If you're planning a long road trip this summer, consider ditching your own car for a rental.
With gasoline prices rising above $4 a gallon on average across the US and analyst predictions oil may be $150 a barrel by Independence Day, the cost of driving is getting more and more expensive.
As a result, many people are considering cutting back on the amount of driving they plan to do this summer and staying closer to home in order to save money. For those who are still planning summer road trips, one way to save may be to head out on the road in a rental car from a place like Avis (CAR), Hertz (HTZ) or Enterprise.
While rental cars are an obvious choice when you fly to your destination and need transportation once there, those who are leaving from their home rarely consider taking a rental car when they can use their own vehicle.
Before automatically opting for your own car, however, it's worth taking the time to run the numbers. You may be surprised at how much you could end up saving by renting.
Whether it makes sense to rent a car instead of taking your own depends a lot on the your car's gas mileage and how many miles you plan to travel. If you already own a fuel-efficient car, this won't necessarily make as much sense as if you own a vehicle with poor gas mileage, but still can if you plan to sell your car in the future.
Renting a Toyota (TM) Hybrid Prius instead of taking your own SUV can mean a difference of 30+ miles a gallon in fuel efficiency.
In this situation, the farther you plan to drive, the more appealing a rental car becomes.
Unless you are taking a long road trip, gas savings alone won't usually cover the price of the rental car. Even with a 30 mpg difference, driving 200 miles a day would save about six gallons of gas, or $24.
Taking into account maintenance and tire costs (estimated at $0.059 per mile) would add a savings of nearly $12 more, for a total savings of $36. For this price you can rent a fuel-efficient car, especially if you take advantage of the many available discounts.
Big savings can come into play if you plan to sell your car in the future. A car's value depreciates at an estimated $0.286 per mile. If you plan to drive 200 miles a day for a week-long trip, renting a car saves $400 on car depreciation by leaving 1400 miles off your own car.
Again, it's important to run the numbers for your specific situation, but taking into account maintenance and depreciation can make renting a car a good deal.
Whether it's for a long road trip or just to drive around town, if you are going to be getting a rental car this summer.