Drive my car or rent?


We live in an urban area, not far from a big airport. About once every 6 weeks or so we go somewhere on a weekend road trip, going a total of 600 to 900 miles each time. I have a 2000 Maxima with 78000 miles that runs fine and is quite comfortable. The question is: When is it more reasonable to rent a car rather than drive my own. I can find deals through Costco’s web site or Hotwire that average out to about $35 a day for a mid size car, including taxes and fees and such. I pick it up at the airport. So, if I drive 750 miles it averages about 13 cents a mile to rent. Is it cheaper to drive a rental or my car? I still pay for gas, of course. My insurance covers a rental so I don’t buy all the stuff the rental company tries to sell me.


I think you have to determine what other car expenses you have including any garage costs & how often your driving the car. If the math works that it’s cheaper to rent a car then I think you may have your answer unless of course you love the car & enjoy it.


The question you seem to be asking is whether you put $.13 per mile of wear (depreciation and maintenance) on you personal car (because you have to pay for fuel either way).

Think of it this way; if you drove a total of 6,000 weekend miles in a year, you would be paying $780 to the rental car company. Now you have to calculate how much it costs you to drive your own car for 6,000 miles (not counting fuel, insurance, taxes, registration etc.). I suspect it will be cheaper to use your own car, if you do the math.


This one is too easy. Your rental expenses for a 2-day weekend: $70 + taxes. Eight such trips a year, that comes to $560 + taxes.

Driving your own car: $0. Depreciation: the same by either method.

Now tell us why you suggest it might be cheaper to rent a car.


It’s not really that simple, there is some cost per mile to drive your own car in addition to the fixed costs of ownership. Consider the costs of routine maintenance (oil changes, tires, brakes, timing belts, transmission service, etc) in addition to the reduction in value associated with accumulating more miles. I do think it’s cheaper to drive your own car, but it’s not free.


I guess I’m thinking of the wear costs on my car like tires, belts, brakes, etc., and the general rate I’m using up the car. If I can assume my car will last me 150,000 miles, and it costs 25,000 new and it’s worth 3,000 with 150,000 miles on it, then it costs almost 15 cents for every mile in shrinking value alone, without the wear items.

I’m trying to ignore the value of driving a fairly new rental rather than my used car, and the fun of trying out other cars. I think its economically reasonable to put the miles on a rental, but I might be missing something.


I went through the same mental debate last week and ended driving my own car. The wear and tear on those kind of road trips is not as much. Some tire, but relatively easy on the engine and tranny. You can deposit the money to a “car repair fund” each time you drive your car and see how much of that you use. My only concern has been a breakdown and being stuck 400+ miles away from home at the mercy of a mechanic that you don’t know and knows that you are desperate. That makes me a bit nervous, but the wear and tear not much. I also drive my cars to the ground so don’t really car about depreciation.


There is nothing wrong with your plan. If it doesn’t make a dent in the budget, it’s ok. It saves you the time it takes to clean the car too. It looks like the rental is costing $800 a year but you are saving 8,000 miles a year. The price of a brake and rotor job can easily exceed that. You aren’t the only one who rents a car to take a trip.


It would be cheaper to sell your car and rent for the trips.

You really did not say, but I am guessing that you need or desire to have a car for day to day activities.  In that case, it would be cheaper to drive your own car.


Your math sounds about right. Keep doing what you’re doing, for as long as you don’t mind the hassle of renting a car.


When I graduated from college I thought about working in NYC. I decided that it was too expensive to own a car there, considering parking rent, maintenance, and insurance. If you only rent a car you can buy their insurance. It’s not free, but it also won’t cost you $1000 a year. And you never have to replace tires. If you need a car infrequently, sell yours and rent for a while. You can always buy another car if you want to.