Rent A Car For A Family Road trip Or Drive Your Own Car?

I heard about a family who took a road trip last summer. They thought about renting a car, but in the end, they decided it was too expensive.  Unfortunately, they had car troubles along the way and ended up being away for home for an extra two days.  By the time they had paid for their hotel and car rentals, it would have been much much cheaper to rent.

Should You Rent A Car For a Road Trip?

Step #1: Find out how much it costs to rent a car.

For discount opaque websites, check out Hotwire.  Otherwise, check out or Orbitz.

Step #2: Calculate the distance.

Visit Google maps and type in your driving destinations.  Google with automatically give you the total mileage.

Step #3:  Estimate the cost of fuel.

Visit this fuel cost calculator to calculate the average cost to operate your vehicle, or as an appropriate reference point, you could use something like the IRS mileage rate.

Step #4: Compare the gas mileage.

Compare the gas mileage between your vehicle and the type of vehicle you would rent. 

Step #4 Compare the prices and confirm the options.

A last step before booking a rental car – if cheaper – is to check on the rental policies.  Obviously, if you are taking a road trip, unlimited miles will be important.  Just remember these days unlimited are not necessarily unlimited.  Some agencies say unlimited, but that only applies to adjoining states. 

Be sure you factor for rental insurance if you don’t have any insurance to cover this cost. 

Other Factors to Consider When Thinking About Renting a Car for Family Vacation

Comfort: Some family vehicles are just not fit for long road trips.  This could be because of the vehicle condition or simply the vehicle size.  For a vacation, you might be willing to pay the premium for a little extra leg room.

Besides, most rental cars are a nice upgrade for the typical family.

Hassle: Depending on your location, it may or may not be a hassle to pick up a rental car.  If you need to drive 30 minutes to get the car, that will certainly be an added expense. 

Peace of mind.  If there is any question if your vehicle can handle the trip, then renting a car makes complete sense.  Don’t spend hours in the vehicle sweating bullets because you wonder if the vehicle will survive the trip. 

Pre-purchase trial.  If you are considering buying a certain make and model, you might want to try and rent that car for a family road tip.  This way you can get a good feel for the vehicle before you make the final decision to buy it.  Let’s face it, some people were never built for certain types of cars. 

With the low price at some car rental locations, if you can rent a car close to what it will cost you to operate the vehicle, then you should.  Why put all those massive miles on your own vehicle? 

Have you ever rented a car for a family vacation?  How did it turn out?


  1. Sandra says

    We always rent a car if we’re making a long trip!! I figured .. I want my paid off, 100K+ family van to last as long as possible .. everything is SUPER convenient in my city – kid’s school less than a mile and 3 targets and 3 major grocery stores and TONS of eating out .. all w/i 2-5 miles of my house .. so my car just does very short trips, so I pray it’ll last YEARS longer .. just not sure it could make a 17 hour trip, one way .. so it’s well worth the $300 for car rental for several days!! :-)

    • Craig says

      Sounds like renting a car is a great idea for you! I love the idea of having a car for around town and just renting for long trips. I think you’ll save a lot in the long run.

  2. says

    Renting a car is very convenient if you can spare the money. It will save your own car from the long trips, as Sandra says. You should check for insurance if it is sufficient to cover your expenses in case you put a scratch or a bump on its fender. Driving a strange car of a different size will sometimes test your skills as a good driver especially when it is quite longer and wider than what you’re used to. I should know, I once did it.:)

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