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What's the cost / mile that you would use a rental car vs. your own car for a big trip?

feetsdrfeetsdr Member Posts: 4
edited August 2015 in General
Taking our kid back to college next week. This is kinda academic at this point - it's looking like he's got more than will fit in our RX350, and we'll need to rent anyway, but wondering:

For an 11 hour drive one way (1500 miles total round trip) how much would you pay / what's it worth (per mile?) to not put the miles on the car vs. renting a car?

Insurance is the same whether it sits in the driveway or it's on the road
Depreciation? you're putting another 1,500 on the car

Things that do matter?
Tire wear ($800 / 40K miles?) 2c a mile
oil ($100 / 10K miles?) 3c a mile
General maintenance - you are 1,500 closer to changing air filter, top fluids, etc? costs?
what else would you factor in?

Gas really isn't an issue (you're going to burn the same amount of gas either way? Yeah, you could get precise after the fact when you know what MPG you got on the rental).

What else?


  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Sonoma, CaliforniaMember Posts: 64,482
    Given that 1500 miles is maybe 1/125th the lifetime of a modern car, it would seem to me that the depreciation would be negligible. A better form of comparison is to calculate how much per day it costs you to operate a rental car vs. your own car. Obviously, a rental car costs more per day unless the depreciation on your car is truly massive on an annual basis. Even then, to be fair you should calculate depreciation as an average over your years of ownership---not first year depreciation, which is always harsh.
  • steverstever Guest Posts: 52,457
    edited August 2015
    This conversation came up recently in another thread where the owner of a newer car was wondering whether it was worthwhile to keep the miles off the car and mile up a rental. The owner is still thinking about what to do (in his case, flying and renting is probably the best option anyway).

    I'm with @Mr_Shiftright and don't think the miles matter for depreciation and operating costs all that much.

    And I'd rather drive my own car unless I'm trying to test out another model that I think I'd like to buy.

    In fact, in your case, I'd likely throw some stuff on the roof or mail the excess to the campus. :)

    Can't think of any "what else" gotchas unless the rental company tried to charge for preexisting dings or something - you can avoid that by taking photos of the car when you rent it. There's always that silly "leave it full or we'll charge you $8 a gallon stuff" when you turn some rentals in.

    Oh, and you may reserve a big SUV or van and find out there's none available when you arrive to pick your rental up. And returning it is one more chore to do when you get home. But it's fun driving different cars around.

    But costs? I think it'd have to be a screaming rental deal to make it cheaper than driving your own car.
  • MichaellMichaell ColoradoModerator Posts: 182,312
    Not long after we got married, the wife and I and her two kids took a vacation to California from Colorado (1100 miles one way). Neither of the cars we had were suitable for the trip - she was driving a '97 Escort that had all the creature comforts but was way too small, and I had a '93 Accord DX with no cruise or A/C.

    So we rented a Taurus for the trip. Did the job nicely. IIRC, I used points from a travel program I was in so the cost was pretty minimal.

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  • kyfdxkyfdx Moderator Posts: 187,348
    Somewhere around $0.10-0.15 per mile will pique my interest in a rental. Also, not just total mileage, but distance from home, weather/area, and amount of time.. all factor in.

    If it's a vacation, and a car repair would seriously disrupt the trip, I'm more likely to take a rental.
    If it's a beach vacation, I'm more likely to take a rental (sand, sun, pine tree sap, etc.).
    If I need a bigger vehicle, then rental (rented an Explorer for a trip for four and luggage, once).

    If I'm sharing a long distance, fast pace trip with someone that I'd either not want to drive my car, or they don't want to drive my car... then a rental (3 day trip to New Orleans a couple years ago).

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  • feetsdrfeetsdr Member Posts: 4
    thanks guys!
  • 93949394 VancouverMember Posts: 74
    i always rent when going on long road trips, it's definitely more money out of pocket but you get the peace of mind knowing you have a newer/more reliable car.

    it's also fun to drive different cars with the latest technology. i rented a Chrysler 200c on my last trip, boy, it was fun, 295hp V6 mated to a 9 speed tranny, huge difference compare to my 4 speed tranny.

    book early instead of last minute to get the lower price.
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