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Ride Sharing Vs. Car Rental: Which is Right for You?

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To rent or to ride? That’s a tough question. More business travelers are ditching their rental cars for Uber and Lyft, but should you do the same on your next vacation?1 Here are five factors to consider.

The Cost Factor

The biggest advantage of ride sharing vs. renting a car: It seems so much cheaper. No rental insurance costs. No parking fees. Ahhh.

But is ride sharing really less expensive? That depends on where you’re going and what you have planned. Check Uber’s rates or Lyft’s rates for your destination to get a sense of how much a ride may cost. Consider parking and gas costs, too, and don’t underestimate how many trips you’ll take.

Forbes contributor Laura Shin did an exhaustive cost analysis of ride sharing vs. renting a car for her 10-day trip to Los Angeles. She estimated $187 total to use Uber vs. $360 to rent a car; she actually spent almost $271, and also relied on friends to help drive her around. “If you’re going to be running around more than I did, hitting three or more destinations every day, that will drive your rideshare costs up, probably higher than what it would cost to rent,” she concludes. Time did its own comparison and found that Uber was cheaper than a rental car in Phoenix and Louisville, but not in Kansas City.2

The Hassle Factor

When you’re renting a car, you have to psych yourself up even to approach the counter. You know the agent’s going to push you to upgrade the car, to pay for extras and to buy rental car insurance you don’t actually need. Then, when you return the car, you’ll worry about the company charging you hundreds for paint scratches you didn’t cause. Oh, and did you know that in Europe, you may have to pay more for a rental car with an automatic transmission?3

Ride sharing, on the other hand, is pretty hassle-free. You pay, you get picked up, you get dropped off. Done.

There are ways to reduce the annoyance of renting a car, of course. Firmly decline any extras. Document the car’s condition. And before you travel, purchase the OneTrip Rental Car Protector from Allianz Global Assistance. It protects you from paying for rental car damage or theft — even overseas — by providing collision loss/damage insurance coverage up to $50,000 for just $11 per calendar day. You’ll have to figure out the stick shift yourself, however.

The Destination Factor

Before you leave for your trip, do a little research on transportation options and challenges at your destination.

How’s the traffic? Manila is notorious for having the worst traffic jams in the world. It can take an hour and a half for your Uber driver to even reach you, Wired reports.4 Renting a car with a driver may be a better, although more expensive, choice.

Is public transit widely available? If you’re heading to Moscow, Tokyo, Paris or another city renowned for its swift subway system, you probably won’t need ridesharing or a rental car.5

Is Uber even operating? Don’t expect to find the service in smaller towns or less developed countries. Uber recently abandoned Frankfurt, Dusseldorf and some other European cities after protests and regulation hampered its business.6

The Danger Factor

Are you safer with your hands on the wheel, or someone else’s? In the United States, you probably feel confident doing it yourself, unless you’re trying to drive like a Virginian in Manhattan (guilty as charged). Overseas, where the rules of the road are different, it may be smarter to trust a local driver. Did you know that in Germany, running out of gas is illegal?7

What if you get in an accident? The U.S. Uber insurance policy is pretty hefty, including up to $1 million in liability in case you’re hurt in a crash.8 Overseas, however, coverage varies. If you rent a car, the Rental Car Damage Protector may cover car damage or theft, but you’ll want to make sure you have liability coverage too.

Then, there’s the issue of ride sharing-related crimes. While Uber conducts background checks and relies on customer ratings to weed out bad drivers, assaults by drivers have occurred.9

The Freedom Factor

If you enjoy the spontaneity of seeing where the road will take you, renting a car makes more sense than ride sharing. Let’s say you’re on your way to a much-deserved vacation in Maui. Uber serves the island, so you probably get away with using the service for a ride from airport to resort, or for other quick jaunts.10 But you’ve always dreamed of driving the Hana Highway, a 52-mile stretch that takes you past lush rainforest, sweeping beaches and spectacular waterfalls. That’s when it’s time to rent the convertible, put on your sunglasses and hit the road. Travel happy!

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Jan 18, 2017