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Alternatives to a Long-term Car Rental
by Canvas • April 11, 2019


What is Better Than a Long-term Car Rental?

Long-term car rentals fill a need between short-term rentals and vehicle leasing or ownership. While major automobile rental companies like Avis, Alamo, Budget, and Hertz offer extended-term rentals, convenience comes at a price. The bottom line is eye-popping when you factor in all the associated costs, including insurance and roadside assistance.

You should always do your due diligence before considering a long-term vehicle rental and carefully weigh all of the alternatives. Although they are convenient, extended-term agreements from the conventional car rental companies tend to be costly over the long run. It’s best to take your time, shop around, and do the math.

We searched for a three-month Ford Fiesta rental in Downtown Los Angeles and got a base rate of $1,883.70 from one rental place with unlimited mileage, which seemed reasonable. But the Protection and Safety Package with car insurance and roadside coverage added $1,280.15, with a final tally of $3,488.10. That’s a considerable chunk of change for the use of a subcompact car for three months.

With this baseline set, let’s look at some of the best alternatives.

Borrow a Car From a Family Member

Is there a spare car in your extended family? If Grandma’s well-maintained sedan is tucked away in the garage collecting dust, it might just be the perfect candidate. You can play “Let’s Make a Deal” and pay for the privilege in real dollars or barter for services rendered. A relative on a fixed budget might not need the cash. Taking care of Grandma’s yard work, on the other hand, can be a labor of love and an experience that you will treasure forever. In the long run, the best family transactions are bartered.

Keep in mind that every used vehicle requires maintenance and repairs over time. If a car has been sitting unused for an extended period of time, you’ll want to service the vehicle before driving it again. You’ll need to factor in the cost of oil changes, tire replacement, brake jobs, and the like. It’s essential that you decide on who will cover all the costs (including insurance) before striking an agreement with a family member and getting it in writing. Failing to do so can create tension and unhappiness for years on end.

Buy a Cheap Used Car

A cheap used car can be a better choice than a long-term car rental if you’re lucky. The big trick is to get into a reliable vehicle at a reasonable price and flip it once it’s outlived its usefulness. Alas, the odds are often not in your favor. Purchasing a car is an emotional process. We often fixate on things that don’t matter in the long term and ignore the things that do.

If you are handy (and have the tools), it’s possible to pick up a less-than-perfect vehicle, then fix it and flip it. If you have to pay a professional mechanic, the equation changes and you’re more likely to lose on the deal.

Some things to keep in mind:

How much will the car cost? What repairs are needed? How much will preventive maintenance cost before selling? How much will it cost to insure? What is the expected sale price? This long-term car rental alternative is a gamble, no doubt about it. If you play your cards right and the stars are aligned, you could end up with money in your pocket. Or you could set yourself up for a bunch of headaches and a pile of burned cash.

A clean 2014 Ford Fiesta might cost roughly twice the price of a three-month long-term rental.

Car Lease Takeover

You might also consider picking up a car lease transfer, choosing to pay for the remaining months on someone’s unwanted lease. Lease takeovers can be the riskiest option of all, however, and you need to consider all of the potential pitfalls. While leasees can be desperate to unload their vehicles, you could end up being liable for hidden costs when you return it to the leaseholder. If the car’s not in near-perfect condition, you’ll have to pay to make things right. Mileage limits are a significant issue as well. The upside? You’ll find a vast array of high-end vehicles. That said, the thought of a lease transfer on an exotic car may be intoxicating, but the reality is sobering.

Peer-to-Peer Car Sharing

The peer-to-peer car sharing networks present yet another option. With the peer-to-peer model, owners offer their vehicles for rent on an hourly or daily basis. The costs vary, depending on the owner’s listing price. A typical 2014 Ford Fiesta will list in the mid-twenty dollar range per day in Los Angeles on Turo. Ninety-two days (May 1 through July 31) at $25 per day will cost $2,355.84, with a 4,500-mile limit after a 5 percent monthly discount and a daily trip fee of $2.14. Unlimited mileage adds a $15 per day cost. Tack on that additional $1,380 and you’re up to a whopping $3,735.84. In this specific case, the car rental option is less expensive. Your mileage, as they say, may vary.

DriveCanvas Car Subscriptions

It should come as no surprise that we feel the car subscription model is the best alternative to long-term rentals here at Canvas. Our inclusive vehicle subscriptions include insurance, maintenance, and roadside assistance costs at the most highly competitive rates. For example, a four-door late model Ford Focus compact sedan subscription starts at $379 per month in Los Angeles. Adding $155 per month for a three-month subscription and an unlimited mileage plan for $100 brings the three-month total to $1,902 before tax.

The advantages of a Canvas car subscription are substantial. We deliver peace of mind and flexibility with every subscription. Our fleet consists of clean late model vehicles. They are all professionally maintained and spotless when picked up or dropped off (yes, we deliver!). There’s no worry about additional maintenance, roadside assistance, or insurance costs. You can swap one vehicle for another every month. This flexibility lets you commute in a thrifty Fiesta or Focus one month, then switch to a thrilling Mustang convertible for that quintessential trip up the 101 or a big roomy all-wheel-drive SUV for the perfect winter vacation. How cool is that?