Car Rental by the Hour
Many budget travelers get into situations in which they need a car rental for a short time. They might rent the car for three days because circumstances make returning it difficult on the day it's needed. Thus, they pay for three days when in reality they only used the car for a few hours.
You now can make an online reservation for a two hour rental. It's called car sharing and it's gaining popularity all over the world.
Here's how it typically works: Cars are parked at a specified location. Members of the program have a card they swipe to open a car they've reserved online.
Travelers and residents literally share cars in cities such London, Paris and New York under the program. Typical rates in New York are about $9-10 USD/hr. but can be far less in places like Chicago or Salt Lake City. You give the company permission to charge your credit card or debit card for each rental, and the company issues a financial statement periodically.
These fees include insurance, gas, roadside assistance, maintenance, 180 daily miles and the universal key card. You simply return the car to the lot where you found it. There are fees for improper parking, lost cards and other problems. If you join, be sure you understand the expectations.
The mileage limit is designed for short runs. If you need a car for a trip several hours in length, it's best to use a conventional car rental.
Car Sharing a Growing Trend?
Some forecasts call for this to become more available and more popular. One reason is the environmental benefit of car sharing.
Hertz estimated every car sharing vehicle on the road eliminates up to 14 personal vehicles, reducing the overall number of cars on the roads. The resulting reduction in CO2 emissions, gasoline usage and clogged streets is pleasing to the green crowd.
But Hertz launched a U.S.-based car sharing service called Connect by Hertz in 2008, and shuttered it seven years later, saying "we continue to see success with car sharing in certain segments internationally.”
So there are some mixed signals in the marketplace. But it does pay to look for car sharing options. Image your savings as a budget traveler if you don't have to fill up a car rental with gasoline and buy expensive overnight parking.
If car sharing is going to flourish, it will be in large cities among people who find maintaining a car is just too expensive and not necessary within their lifestyles. When you look at the costs of parking, insurance, tolls, and fuel in major cities, it's easy to understand how this could be a viable alternative to car ownership.
Companies exploring Car Sharing
Enterprise car sharing participants pay an annual membership fee and an hourly rental rate..
U-Haul's U-Car Share program is available in more than 20 U.S. states. Rates start at $4.95/hour plus mileage and daily rates start at $62/day, which includes 180 free miles.
Budget Travelers Who Benefit Most from Car Sharing
If you make a one-time trip to some big city, car sharing won't help you very much.
But if you're a frequent visitor to large cities such as New York, Chicago, London or Paris, this option could save you a great deal in car rental fees.
Business travelers could also see reductions in their expenses. Need to pick up a client across town for lunch? Here's a way to get that done without the expense and complication of a multi-day car rental.
As with any other relatively new idea, it will be interesting to see how quickly this catches on (or does not catch on) with university students, urbanites and budget travelers. But it is another potential tool for all of us interested in saving money on travel costs.