Rental car VS personal car on vacation trip

As long as you don’t plan to sleep in it, your Taurus should be an excellent choice for the trip. It’s comfortable, rides well, and is a top pick by some as a used car.

Guestimate scenario for a 3000 mile trip.

My car 20 mpg 150 gallons, $2 a gallon $300
Rental car 30 mpg 100 gallons $200

My car oil change $35
Rental 0$

tires 60k life at $800 for 4 new tires, $40
Rental 0

Wear and tear is hard to calculate, Lets say $1000 for 30k miles

My car $100
Rental Car 0

Minimum days for 3000 miles at 500 miles per day 6

My car 0
Rental at $30 per day unlimited mileage $180

My cost $275
Rental $180

So then factor in more days and at 3 extra days you are at near break even.

Just thinking again, gets me into trouble every time!

I think I recall Ray answered a question similar to this on “Dear Car Talk” recently, and there was a question when doing the calculations of whether you should consider the monthly cost of keeping your own car in your garage while you drive the rental. In other words, it costs you say $500 to keep our own car in your own garage while you go away in the rental. $500 for your car payment or lease payment and insurance for the month say. So since you are not using your own car, but paying $500 to keep it in the garage, should that $500 be part of the rent car/drive own car calculation? I think the question that would be asked by accounting folks is: Are you wasting that $500 by not using the car?

My inclination is to say “no”, that’s not part of the calculus, since you have to pay that amount either way.

I"ve Rented Cars Several Times For Week-Long Family Vacations (And I Own Several Cars). I Have Never Regretted It.

A couple weeks ago we put 3400+ miles on a rented Grand Caravan. Worked great and we had lots of room.

In addition to what Barky Dog has come up with, I asked a guy at the car rental place, once, “What would happen if I broke down or had a flat tire in the rental car?” He explained that they would send somebody out to get me going or bring me another car.

The last thing I want on a vacation is to screw around working on my vehicle or trying to get it fixed. To me, the peace-of-mind factor kicks in and to me that’s worth a lot.

A couple things: Make sure the car includes unlimited mileage. Be sure the car can travel out of state (if that’s a need). Make sure your car insurance covers you (usually only to 2 weeks) in a rental. Special insurance rules usually apply to travel into Mexico and Canada.

As long as I can rent unlimited mileage vehicles at a reasonable price, I will continue doing so when traveling a long way from home in a short amount of time.


Well, rent a much smaller car, you might save something. The entire difference comes from gas savings. If the cars have the same mpgs the savings are $0. And 20 mpg freeway is a BIG car/SUV

We rented Grand Caravans on 2 vacations (we needed the space to travel with bikes) and I was extremely pleased with them. Gas mileage wasn’t great, but it was very comfy, easy to drive & had tons of space.

Agree with Doc and Meanjoe, the IRS overall rate is meaningless unless you fit their exact parameters. The marginal rate, or the rate determined to cover out of pocket costs, for things like charity driving is considerably less, like the 24 cents mentioned. Not so much on a cost basis but if you want a different type of vehicle, don’t want to put more miles on your car, or don’t trust your car, go ahead and rent.

My daughter looked to rent a minivan for a week in Miami, FL and was quoted $700-$800. Took my breath away.

A 3000 mile trip normally means at least 10 days on the road. My best preferred rental rate for that would be $55 per day and with all taxes that would come to about $500. The collision damage waver is covered by my credit card.

Disregarding gas mileage and only adding wear and tear, we get 0.6 oil change at $55, or $33, tire wear, 3000/65000x4x$700=$129 and not much else. So for $33+$129=$162 I’m “saving” by renting???.

I agree this makes sense only if 1) your current car is a gas hog or 2) is unreliable or 3) you need a lot of space which your current cars don’t have. In that case a basic minivan would do the job.

Sometimes you need to shop a little. A month ago I rented a Jeep in Orlando for two weeks for $394, unlimited mileage.

George, when I took accounting in the Jurassic period they called any fixed cost unaffected by the decision to be “sunk costs”, not usable in the calculations.

Put simply, it makes no sense to me to rent a vehicle unless some specific advantage can be identified. Comfort, reliability, better gas mileage, passenger capacity, towing capacity, these would all qualify. But I don’t see any advantage here.

With respect to the OP, I think he/she is overthinking the problem.

The car is a 2011 Taurus and unless there’s a lack of maintenance or high miles involved I’d probably just stick with it if the car has been kept up and has comparatively low miles.

Forty-five hundred miles in the grand scheme of things isn’t that much. If the Taurus is the choice I would recommend changing the oil and checking all of the fluids before leaving.
The engine oil should also be monitored during the trip as it could be easy for an oil consumption issue on the open road to surface and throw a monkey wrench into the trip.

"The car is a 2011 Taurus and unless there’s a lack of maintenance or high miles involved I’d probably just stick with it"

This. You rent a car if the car you currently have is somehow not up to the task. An '11 Taurus matches the “mission profile” nicely: a comfortable highway cruiser that can soak up the miles. Despite being largish, it is aero and gets decent HWY MPG.

It Has Been Suggested That Something Could Occur With A Vehicle That Could “Throw A Monkey Wrench Into The Trip.” It Was Also Pointed Out That Prudence Could Help To Lessen This Possibility.

However, when we travel, we go through many states, on unfamiliar roads, in all kinds of weather, through plenty of construction zones, in all sorts of traffic situations.

We saw several late model vehicles stranded for one reason or another. Again, the last thing I want on my vacation is to tie my own car up hundreds thousands of miles from home.

What if somebody hits your vehicle (Example: Had a guy, several states away, in a P/U almost change lanes into the side of our vehicle and when he realized it, he almost lost control evading a collision. Happened suddenly and I saw it at the last second and was driving along a concrete barrier.) What if a defect with a tire or a mechanical issue surfaces? Falling rock area problem at night in the rain? At home it would be an inconvenience, on a vacation, a catastrophe.

How expensive, time-wise and money-wise would it be to arrange towing, repair and a later recovery of your vehicle? Also, I suppose you’d either cancel your trip (and lose hotel reservation fees) or rent a car (probably at an outrageous cost) and try to enjoy your trip.

No thanks. I’m a peace-of mind guy. I will fly or drive somebody else’s vehicle and leave mine at home. The problem is the great distance from home in which you are driving. So, you can’t access another family vehicle if need be or get to your local, trusted mechanic.

Plus, my experience has been closer to @Barky Dog And @Bing on costs. $55/day as @Docknick suggested? No way. I would fly or be forced to take my own car, but that’s about twice what I pay.

I guess I’ll agree to disagree. Some of this isn’t monetary, anyhow. I will continue to rent as long as it’s not much more expensive (actually could be cheaper) than using my own car, and other folks can take their own cars, not a problem. This story is more about giving options to @aznetcowboy.