own a car, and were planning on buying one once we got to Texas. The day we were moving out of our apartment in NYC, after all car rental plans had been finalized and secured, her Aunt offered us her 2002 Ford Escape, for free. The Escape, which is located in Minneapolis, has 100,000 miles on it but is in perfect running condition. Getting this car saves us the trouble of buying a car in Austin (and we're taking her up on the offer, of course), but we're trying to figure out how to get it.

We currently have a rental van packed to the gills, and are in Iowa City at the inlaws house for Christmas. The rental is due Friday morning in Austin, and we're planning on driving down tomorrow, arriving Thursday night.

As I see it, we have a few options, but the math isn't as cut and dry as I wish it would be.

1. Extend our rental a day (for $200), drive up to Minneapolis tomorrow, pick it up, and then drive two cars down to Austin. This sounds a little unpleasant, though, as we'd have to drive separately for all that time.

2. Ship the car. We've gotten quotes for this, and it ranges from $600-$900, generally. Based on reports, though, it can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. The most promising sounding quote was from AAA Discount Auto and Truck Transporters, who quoted us $750 to ship it, and would supposedly have it to Austin in 3-5 days.

3. Drive to Austin as planned and then on Friday, drive back up to Minnesota with my parents (who are in Austin for Christmas, right now). Once we got there, we'd turn right back around and drive our new car to Austin. This would cost us approximately $380 for gas and hotels (the folks would pay on the way up, see), but would cost us 4 days of our time. Of course, being jobless and having just moved, we don't have any obligations.

While choosing between #2 and #3 sound like a pretty easy call, it's further complicated by the supposed "wear and tear" incurred on the car by driving. If I trusted the government rate of 50.5 cents/mile, 1100 miles would cost us $550. Adding two hotels to that rate pushes it up to approximately $750, making #2 and #3 almost exactly equal. What to do...

Should I be using that rate for my calculations?

What would you do in this situation?
posted by jeffxl to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total)
Have you looked into the option of returning your rental *in Minneapolis*? This may be possible if you're renting from a nation-wide chain.
posted by YamwotIam at 9:26 PM on December 25, 2007

I would have it shipped I think.

If I had four extra days I would want to do something fun or useful, instead of spending them driving.

Also, let's say this car has x miles of "wear and tear" left on it before it collapses into a heap of rust and tetanus. You would rather spend those going useful places than you would getting the car to your home.
posted by aubilenon at 9:30 PM on December 25, 2007

Between moving and the holidays, you have better things to do with your time. Have it shipped. The only scenario where driving it down would make sense is if you are itching for a road trip, but: Minnesota in December, seriously?
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:36 PM on December 25, 2007

I'm with YamwotIam. I'm always in favor of just "getting it done" -- drop off rental in Minneapolis, pick up new car there and drive home. When you get home, you're done!

(Even if you can't drop off the rental in Minn for some reason, I'd still do it that way. An extra trip from Texas to Minnesota and back doesn't sound like anything I'd be interested in doing after just moving.)

And I'm a DIY type. I wouldn't ship unless it were really more cost effective, which it isn't. But Slarty has a good point, too, if you're not as much of a DIY type.
posted by iguanapolitico at 9:45 PM on December 25, 2007

Oh wait -- you're not talking about pulling a trailer, are you? You're actually driving a rental moving van. So forget about the dropping off the rental thing. I'd still rather just pick up the car that way and get it done (driving alone really isn't that unpleasant, well, not to me) rather than make an extra trip (or ship).
posted by iguanapolitico at 9:47 PM on December 25, 2007

I would go and pick it up, because you don't have other commitments and road trips are fun. Extending the trip by one day and driving separately will be the fastest and easiest, and in the end probably the cheapest, way to just get it done.

But I wonder if there could be a fourth or fifth option -- could an inlaw shuttle one of you up to Minneapolis, or take one of you to the airport to catch a plane from IC to Minn., while the other continues on to Austin with the rental? Do you have a college-age relative who would love a "free" road trip to bring you the car, if you paid their costs, and they could ride back north with your parents?
posted by Forktine at 9:54 PM on December 25, 2007

Do not ship the car if you have any alternative.
posted by ikkyu2 at 10:09 PM on December 25, 2007

Interested in an adventure? DIY. Would you rather have those four days to do something else? Pay for it.
posted by diastematic at 10:26 PM on December 25, 2007

Would it be possible to use a trailer / towing dolly of some sort to make option #1 more palatable? What kind of moving van are you driving?
posted by ZakDaddy at 11:21 PM on December 25, 2007

I'm assuming by "rental" you mean box truck, and I assume that you're dropping it off in TX, so it's a national chain. If so, rent a towing trailer for the Escape, and pull that puppy home.

If you're just in a car, then head to Minneapolis and swap all your crap out into the new car.

I agree with ikkyu2 - if at all possible, do not ship your car.
posted by notsnot at 4:07 AM on December 26, 2007

FWIW, I wouldn't necessarily trust that rate. It's more a standardization to repay workers for the use of their cars, which takes into account more factors than the value of the car, etc. For instance, it already takes into account fuel costs. Also, it's the highest amount employers can reimburse for mileage. I would more directly think about the fact that driving 1000 miles from Mpls to Austin will bring you 1/3-1/5 the way to needing an oil change - so you might want to account for 1/3 of an oil change. That's, what, $20?

I'd see if you can return the car to Minneapolis. Explain your situation to the rental agency and they may allow it. Then you could just hightail it to Austin. Otherwise, I'd go the two-vehicle route. No, it won't be super-fun, but given that you're in the process of moving, and you don't have a job, I'd be willing to bet that you have more time than money right now.
posted by lunasol at 7:19 AM on December 26, 2007

I'd go with the towing dolly, if the vehicle you're driving can tow the escape or vice-versa.
posted by craven_morhead at 7:41 AM on December 26, 2007

Response by poster: It's not a moving van, it's a Toyota Sienna, stuffed full. We shipped most of our stuff.

I checked into returning the car to Minneapolis, and that is actually possible for an extra $225. I checked if it was possible to change the rental while I was in New York and they said it was not possible... now it's possible. Weird. Anyway.

The problem is that we'd have to rent a UHaul trailer to hook up to the Escape, since the cargo space in the Sienna is much greater than the cargo space in a Ford Escape.

The Sienna doesn't have a hitch, either.

Any reasons you wouldn't ship it, besides the cost?
posted by jeffxl at 7:58 AM on December 26, 2007

It's snowing right now in Minneapolis, so I would ship it and save time and stress. Moving is enough of an ordeal, it would be better to have the car come to you.
posted by LiveToEat at 8:32 AM on December 26, 2007

I had a 2000 ford explorer - v6. that was before they switched to the bulkier body style.
Anyway, I once towed one of those little pop-up campers for a few miles.
It was zero fun - Even though the trailer was fairly light it sucked all the power out of my car.
And that was on backroads - not the highway.

Granted, a v6 escape is probably less underpowered than my heavier explorer was with a v6... but towing a packed-full trailer with a packed-full vehicle is going to cause much more wear and tear on the vehicle than regular driving will.
Plus you'll be spending for the trailer rental and the extra fee for returning the van.
posted by itheearl at 10:02 AM on December 26, 2007

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