Sharing vs. Renting

How do we stack up?

At CarShare Vermont, our members frequently ask us if they can use our cars for longer, out-of-town trips. While we’ve never had any restrictions on the duration members can use our cars, we’ve always recommended that they shop around and price compare with car rentals for longer jaunts. Traditionally, car-sharing and renting compliment each other where car-sharing is ideal for short-term trips, and renting is often more cost effective for multi-day jaunts. However, we’re finding lately that more and more of our members are opting to use our cars in lieu of rentals for longer road trips, claiming that we’re not only price competitive, but we’re actually saving them some money.

We decided to do a bit of research to better aid our members in making the decision to share or rent. It largely comes down to whether or not you have an auto insurance policy that will cover a rental, and whether you’d need (or want) to supplement that policy with additional coverages. If you own a car, typicaly your personal auto policy will cover liability; but you may choose to purchase additional waivers for collision and losses—these add-ons can more than double the base price of the rental (of course, if you don’t own a car, you’ll need to purchase liability coverage at the very least, usually for an additional $18+ a day). With car-sharing, comprehensive insurance is automatically included with every trip and transparent in our rates.

Another important consideration when trying to decide whether to rent or share is the price of gas. Gas is always included with car-sharing, but you pay out-of-pocket for it with a rental. This can add up if you’re going on a long distance trip. (Also, keep in mind that some rentals impose a mileage restriction that requires you to pay a per mile fee, in addition to the fuel you’re buying, when you exceed a certain number of miles.)

The numbers aside, car-sharing offers some conveniences and flexibility over renting, and these are also worth noting:

  • Our cars are dispersed in neighborhoods near where our members live and work, making it quick and easy to access them;
  • You can pick-up and/or drop-off a car 24/7; and
  • There’s never any paperwork or waiting in line because our cars are self-accessible.

For an apples to apples comparison of car-sharing versus car renting, check out one of our favorite blogs: Car Free in BTV. Note that the blog’s author also happens to be our newest board member, Ross Nizlek. Ross may be partial to car-sharing, but he offers a thorough and thoughtful analysis.

Our intent with sharing this information is not to discourage our members from continuing to rent cars. On the contrary, we maintain that sharing and renting both fill a niche and help our members own fewer cars without hinderng their freedom. And while we’d prefer that not all of our cars be tied up on week-long excursions at once (that would kind of defeat the purpose of community-based car-sharing), we hope our members will use our cars however they need to maximize the benefits of their membership, including saving a few bucks.