Is It Cheaper To Rent a Car or Use Uber?

Is It Cheaper To Rent a Car or Use Uber?

If you’re a frequent business traveler or if you are planning a fun trip for the family, you want everything to go as smoothly as possible, and if you can save a little money, it’s even better! One aspect of traveling and vacationing that is a cause for concern is transportation, which can be a hassle and an expensive nightmare. Luckily, there are many options to choose from and if you know in advance, you can actually save yourself some trouble.

Is it cheaper to rent a car or use Uber? It is cheaper to use Uber on short trips in urban areas that offer a variety of other transportation options because you would not need to make use of a car frequently. A rental car will be cheaper on longer trips in areas that do not have convenient public transportation systems.

Several factors affect the cost of renting a car or riding an Uber. Many expenses vary based in the city you visit, but there are similarities.  How expensive and convenient is parking?  How much will it cost for auto insurance on a rental car?  What is the price of gas, and what is the base rate of a rental car? 

Read below to find out the various factors you should consider before traveling and deciding whether to rent or use a ride-sharing app.

How Much Does It Cost to Rent a Car vs. Use Uber?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. On average, you can rent a car from a national car rental company like Hertz for around $150 – $325 per day or research other options like Turo.  These rental rates are not guaranteed, and there are often hidden fees and costs associated with renting a car or using a service like Turo. 

Similarly, while the average Uber ride is around $14, this rate will change dramatically based on your ride duration, the number of stops, and the city you are visiting.

Here are the factors we will consider to determine if it is cheaper to rent a car or use Uber while traveling on vacation.

1. Duration of Trip

2. Travel Location

3. Availability of Parking

4. Need for Automotive Transport

5. Consider Hidden Costs (Gas, Insurance, Stops)

6. Convenience

Let’s have a look at each.

1. Duration of Trip

The factors in this article are all linked, so you have to approach this holistically and not just focus on one component over the other. The duration of your trip will have a dramatic impact on how much you end up paying. Generally speaking, for a short trip, say a business trip over the weekend, you may be better off using an Uber.

On shorter trips, you are likely going to stay within the city, and your longest ride will most likely be from your hotel room to the airport. On the other hand, with longer trips, you may want to go outside the bounds of the city and may check out various restaurants, museums, and other sites with the family. So on longer trips that go over a week or ten days then renting a car will probably cost less.

2. Travel Location

Renting or Uber may be extremely expensive in some cities over others. For instance, on international trips, you may be required to pay for car insurance and a temporary permit. For instance, in places like Italy and Costa Rica, renting a car is very expensive. One the other hand, in places like Egypt and Indonesia, riding an Uber is especially cheap.

The reverse is also true in countries like Norway that have super expensive Uber rides. So you have to consider where you are going to and research the car rental and Uber rates in the city and county you plan to visit.

3. Availability of Parking

This is a big one. Not only can parking be extremely expensive, but it can also be a huge hassle! In popular travel cities like San Francisco, New Orleans, Paris, and Florence parking can go upwards of $50 per night, not to mention the fact that in many places you can only find parallel parking which, let’s admit, isn’t exactly easy.

In cities where parking is an issue or expensive, Uber may not only be the more convenient option, but it will likely be cheaper. In these instances, longer trips may also be cheaper with Uber.

4. Need for Automotive Transport

This is just a fancy way of saying, can you walk or do you always need a car? In cities like New York and London, you can and should walk around! I mean these cities are beautiful and you are traveling right?

If you really need to get somewhere far away, consider the subway, a bus, or renting a bike. In any case, many cities are very walkable and getting around on foot is not only a perfect way to go sightseeing but also very inexpensive.

So if you can walk to most places then go with an Uber, even on long trips, because then you pretty much only need it to get to and from the airport.

5. Consider Hidden Costs (Gas, Insurance, Stops)

When it comes to renting a car or taking an Uber, there are a few hidden fees and costs that you should know about. For the most part, Uber is pretty straightforward. You get charged per mile, but you also get charged for the time so the driver doesn’t lose money in traffic or when he or she has to wait for you at a stop (you can add up to three stops from your Uber app).

On the other hand, renting a car is pretty much like walking into a world of unforeseen costs and fees. In many countries, buying insurance is a federal law when getting a rental car. It’s not in the US, but the company may require you to get insurance which may cost you up to $20 per day (that number can easily double if you are under 25 or have a poor driving record).

You should also consider paying for gas. Now, this isn’t a huge cost, especially in states like Texas, but if you are in California, then it may end up costing you more than you had intended, making Uber the cheaper option.

You also have to consider where you rent the car or pick up an Uber. For instance, in airports, car rental companies can cost much more since they know you need a car urgently. Similarly, Uber has pricer zones where it will cost you more if you order one from there.

6. Convenience

When you’re traveling with friends, a loved one, or your family, in addition to the cost, convenience may be your top priority. No one wants to ruin a trip by worrying about seemingly irrelevant things.

When it comes to convenience, nothing beats Uber. With Uber you don’t have to deal with waiting in line at a rental place (I mentioned Turo before, it’s like the Airbnb of cars so compared to rental business, it is definitely more convenient), picking out your car, getting insurance, filling up on gas, or finding and paying for parking.

Sure with Uber, you have issues like the lack of privacy and safety, which has become a bit of a hot topic in light of attacks on poor drivers. Also, with Uber, there is an availability issue sometimes. You can’t always find a car around, and when you do, it may take up to 30 minutes to get to you. Still, overall an Uber is more convenient than renting a car.

While you can’t put an exact price tag on convenience, it’s one of those priceless luxuries that is definitely worth it, especially on a well-deserved family vacation.

As you can see, in certain instances, renting a car makes more sense and is cheaper overall, especially on long trips where parking is not an issue and gas is cheap. Still, in most tourist destinations, large cities, and on shorter trips, Uber makes more sense from a price and convenience standpoint.

Dan Ferrantelli

I'm Dan Ferrantelli. I discovered rideshare through my wife and daughter who used the service a full year before I decided to try it. Now I am a part-time Uber & Lyft driver and love sharing my experiences with others. I'm also an entrepreneur who has developed several businesses and I have a passion to write! I hope you enjoy the articles I post. Kind feedback is always welcome.

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