Summer’s approaching quickly, and so is your family vacation. The time has come to decide how you’ll get around once you get there. Now, renting a car may seem like the obvious choice (it’s what you’ve always done, after all); however, before you go looking for the best ways to save on car rental, you’ll want to stop and ask yourself if car rental is really the best option for you.
In recent years, there has been a surge in the popularity of alternative options to car rental, such as taking a taxi or using a ride share app. In some instances, these options can be more cost-effective and convenient than renting a car. So depending on where you’re going and what you’re planning on doing there, you may want to ditch the rental car and take a taxi or a ZipCar instead. The key is to really weigh your options before you decide.
We’ve done the research for you so you know what’s the best option for your next trip.
Car Rental vs. Taxi
One of the main issues people have with car rental is all of the extra costs and insurance fees that get added on top of the base price for the car. For obvious reasons, these costs can be especially bad if you’re younger than 25. Since these same issues don’t apply to taxis, hailing cabs on your trip can sometimes be a more cost-effective alternative.
This is especially true in big cities like New York and San Francisco, where taxis are generally plentiful. However, as Rideshare Guy Harry Campbell points out, there can be a lot of uncertainty surrounding taking taxis in foreign countries because of safety issues. So, even if there is a plethora of taxis at your vacation spot, the safer bet may just be to get your own rental car and save yourself the drama.
Another important thing to consider is how frequently you’re going to want to travel around while on your trip. The price of multiple taxi rides can really add up quickly, so you’re going to want to estimate how often you’ll be traveling around your destination and compare the cost of all those taxi trips to the estimated cost of your rental car. A great way to do this is by using the handy tools on TaxiFareFinder.com. Using this website, you can calculate the estimated cost of each trip you plan to take via taxi to give yourself a better idea of just how expensive it will be for you to ditch the rental and go with the cab. Of course, this won’t give you a perfect estimate, but it’ll give you enough information to make a more informed decision.
Car Rental vs. Ride Sharing
As you will find when using TaxiFareFinder.com, using a ride share app is generally cheaper than taking a taxi, which is why apps like Lyft have overtaken taxis in popularity in recent years. However, compared to renting a car, there can be some drawbacks to taking a Lyft, the main one being a lack of autonomy.
When you just use a Lyft app on your vacation, you are completely at the mercy of Lyft drivers in your area, which can be frustrating if there are none around and you need to get somewhere quickly. It can also be frustrating because Lyft prices can fluctuate throughout the day, depending on demand. So if you hail a ride share at a busier time, you could wind up paying more than you anticipated. Obviously, this is something to be aware of before you go all in on the ride share option.
However, there are also instances where the perks of using a ride share app drastically outweigh the pros of renting a car. For example, let’s say you don’t think you’ll really need to drive around all that much while on your trip. In this instance, it wouldn’t be make sense to pay a bunch for rental car insurance if you’re not going to be in a car all that much.
Another great reason to use a ride share app is that you won’t have to worry about a lot of the little things you have to worry about when renting. As seasoned traveler K.B. Lee, founder and CEO of Ever Bamboo, puts it, using a ride share app “takes away all the worries of parking, directions…insurance cost, gas, picking up and dropping off the car vehicle.” It can be nerve-racking and frustrating trying to drive around an area you’re unfamiliar with, which is why it’s nice to be able to share a ride with someone who is more familiar with the area.
Car Rental vs. Zipcar
Another nifty alternative to renting a car is taking a Zipcar. What’s great about Zipcar is that, unlike regular rental, it allows you to rent by the hour as well as by the day, which means that if you only think you’ll need a car for a few hours while on your trip, you can rent a Zipcar for around $8 an hour and save yourself some money.
Zipcar is also great if you want to avoid waiting in line at the rental car counter. It allows you to use your smartphone to book your car in advance so you can simply go to the location and pick it up without having to deal with any rental counter hassles.
One of the drawbacks of Zipcar is that it doesn’t allow you to rent for longer than three days. So if you’re looking to rent for a longer trip, you’re probably going to be better off with standard renting. And, depending on what kind of deals you can find on a regular rental car, Zipcar may actually wind up being more expensive for you, as their daily rates can be as high as over $100 a day. You also have to pay a monthly or yearly membership in order to use Zipcar, so if you’re not a frequent traveler, it may be best to simply get a short term rental car.
In short, although Zipcar can be a convenient alternative, you won’t want to rule out standard car rental until you’re sure it will pay off for you in the long run.
Car Rental vs. Public Transit
If you’re planning on vacationing in a big city like New York or Washington D.C., another great money-saving option is public transit. Frugal travel blogger Dan Bagby of packthepassport.com likes to take the cheapest route when he travels, which is often public transit. Some of Bagby’s favorite public transit perks include not having to worry about “parking and parking fees, rental car paperwork and insurance or rush hour traffic.” Truly, if you don’t want to have to worry about directions or gas fees, taking a bus or subway can be a tremendous alternative to renting a car.
On the other hand, one major drawback to taking public transit can be the public aspect of it. If huge crowds and tight spaces stress you out more than trying to find a parking spot, then you might be better off renting a car even if it does cost you a few extra bucks. It’s always good to go the less stressful route, especially when on vacation.
You’ll also want to keep in mind that taking public transit can only get you so far. If you know that you’re the adventurous type and you’re probably going to want to go way off the beaten path, then you’re probably going to go with the more autonomous car rental option. Of course, you could also take public transit for a while and then venture off the beaten path on your own two feet. It’s up to you.
What is your preferred mode of transportation when on vacation? Let us know in the comments below!