to rent a car or drive your own for that summer road
trip? Pull out a calculator. It all comes down to math.
Determining whether it's more economical
to rent a vehicle or drive your own boils down to three
||Distance to your destination.
|| Driving costs of your
||Deals available for
a rental vehicle.
Let's start with driving costs. AAA's
2006 vacation planning guide suggests budgeting $17.10
per 100 miles. That includes gas, figured at $2.92 per
gallon, tires and maintenance, and assumes the vehicle
gets a rather efficient 25.8 miles per gallon.
So say you've got a 1,000-mile, week-long
trip planned. Multiply 10 times $17.10 for a baseline
cost of $171 to drive your own vehicle. It'll be less
expensive for smaller, fuel-efficient cars and more
expensive for bigger gas guzzlers.
Now the rental scenario: Avis
quoted a rate of $222.59 for a weekly rental ($209.99
base rate plus $12.60 tax) of a standard-size car in
suburban Chicago in mid-July. Mileage was unlimited.
Averaging the 25.8 miles per gallon AAA figures in,
you'll need 38.7 gallons of gas for your 1,000 mile
trip. At $2.92 per gallon, your gas tab is $113, bringing
the rental cost to $335.59, or almost twice the cost
of driving your own car.
For a weekend trip, however, the costs
come much closer. Avis quotes a rate of $47.98 for that
same car for a Friday to Sunday rental plus $2.88 tax.
Gas for a 500-mile trip -- calculated at the miles and
cost per gallon used above -- will add another $56.58
and bring the bill to $107.44. Meanwhile, driving your
own vehicle on that trip using AAA's estimate will cost
After you do the math, consider other
factors. Drivers who lease their vehicles should find
out whether they're approaching the mileage limit. If
the vacation will put you over the top, it might be
more economical to rent.
"Each lease is different. You have
to know what the per-mile charge is if you go over your
miles," says Jim Rink, public relations consultant
for AAA Michigan.
Jim MacPherson, auto columnist for The
Hartford Courant, says lease holders should also be
sure their destination is permitted in the lease agreement.
Mexico is typically precluded and Canada may be as well,
Rental cars also save wear and tear
on vehicles and can provide some peace of mind if you're
not sure your car is reliable. A breakdown can spoil
a vacation as certainly as a missed flight. Moreover,
you'll then be forced to rent from whatever choices
are nearby, rather than doing a competitive search prior