Whoops! We went on vacation. Twice. So let’s talk about rental cars, now that I have rented them 3 times in the last month.
So June was a more expensive month for us. We took a weekend at the beach and then one in Seattle and each time we rented a car. Portland is a fairly inexpensive city for car rentals, so our grand total cost for car rental was $150 plus gas, which was about $75. We have been using the Dollar Rental car “lock low and go” deal, which means that we pay for a compact car and then we get what we get, which is at least a compact and maybe better. The first weekend we were given a Rav4 and the next week I spent $30 to upgrade to a Subaru Outback from the compact since we were going to be on a longer drive. Overall, I have to say that the rental car experience has been really painless and not as expensive as I feared it would be. My main reluctance with not having a car was limiting ourselves on taking trips, and so far we have come in at or under budget. Plus, we’re getting better gas mileage and we have no worry regarding our car breaking down (always a worry with an 11 year old car with 140,000 miles). So, while my expenses for cars will be higher in the summer, it’s still way less than maintenance on our van and our gas cost is about 60% of what it would be if we were using our own vehicle.
I’ve learned a few tricks this month on renting cars. First, it’s best to reserve at as low a rate as possible, because upgrading a car at the counter is nearly always significantly less expensive than reserving the car you want up front. Second, shop around every time. Rates will vary widely, even for different locations of the same agency. Third, generally the rental cost at a non-airport location is less expensive because there are no airport origination fees. Fourth, always recheck rates before you pick up your rental – they often change. It’s free to cancel and rebook a reservation and it can save quite a bit of money. For our beach trip last week, I rechecked and switched our reservation from one location to another and I dropped the 8 day rental cost from $200 to $150, even with the extra charge for the airport fee. The agent said they had an unusually high number of returns for that day, which probably accounted for the low rate.
We had a long talk last night about long term goals for our family, and the car discussion came up. We agreed that if our only real need for a car is for trips, that renting cars will always be more cost effective than buying one. The test will be on whether or not we need a car for daily life maintenance in the winter, so we committed to extending the car free trial period to a year. I’ll be keeping a running tab of rental car expenses, so that we can evaluate that cost at the end of the year vs. what we would spend to buy a new car. We have decided that fixing the van is not our best option since we won’t ever really feel confident with it on longer road trips. We’re looking into our best option for selling it this summer.
Oh, we did one more thing in June that will make our day to day bike transportation much easier. Especially those grocery store trips. We bought this.
Tomorrow, we’ll talk about our new-to-us Bakfiets. I’m in love.