You’re planning your vacation well in advance and you’ve got lodging, flights, and activities all planned out, but how are you going to get around? With the popularization of ride-sharing apps, taxis are effectively a thing of the past with the concept modernized and a ride home available at the tap of a button. But where does that leave rental cars? Rental cars were THE mode of transportation for decades when you were on vacation, with dozens of different car rental companies conveniently located around and often within the airport. Does that hold true today?
Let’s take a deeper look at the benefits and sticking points you and your family might have when choosing your transportation on vacation. For simplicity’s sake, “Uber” will be used to refer to all ride-sharing apps interchangeably, and policies may differ slightly between Uber, Lyft, etc.
When you’re on vacation, time is money. Your choice of transportation will impact how effectively your time is used and how long it takes to get from A to B. With an Uber, there’s a lot of waiting around to get your ride and on your way again. First, the app starts searching for nearby drivers, then it’s up to them whether or not they want to make the drive. If you’re trying to get to somewhere that won’t have another fare waiting nearby, like a suburb, then you’re likely to get skipped over for several minutes as the app raises the price to encourage drivers to accept the “undesirable” route. Conversely, going from hotel to airport is an easy route and likely won’t take any time from ordering to acceptance. Still, you will have to wait for them to finish the route they are likely in the middle of and drop off their passengers before they drive to your location. At times it can take up to half an hour to catch an Uber, especially if a big event just let out and everyone around you is also trying to get an Uber.
Conversely, a rental car is ready and waiting for you at all times. Whenever you want to leave, it’s in the parking lot a short walk away from the venue. As the day goes on and the family entourage begins to get cranky, that speedy exit will matter a lot more.
Rental > Uber
For most families, this is a simple tie as a family of four will fit into any Uber or rental car (albeit with someone sitting up front with the driver). As soon as your group expands to five people, the logistics get a bit more complicated. While you have the ability to select larger vehicles for your larger-than-average ride-sharing group, Uber XLs are harder to come by simply because larger groups are less common, and less common means higher costs. Wait times may be longer than usual as well, or alternatively you may need to take two normal-sized Ubers to get everyone to the destination.
Reserving a rental car will allow you to be specific with the rental service and ensure you have a vehicle that has enough seats for your family. Even renting just a sedan will fit a family of five, and larger families have SUVs, crossovers, and mini-vans as rental options as well.
Rental > Uber
Depending on the itinerary you have planned for the vacation, there will likely be some days you spend a lot of time driving around, heading to various attractions, and other days you spend all day staying at the resort, at a theme park, or within walking distance to other points of interest. It doesn’t make much sense to have a rental car all week if you’re only going to need it for one or two days of frequent traveling. Ubers offer you the ability to only pay for what you need, when you need it. Even better, with an Uber you never have to worry about finding parking or walking through a massive parking structure, as most of the big attractions will have a designated Uber dropoff zone near the entrance. And of course, when you have someone else driving you around, you never have to count drinks or be DD, you can live it up while you're on vacation!
Uber > Rental
Flat out, a rental car will almost always cost more than using Ubers for the entire vacation. Rental cars usually have a pretty hefty cost, even for a weeklong rental rate, not including the cost of parking at hotels, theme parks, or parking garages in the downtown area. When it gets busy and there aren’t enough Uber drivers they will raise the rate to get more drivers on the road, and still that will cost less than having a car. The only way a car might stand a chance in this category is if you intend to do a lot of sightseeing, heading to multiple destinations every day, and the parking is mostly free. Taking an Uber everywhere you need to go is the more economical option, but as such makes some tradeoffs in the other categories.
Uber > Rental
There’s nothing quite like getting the whole family situated in the car after a long day out and realizing the entire back seat has passed out on the ride home, leaving you with a quiet, peaceful drive back to the room. It’s a bit harder to get that same level of comfort with an Uber. Uber drivers are normal people too, but as such, no two are the same; some may have a spotless car, comfortable temperature, freshened air, and keep to themselves, while others may have a cluttered trunk, no AC, the car smells like their lunch, and they are super talkative (but pleasant!). For the most part, Uber drivers are safe, great drivers, and can get you to where you need to be in a timely fashion, and other drivers will make you want to jump out at the nearest corner. To some degree, taking an Uber brings a level of acceptance that you are in a stranger's vehicle and will have to abide by their rules.
Rental > Uber
Just like the rest of your vacation planning, choosing to rent a car or rely on Uber is a highly personal decision. Most will value their dollar over their comfort and choose Uber, especially with the convenience of pick-up and drop-off. Others have specific needs between their large family or jam-packed schedule and will see the worthwhile costs of a rental car. In any case you should be better informed and have the last puzzle piece of your vacation figured out and ready to book, thanks to this handy guide.