Long-term car rentals: pros and cons

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Renting a car is mostly a two-dimensional experience. You either love it, because the occasion you are renting it for is very special, and driving the car of your dreams only adds to the happy feelings. Or you hate it, sort of, because it means yet another business trip away from your family and friends. In case of long-term rentals, however, it’s all in the name of convenience. The situations may vary, but if you don’t own a car, or you are stranded somewhere and need a car; or you own a car, but don’t want to put more mileage on it – long-term rental is good enough to solve your transportation problems.
Needless to say, there are pros and cons to this decision but, either way, the option is quite accessible. It’s always there if you need it.

Who usually takes advantage of long-term rentals?

Jeff S. PhotoArt / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Mostly people going on a business trip that lasts more than two weeks. If you are one of them, you’ve found out by now that renting a car is the best choice. Traditionally, the company pays the bill; it may not be your dream car, but at least you are not putting extra miles on your own. And why should you? Rentals are preferred also by vacationers who have decided to use that long drive as extended quality time spent together; or just to show the children how beautiful the country is. In the category of temporary “wanderers” falls a special group of people – the snowbirds. They often own two or more homes, and during the winter months relocate to places with a warmer climate.

Then, here come the college students, the most mobile of the long-term rentals customers. They are constantly on the move, doing something, going places. College students often rent cars during the summer when either going home, spending time with friends, or doing internships off campus.

Finally, out of sheer necessity, many people who move to a different state may need to rent a car at first, until they settle and get ready to buy.

What are the benefits of long-term rentals?

proforged / Foter / CC BY-NC-ND

Less expensive are the key words here. First, when you sign a long-term contract, the rental price drops significantly; second, your insurance costs would be reduced if purchased through the rental car agency. And it’s so much better than using public transportation. Another perk of a long-term rental is that there are no maintenance costs, except the gas fill. If something goes wrong while traveling, there is 24-hour roadside assistance available. Also, renting a specific make or model gives you a chance to try it out and eventually help you make up your mind if you’ve been thinking of buying the same model.

Disadvantages

In relation to the aforementioned fact, you may very much like the car you’ve driven for some time, so it would be hard to part with it in the end. Since you don’t own the vehicle, you have to be extra cautious because even the smallest scratch can hit your wallet with additional charges. Filling out a lot of paperwork is another downside as well as the risk of unforeseen fees that were mentioned in the small print, but you didn’t have the patience to read. When at the rental office, you need to indicate your drop-off location, or you may get fined if you change it. That may turn out to be inconvenient, since your trip could go in a different direction, and you don’t want to be a slave to some decision made weeks or months ago. You also have to remember to fill up the gas tank, otherwise you’ll end up paying double, if not more.

Useful tips to keep in mind

Donnaphoto / Foter / CC BY-ND

Just so you know, you will save a lot more if you rent a car for 60 days, instead of 30 and then renew your contract. Many long-term rentals come with different perks such as hotel rewards, frequent flyer mile programs or even a frequent renter program. Don’t forget to ask about them. Same is true for any AAA, AARP or warehouse club members’ discounts.
Also, it is understandable if you are tempted to spend a few dollars more on a SUV or some luxury car. But if you’d be the one paying for gas, perhaps it makes more sense to rent an economy or mid-size car.

When considering a long-term rental, you’d better ask the rental car company under what circumstances you can cancel your contract and if that would cost you anything. If you’re planning to travel with somebody else, find out the company’s policy in terms of adding a driver to the contract.

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