The Covid-19 Pandemic has inspired many of us to change how we travel, including how we choose to get around at a destination. With a greater desire for social distancing, many travelers these days opt to travel by rental car to help keep themselves and their families safe.
But how do you choose the perfect wheels for you? After all, there are so many options - and when you factor in overseas rental options, which are often much smaller than American cars and usually aren’t automatics, things can get tricky.
If you’ve decided on using a rental car to get around on your next vacation, use this guide from your trusted travel advisor to choose the best rental car option for you!
Things To Consider
Car Size & Seating
You may have dreams of zipping down a coastal highway in a two-seater convertible, the wind blowing in your hair. But if you’re traveling with a family of 5, this probably isn’t the best decision!
You need to make sure the car in question has enough seats for everyone in your group to be comfortable. Even the littlest travelers in your group should be comfortable - nobody wants to sit in a cramped car seat with no leg room for hours upon hours. When booking a car online, check out the number of seats in the car to make sure it’ll work for your traveling party. If this information isn’t listed on the rental site, you might try Googling the car’s specs. If that doesn’t give you the information you need, we’d advise you to pass and try to find something else. And as far as car size goes, here’s a pro tip: if you’re booking a car with a back seat, make sure there are 4 doors and not just 2! This will cut down on lots of travel frustration!
Of course, if you’re booking your rental with a travel advisor, she should be able to provide you with all of this information and help you make the best choice for your group.
Trunk Size (Or “Boot” if You’re in the UK!)
You don’t just need to consider seating options when renting a car. You also need to be aware of trunk size for luggage. Most rental cars do not have roof bars to fit extra luggage, so everyone’s bags will need to fit inside the vehicle. (The exception to this is skiing - if you’re hitting the slopes, you can rent a car with a ski rack.) Also, keep in mind that cars in Europe tend to be smaller than American cars. A good rule of advice is one small suitcase per traveler, and even that might be pushing it! But you’ll want to ensure you can fit your bags into the trunk, especially if you’re planning on making stops at tourist destinations without first checking into a hotel. Bags sitting within view is a surefire way to attract thieves!
Is Fuel Economy Important?
Thinking about your gas budget isn’t high on the list of most traveler priorities, but this cost can add up quickly. If you’re concerned about fuel efficiency, book a smaller car, especially if you’re traveling solo or with one other person. You should also calculate the distance you’re likely to drive to understand how much you’re apt to spend on gas.
When it comes to fuel economy, the class of car (Compact, Economy, Luxury, or SUV) is more important than the specific models on the rental counter. As a general rule of thumb, larger cars consume more gas. It’s important to find a good balance between the size of car you need to maximize comfort and the amount of money you’re comfortable with spending on fuel.
Make sure to read the rental car company’s fuel policy. It’s best to opt for the common “full-to-full” fuel policy to get the best bang for your buck.
Do I Need an Automatic?
If you can’t (or don’t want to) drive a manual car, it’s better to rent an automatic rather than use your vacation to experiment with a new car type! Keep an eye on the specific types of gears each car has when you’re booking. In some countries, manuals are far more common than automatics.
Do I Need Any Extra Features?
If young children are coming along on your trip, check the car seat regulations of the country you’re traveling to. Not all countries follow the same rules. You may need to book a car or booster seat in advance.
Likewise, GPS and other navigational systems aren’t guaranteed by rental companies, so be sure to ask if they’re included. If not, you may be able to request them, but you’ll likely have to pay a daily fee. Pro tip: ask your cell phone carrier how much it would cost to get an unlimited data plan in your vacation destination. Sometimes it can be worth it to pay a bit extra to have access to travel apps and navigation tools without wifi.
Finally, if you’re traveling in summer, find out if the car has proper air conditioning. There’s nothing worse than trying to enjoy a day of fun while roasting in a too-hot car!
Is the Rental Car in My Price Range?
You may be seduced by some of the bigger or faster luxury cars available to rent, but you’d be shocked at how expensive those models can be! Things like gas, security deposit, and built-in maintenance costs will all increase the rental cost of a luxury car.
Resist the hard sell at the rental counter and stick to the car that is appropriate for your needs. If you’re traveling through Italy for 3 weeks at the height of summer, prioritize comfortable seating and a powerful AC system. But if you’re doing a 2-day jaunt to Northern Ireland from Belfast, you can probably get by with something a bit more conservative.
For Best Results, Contact a Travel Advisor!
Travel Advisors spend innumerable hours researching destinations, hotels, and all the bells and whistles of the travel experience. This includes car rental options, so if you’re considering a self-drive vacation, contact Cultivating Connections Travel Planners. We’ll work with you to create an exciting trip that you’ll never forget!
WHAT TRIP SUITS YOUR PERSONALITY?
What cruise should you or your group take next? Take this quick quiz and get inspired for your next adventure!
If you are yearning for travel inspiration, this is just for you.