To rent a car or not a rent a car, that is the question?

May 12 2009 by Bryson Forbes
Comments (1)

carrental.jpgThe first week in August you will find the Forbes family in Fripp Island, South Carolina for a little beach time with friends. Three families are all making the 1,600 kilometre drive from Oakville over the civic holiday weekend.

I asked my wife whether she thought we should rent a car. She gave that look like I just sprung antlers. So now I feel obligated to demonstrate the logic of the question and stubbornly build a case for why it makes sense. So here goes...

In 2007, AAA created a very thorough methodology to determine how much it costs to drive your vehicle. They found that there are three relevant items that affect how much your car costs to drive per mile: maintenance, tire wear and depreciation. For a small SUV in 2007, AAA estimated those costs to be 5.5 cents per mile for maintenance, 0.9 cents per mile for tire wear and a whopping 30.2 cents per mile depreciation. To present this annually, assume you drive 15,000 miles or 24,000 kilometres (which is a lot of driving). You spend $825 in maintenance, $135 for tires and the car depreciates roughly $4,530. Sounds realistic to me.

Therefore for every mile we drive on this trip with our own vehicle it would cost us 36.6 cents. The trip is 1,600 kilometres each way and I am guessing we will add an additional 200 kilometres on top of that in Fripp Island. So the trip will tack on 3,400 kilometres or 2,112 miles! At 36.6 cents a mile for 2,112 miles, my own car will cost me a whopping $773 USD$ - close to $1,000 CDN$! I can easily find a rental for 10 days with unlimited mileage for way less than $100 per day!

Assuming the cost for gas is somewhat consistent and the gas consumption in our rental car is comparable to the one at home, I think renting is looking like a great value. There are also some soft benefits to picking up a rental; I get to drive something new for a week, I won't be as annoyed when my kids bring half the beach into the car and I won't have to re-program all the radio presets when I get home. You can't put a price on that!

Before I go to my wife with this....help me out here, does this make sense to you?

Categories : Packed & Ready

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    1 Comments

    By Aaron Gold on May 12, 2009 9:38 AM

    Well, I dunno about the depreciation bit -- though mileage plays a part in your car's value, isn't depreciation primarily a function of vehicle age? And don't forget that those lowball rental figures don't include taxes, fees and the collision damage waiver. (You should find out if and how your credit card and existing auto insurance covers damage to rental cars.)

    That said, its the soft benefits that I would look to. I have a pet peeve about getting sand and mud in my car (which is ironic, because my car is pretty well cluttered with other stuff). Vacuuming out sand is a pain -- it's worth money in my book to let someone else worry about it. Driving a new car is always nice. No worries about door dings if you get the CDW. And then there's the peace of mind -- it probably won't break down, and if it does, you just call the rental company and they bring you another one. I think of things like this as a "convenience fee". Is it worth a couple extra hundred bucks to not worry about these things? If it is, rent the car. -- Aaron


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