Should You Rent a Car for a Road Trip?

Road trips are the safest form of travel for summer 2020 because they allow you to properly social distance and stay safe while exploring. Not to mention, gas prices are at all-time lows right now, making road trips extra appealing. Whether you’re driving 200 or 2,000 miles this season, you should weigh whether to rent a car for a road trip or drive your own.

Things to consider when renting a car for a road trip

Vehicle Comfort and Size

Spending hours in your car shouldn’t be an uncomfortable experience. Road trips are meant to be enjoyed! If you typically drive a sedan but need extra space for your children, pets, or equipment, renting an SUV or van can be a smart solution.

Vehicle Wear and Tear

Consider the age and condition of your vehicle. If a few hundred miles will test your car’s longevity, it’s likely not worth using it for a road trip. While you can get roadside assistance through AAA for any mishaps, the stress associated with an unreliable car could damper your vacation.

And don’t forget about the impacts on car maintenance. Will you need to get an oil change before or after? Will the mileage of your trip impact tire replacement? Renting a car for a road trip can help avoid these added costs.

Gas Mileage

Even though gas prices are at historic lows, it’s still important to budget fuel costs for your road trip. If your car has poor fuel efficiency and gets less than 20 miles to the gallon, it could be advantageous and cost-effective to rent.

Especially an electric vehicle. According to the U.S. Office of Energy Electricity & Renewable Energy, electric vehicles can cut the cost of gas in half.

Use AAA’s Gas Cost Calculator to determine approximate costs and compare vehicle models. And use your AAA phone app to find the cheapest gas stations throughout your journey.

Leasing Mileage

If you lease a car, renting a car for a road trip is a smart idea. Your lease includes limitations on mileage, and it can be costly if you exceed what’s outlined in your agreement. The per-mile penalty varies by lease, but can run as high as $0.25 per mile. That would be $125 for every 500 miles over the limit.

RVs or Campers

RVs are expected to rise in popularity during summer 2020 because they offer a safe solution for contained travel. If you want to avoid hotels, but aren’t into traditional camping, RVs provide a comfortable alternative.

AAA has partners with Rollick and Outdoorsy to get members an $40 coupon for their first night renting an RV.

Excitement and Amenities

When you rent a car for a road trip, you can pick a vehicle specifically for pleasure purposes. Want to explore the open road with a sunroof, in a convertible, or with a Jeep? Go for it and rent your dream car!

Or if you want technology upgrades like Bluetooth connectivity or in-car video monitors for your kids, you can rent a vehicle with those specific offerings.

How much does it cost to rent a car for a road trip?

Typical car rental fees are between $30-$80/day based on vehicle type and size. When booking with AAA, members can get 20% off daily, weekend, weekly and monthly rentals.

Let’s look at a 1,200 mile trip that spans 7 days and compare pricing.

For rental at $50/day for 7 days, the cost is $350. According to the EPA, the average vehicle gets about 25 miles per gallon. So you’d need about 50 gallons of gas for your trip. While fuel prices vary, let’s assume a cost of $2 per gallon. At that rate, you’ll pay $100 for gas. Adding it all up, renting a car will cost you around $450.

What is the cost of using your own car? The IRS sets an average cost per mile, incorporating gasoline, maintenance, and wear and tear. As of January 1, 2020, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car, van, pickup, or panel truck are 57.5 cents per mile. So, for a 1,200-mile trip, that’s $690.

In this instance, when you incorporate wear and tear on your car, renting is notably cheaper.

Is AAA Emergency Roadside Assistance available for rental cars?

You bet! If you are a AAA member, help is available to you. Your AAA membership follows the driver, not the car.  If you pop a tire or experience engine issues while driving a rental car, you can still call on AAA to help. Operating nationwide, you are likely never to be too far away from a AAA emergency roadside team.

Road trip rental savings

We’re dedicated to helping members have positive car and travel experiences. That’s why AAA members gain access to car and RV rental discounts.

Working with partners like Hertz, members get discounts up to 20% on daily, weekend, weekly and monthly rentals. You can also add a qualified AAA driver to the rental at no extra charge – a savings of $13.50 per day, per driver.

And as mentioned previously, AAA has partnered with Rollick and Outdoorsy to get members an exclusive $40 coupon for their first night renting an RV.

 

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