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MMMT: 6 Reasons Why I Avoid Rental Cars Like The Plague

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Why I avoid Rental Cars

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Why I avoid Rental Cars

6 Reasons Why I Avoid Rental Cars Like The Plague

Last week I discussed why I no longer value all inclusive vacations and this week I want to talk about why I avoid rental cars.  Over the past 10 years I have rented a car one time, yup once. That was pretty much mandatory on our trip to the Keys.  We could have taken a shuttle to the keys from the airport but since we staying in Marathon too we needed to be able to get around.  Outside of Key West the Keys are not very walkable.

I know a lot of people out there, PDX Deals Guy included, that rent a car on pretty much every vacation.  Not me! There are 6 reasons why I avoid rental cars like the plague.

Reasons Behind My Madness

Here are the reasons why I avoid rental cars while on vacation, see if you agree:

Because It Is Vacation

I used to drive a lot for work, 25-30,000 miles a year, visiting customers etc. and the last thing I wanted to do was drive a car on vacation.  Driving a car in an unfamiliar area also creates stress and vacations are supposed to reduce, not increase, stress levels.

The last thing I want to do after a long flight is have to track down a car rental counter or pick up point.  For the return flight I would have to get to the airport earlier to return the car.  Then I would have to wait on the rental car shuttle or bus at some airports. That cuts into my vacation time and time is the one thing I can not make more of.

Why I avoid Rental Cars

Unfamiliar Streets & Vehicle

As stated above driving in an unfamiliar area is not what I consider fun.  When you are driving you need to focus on driving. You don’t get to take in the sights since you are focusing on which lane to be in etc.

When you are getting into an unfamiliar vehicle there can be a learning curve.  On our trip to the Keys we decided to give Silvercar a try and the navigation system in the Audi took a little getting used to.  Starting out in heavy traffic Miami led to some “fun times” in the beginning.  I guess you could rent a similar vehicle to what you have at home but where is the fun in that?

Foreign Country – Foreign Rules

Piggybacking on unfamiliar streets is unfamiliar rules in foreign countries.  That includes rules of the road and rules of the rental industry.  I don’t want to have to fight my way through the rental procedure to ensure I don’t get ripped off like Shawn had to.  Remember this is vacation, that does not sound enticing in any way.

Why I avoid Rental Cars
Athens subway train.

Public Transportation & Walking is Sooooo Much Easier

I find myself visiting places that offer a plethora of public transportation options.  On our recent trip to NYC we used the subway to hotel hop.  When in Dublin you could get to a lot of places taking the DART or trolley/train in the city.  Even Las Vegas offers a few different monorail systems to get up and down the strip.

We tend to enjoy vacations that are walkable as well. Picking the right hotel, with a great location, is very important.  It allows you to see a lot using your own two feet.  Even those All Inclusive fans out there can just hang out at the resort and have no need for a rental car.

Parking, Parking, Parking

In some places parking is hard to come by.  More and more hotels are charging a parking fee as well, even the casinos in Las Vegas rarely offer it free anymore.  On a trip to Chicago we paid $65 a night for parking on a $125 room…that is worse than resort fees!

Why I avoid Rental Cars

Rides Share Companies Have Made Renting the More Expensive Option

Uber/Lyft have been a vacationers dream, especially people like me who avoid rental cars.  Being able to call for a car wherever you are is so much easier than trying to hail a cab.  On a recent trip to Las Vegas the Uber ride to the airport from my hotel was under $7. Why would I pay $30-50 a day when I can get around for a fraction of the cost.


I know there are a lot of people out there that like to rent a car so that they can go where they want when they want.  Some people even rent a car everyday instead of owning their own vehicle.  That is not me.  I gave you the 6 reasons why I avoid rental cars at all costs, unless it is unavoidable.

Let me know whether or not you agree and why in the comments section.



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Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann
Mark Ostermann is a father, husband and miles/points fanatic. He left the corporate world after starting a family in order to be a stay at home dad. Mark is constantly looking at ways to save money and stay within budget while also taking awesome vacations with his family. When he isn't caring for his family or taking a weekend trip, Mark is working towards his goal of visiting every Major League Baseball ballpark.

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  1. Depends on your destination. I agree good public transportation and some foreign countries mean no car, but in many places your own transportation is the best way to see the world.

    BTW – for return trip to Keys, FLL a much better airport than MIA if renting a car. Much easier driving and even though MIA is closer, FLL is faster in terms of time and much easier drive.

    • Thanks for the comment Mary. I agree on FLL but I couldn’t pass up MIA’s 10,000 mile direct flight cost using Avios 🙂

  2. In urban areas, I totally get it. Public transportation always wins. In non-urban areas, however, renting is nearly always the most economical option. I also enjoy the freedom.

    But I also love to drive and I really don’t share any of the same sentiments, except for parking. Parking is the worst. Aside from that, I find driving in new places exhilarating. Some of my most fun experiences have been behind the wheel, whether it was racing across the hills of France in a Citroen at 85 mph (seriously…who sets these speed limits?), or winding through the mountains of Costa Rica.

    • Totally get that. For people who love to drive it is probably a bonus to be able to try out new cars etc. It is the last thing I want to do on vacation lol.

      I agree parking is the worst part of it, especially in more populated areas.

  3. In Maui we rented a minivan for my family in June. We found a tire flat in the condo parking lot one morning. Apparently all or most rental companies in Maui make the renter responsible for the cost of replacement of the tire if you don’t buy their insurance, if it cannot be repaired. My flat was caused by a screw which punctured the outside of the tread. 4 tire stores and Costco confirmed it couldn’t be repaired. I paid $185 for a new tire. Luckily I had paid for the rental with Chase Sapphire Preferred. The Preferred insurance paid back my $185.

