Pros and Cons of Renting a Car while Travelling

March 20, 2013

How do you feel about renting cars when you’re going on vacation? I, personally, like relying on public transit because you get to know the city better that way, but will rent a car when I’m travelling for work. You’re in a different mood when on vacation compared to travelling for business. When planning your vacation a common thing that people often wrestle with is the decision whether or not to rent a car while travelling. Obviously, this is based heavily on where you are going and what you plan on doing while on vacation, but there are some travel destinations where it can be difficult to decide which option is best. Do you spend the extra money and get the car? Or do you wait and see once you get to your travel destination to make a decision?



The Pros of Renting a Car while Travelling

 Deciding to rent a car has its advantages and if you do decide to rent one, make sure you are covered and your auto insurance for the rental is taken care of. Once you get that in order, there are a number of pros when you rent a car for your travels:

  • You can explore at your own pace: Renting a car allows you to venture out at your own pace. You can do what you want, when you want to do it.
  • You can see more things: Renting a car provides you with more freedom to see more things. You can drive further away from your hotel and see more local sites.
  • You are not restricted to a specific place: You are not restricted to just your hotel, resort or places that are within walking distance. You can drive where ever you want to go.
  • No need to rely on public transportation: When you rent a car you don’t have to wait for public transport and you don’t have to plan your day around the time schedule of tourist shuttles.
  • You don’t have to pay for travel: Outside of gas, you won’t have to worry about paying for transportation if you want to go somewhere.


The Cons of Renting a Car while Travelling

 Renting a car when travelling may also have a number of drawbacks, so make sure that renting a car will be worth it or it could be a big waste of time and money. Here are some of the cons to consider:


  • Cost: Renting a car is going to drive up the cost of your vacation. If this is an issue, then you may want to forget about renting a car.
  • Risk: When you rent a car, there is always the risk that you could damage the vehicle or even get into an account. So, make sure your auto insurance covers you for a rental car.
  • You may not need a car: The truth is that once you get to your travel destination, you may realize that you don’t actually need the rental car. So, think twice before you book it.
  • Worry about parking: Parking could be an issue with a rental car. You may be required to pay for parking when you visit different tourist areas. Plus, you will need to make arrangements with your hotel for parking, which you may also have to pay for daily.


There are pros and cons to both sides. You just need to decide whether or not renting a car will factor into your travel plans.

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  • Money Beagle March 20, 2013 at 2:50 pm

    I’d always be worried about getting charged for damage that seems to be nitpicky where it’s unclear whether it was there before you got the car and also whether it’s even a realistic claim or just normal wear and tear. Seems I see more and more reports of people getting charged on items like this.

    The last time I rented a car was in 2007 for our honeymoon. Actually we rented two, one on each of the islands. Reallly, the second car was probably unnecessary given the little driving we did. We definitely used it on Maui.

  • Johnny Moneyseed March 20, 2013 at 3:02 pm

    If you’re renting a car, make sure you don’t rent from an airport, or right outside of an airport, because the costs will be inflated. Renting a car is a great idea though, I’d rather do that than fly, even.

  • Kurt @ Money Counselor March 20, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    Another option you may have: Carsharing. If you belong to a carsharing organization in your community, many have “roaming” arrangements with carsharing organizations in other communities. So say you belong to Hourcar in Minneapolis-Saint Paul. If you travel to San Francisco, you can use City CarShare’s huge network of cars on the Bay area (and City CarShare’s members can use Hourcar vehicles when in the Twin Cities). Since you can use and pay for carshare vehicles by the hour instead of the day, you can better customize your auto-mobility to suit your plans and save money.

  • Michelle March 20, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    We’ve only ever rented a car on 2 vacations. In Kauai it was pretty much a need. Taxis were too expensive and we wanted to drive around! The cost was insane in Kauai though.

  • John S @ Frugal Rules March 21, 2013 at 10:28 am

    Now that we have kids we generally drive for our vacations and thus just se our own car. Before we had kids we really enjoyed just using public transportation as we felt that we could get a better feel for the city.

  • Alan@escapingmydebt March 21, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    Hi Marissa,
    Good article. We typically do not rent cars because we can rely on other forms of transportation as you mention, unless on a business trip. Before traveling though, I do look at the costs of renting and try to compare it to how much it may cost for public transportation, especially to and from the airport. Sometimes renting may be a cheaper way to go if it is a shorter trip.

  • Country Girl March 21, 2013 at 12:28 pm

    It really depends on where I’m going whether or not I grab a rental car. I’m not a big fan of driving in cities (I guess I’m just too used to wide open, quiet highways) so if I’m going to a city, I’ll skip getting a car. If I know I’ll be outside of the city limits primarily, I’ll rent a car. With a car, I can go exactly where I want, when I want.

  • Jon @ MoneySmartGuides March 21, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    If I am staying in a city, I don’t rent a car and just take public transit. If I plan to be out in the country or there is an attraction that I plan to visit, then I will rent the car.

    When I went to Ireland last year we rented a car because we were driving throughout the country. It was nerve-racking at first, learning to drive on the other side of the road. I got that down fairly quickly however. The toughest part was remembering what side of the road to turn onto at an intersection. Almost got into an accident one day.

  • Pat Drummond March 22, 2013 at 10:45 pm

    It really depends on the city you go to. In most cases, public transit or taxi is much more convenient. Although, it requires some planning ahead of time to avoid extra costs of travel. In some countries, it’s probably better to go take transit because you’re really not sure of how the country handles accidents and insurance claims. -Pat

  • Felix Lee March 25, 2013 at 2:01 am

    When travelling for a vacation, I always include in my budget the renting of a car. It is much more comfortable to tour around the place with a car of your own rather than to commute.

  • Jon A April 9, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    When we go on vacations we make sure to rent a car because then we aren’t confined to a tour group or the limits of public transit. We explored all of Hawaii in a couple days and had the best time going at our own pace!

  • HS @ SmartMoneyJunction May 5, 2013 at 9:54 am

    I have myself rented a few cars when out on vacation and although it increases the expense of the vacation, at the same time it provides me with the freedom to explore the town at my own pace, which is exactly what I like to do.