Owning a car costs an average of $8,776 annually, according to the American Automobile Association. That is based on 15,000 miles of driving and includes fuel, insurance, maintenance and depreciation.
Car rental companies will rent wheels by the month for as little as $589, according to Orbitz, which amounts to $7,068 per year — not including fuel, which is a major cost.
If you want to skip the bus, but still save on transportation costs, you could consider using a short-term vehicle rental service. These vehicles are rented by the hour (or sometimes by the minute) and the rental company picks up all the usual costs of car ownership.
Short-term vehicle rental is an emerging trend that is currently only available in select big cities, but it is expanding. Here are the major operators:
This subsidiary of Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler, rents tiny Smartcars for 38 cents per minute or $13.99 per hour. You also pay a one-time $35 membership fee.
Renters can book one of the two-seaters online, or use a membership card to open and drive off in any of the blue-and-white painted cars they find parked around town.
Car2go pays for gas and when renters are done using the car, they simply park in any designated space, usually located downtown or in heavily trafficked areas, and walk away.
Car2go currently operates in six North American cities and a dozen European cities.
This company operates like car2Go, except it rents more than 30 different types of vehicles.
Rates vary by location and plan, but in San Francisco, for instance, the occasional driver plan requires a $60 annual fee, $25 application fee and hourly rates of about $8.50.
Zipcar operates in 20 major U.S. cities as well as Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain and Austria.
This is a joint venture led by BMW that features the German automaker’s all-electric ActiveE sedan.
Renters pay a one-time membership fee of $39 and, after picking up the car at a DriveNow station, $12 for the first 30 minutes and 32 cents for additional minutes for a one-hour rate of $21.60.
DriveNow is available in four German cities and San Francisco.
Modo is a car-sharing co-op that requires a $20 initial registration, fee plus $50 per year and $7.50 per hour for rentals.
Renters pre-book vehicles in half-hour increments and pay penalties for late returns, cancellations and no-shows.
Modo rents a variety of vehicles, but only in Vancouver, British Columbia.
Hertz on Demand
This service is an hourly offering of the world’s largest car rental company. It requires no annual fees and charges hourly rates ranging from $5 in Boston to $8 in San Antonio.
Renters pick up and drop off vehicles, which include Nissan’s Sentra, as well as Chevy Cruze and Malibu models, at designated Hertz On Demand locations.
Hertz On Demand is in a dozen U.S. cities as well as the United Kingdom, France, Spain and Germany.
This startup charges $10 to join and $5 per month, plus $5 per hour to rent two-wheeled electric scooters, complete with helmets.
The service is available only in San Francisco and environs, and the scooters are only suitable for single passengers traveling at less than highway speed.
Breaking Down the Cost
The average adult spends just under an hour driving daily, according to the U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics.
Based on average short-term rates of about $12 hourly, the typical adult driver could spend $4,380 per year on short-term rentals, which is less than half the cost of owning a car, while still driving the same amount.
Hourly car renters sacrifice some convenience and still must pay for parking tickets, lost membership cards and other incidentals.
But, for people who live where short-term rentals are available, drive the average amount or less, and don’t need a car at their beck and call, short-term rentals appear to offer an inexpensive way to get around.
“Save Cash With Short-Term Vehicle Renting” was written by Mark Henricks.