Car rentals – godsend or godforsaken?
So Streetcar has acquired another feather in its cap, as they promise to allow drivers that travel less than 200 miles a day to pay exactly infinity times less than the price of the petrol they used. With petrol prices as they are, infinity still struggles to fraction the cost to £0, but it just about manages it. Having said all that, feathers must also be tugged out of Streetcar’s cap for stipulating you must borrow the car for over 48 hours for the free fuel bonanza to take place and also adding a £10 surcharge to the daily hire rates of its most popular vehicles.
Nonetheless, the car rentals business is booming – and especially so in cities where owning a car is about as useful as having toasters for legs (hello London!). The bigger fishes in the rentals market – City Car Club, Streetcar, WhizzGo and Zipcar – are making ripples by providing alternatives to owning cars plus additional dubious benefits such as freedom from London's congestion charge and locating and unlocking your car via an iPhone (hello iPhone!). But at the same time subverting themselves by usually requiring you to drop off your car in the same place you picked it up. Pfft.
So how do these pros and cons pan out against the cost of actually owning a car? Well with a rental, you can flip the bird to:
- maintenance costs
- road tax
- breakdown cover
- the cost of the car
That’s a fair amount of savings. For comparison, Streetcar’s rates start at £3.95/hour or £39.50/day all-in. But downsides to rentals include:
- loss of freedom/flexibility
- have to book in advance
- no guarantee of car availability
- unavailable for frequent use (e.g. commuting / driving round and round the M25 all day for no other reason than to congest it beyond logic – you know who you are)
- benefits vary by location (better in cities)
- need to drop car off in the same place you picked it up. Pfft.
But what of you dear readers? Do you use rental cars or prefer to own a pimpable ride? Are rentals worth the gradually increasing savings – or do you need to be a high-mileage commuter living in a crime-ridden city to make them worth a punt?