  4. We have rented cars in the US and Canada over the years and dealing with the insurance issues is easy because we have our own insurance and my corporate plans with Hertz and National allow personal rentals, even as a retiree, at a great rate and include the cdw. Most of these trips have not been city based. If we have a city vacation, we don’t rent. But you have to have a car in the Hawaiian islands!

    Renting overseas is a whole other ballgame. We had not rented a car in Europe for about 18 years. Our European trips were city-based, we’d use public transportation, and we’d take a small group tour if we wanted to spend a day seeing a more remote area only reachable by car or van. But then we decided to visit Sicily last spring. This requires a car. Italy apparently bundles cdw in the rental rate so we had lengthy discussions with Hertz and Chase about the CSR’s coverage. I did a lot of research, and got some great advice from a local expert on TripAdvisor. Based on that advice, we only picked up the car when leaving Palermo and dropped it off before going into Catania, thus avoiding city driving. Lots of Italians drive as if they were road testers for Ferrari or Maserati, but luckily the traffic was reasonably light in Sicily and we were very careful. So it worked out OK. My husband is a great driver, and we were fortunate to avoid any harassment or break-ins, as we had in Spain many years ago. It was fantastic, one of the best trips we’ve taken, and would not have been possible without a car. And last fall we rented a car in France for a day, for an excursion from Honfleur to Giverny and back- very easy, a comfortable drive and easy rental experience. We found the French drivers very courteous.

    Given the choice overseas we prefer not to rent cars. We’ve done a lot of city stays across Europe, relying on public transportation and walking. However, depending on where we want to go, it may not always be an option to avoid renting a car. I really want to go to the heel and toe of Italy – can’t see how that’s possible without a car. And it doesn’t help that we are getting older which will add another dimension to car rental in some countries.

  5. So what do you do when you travel to Hawaii (excluding Honolulu)? Do you just go to the resort and stay all week? Or do you take cabs (pricy)? I dislike having to rent a car on vacation too, but find them an unavoidable expense in certain destinations that may not have Uber/Lyft, or cabs are cost prohibitive, or distances are too great.

    • When there is no other real option then I would rent but we tend to travel to places where that is not the case…at least for now.

  6. I am considering visiting the big air museum in Duxford, England. The closest rail station is about 1.5 miles away. No taxi ranks because it’s a small village. Car rental would help because there’s a lot of walking once you get to the large museum.

    I am visiting Nassau County, Long Island, New York. Using Google Maps and the street view, boy, is there a lot of walking. Bus service is not very good to where I am going.

    I have rented cars in smaller cities, like Omaha, Des Moines, and Kansas City. Getting a rental car is easy. Hertz has some navigation that is a bolt on that predates smartphones. Very easy to use. Super easy to use the “return to Hertz airport location”.

    I like to rent cars. Only not in NYC. Also Central London not good although drivers are not super aggressive.

    • Thanks for sharing Derek. I used Uber while in KC even though it is a little spread out. Probably better overall since we were drinking in the Westport area (very cool area). Not a very walkable city though imo.

  7. We use Uber and Lyft a lot. Sometimes even if having a rental. Why drive into the inner parts of a city and pay huge parking fees when Uber can be about the same as parking. We have the Uber card and that helps a lot.

  8. You also forgot to mention that these car rentals places employs unscrupulous sales agent at these check in counters to coerce travelers like us to pay ridiculous amount on company enforced “insurance”.

    Just a few months ago, me and my spouse spent an hour trying to explain to the agent in CANCUN that we do wish to pay for ANY insurance, as my AMEX Plat will have most basics collision covered. The agent came up with practically everything you can imagine in the books, from liability coverage to additional driver and theft coverage. Despite my attempts to be firm on my grounds for not paying these hundreds of dollars of ++ insurance that we absolutely don’t need, our last straw was, he had the audacity to put a 35,000 peso ($1500 usd eqv) mandatory deposit fee on top of another 10,000 peso for waiver liability deposit. I demanded he printed out the terms and show it to me, he went on spending the next hour trying to find it in English, claiming it’s a MEXICAN law, and the “internet was not working”. Fed up, we just paid the $175 “comprehensive coverage” insurance they wanted us to pay in the first place. I really wanted to go through with the rental because of the booking entitled me 1,500 bonus miles with United through a partnership promo. But in retrospect, NEVER again, it’s never worth the hassle, and Hertz is still “pending” my bonus miles. Single handedly Hertz is the absolute worst rental company to deal with. Back then, we always deal with Aviz through our partnership with SPG. Nothing of these sort of ridiculousness.

    I’m on the same page here with you in regards to avoiding car rentals in foreign countries..

  9. Great and valid points but the whole “go where u want when u want” outweighs the cons for me especially if I have limited time and want to see things off the beaten path as quickly as possible.

  10. It sounds like you only visit urban, metropolitan locales. If that’s what floats your boat, then go for it. But in the more rural, remote areas, a rental car is absolutely necessary.

    • We have been more metropolitan focused lately. I am sure we will switch over to more rural areas as the kids get a little older and we take longer trips with them.

  11. I disagree. I have been seeing a lot more rural Europe because of car rentals and we have more fun in the smaller towns and staying in Smaller towns is usually a great use of hotel redemption on the cheap (Radisson or IHG are so much cheaper in the smaller cities)

    You can also set your own schedule and see off the beaten cities/attractions with a car.

    • Fair points – it does open up other options for sure. Europe’s awesome rail system makes some of that possible without a car but not as many options.

  12. Good strategy for urban areas, but not if you plan on exploring remote National Parks or the great Southwest for instance!

    • Agree – it sometimes unavoidable. We have been focusing more on urban areas for our travels. When we have done more nature/remote things we have focused closer to home with our own car. I am sure that will change at some point in the future when we need to lug around less kid stuff.


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