Car Decisions

We love driving but in our travels, we constantly balance the use of rental cars versus other means of local transportation (rail, mass transit, cabs, and ride-hailing services). There are some cities, such as San Francisco, where we simply don't drive and instead rely upon ride-hailing services and public transportation such as BART. In some major cities around the world, renting a car introduces hassles and additional costs. The car itself, fuel, tolls, and parking costs (plus theft in San Francisco's case) lead us to rent cars only when they are used often -- we see no reason to rent a car to drive from an airport to hotel when the car's simply going to be parked for multiple days! And when the trip is simply from the airport to one fixed point, it's beneficial to compare transit solutions. In a recent article, eTurboNews (a travel industry news source) reviewed and compared the average cost of a basic rental car, traditional taxi, and Uber.

About eTurboNews' Assumptions

Before reviewing the eTurboNews chart, it's important to note a few assumptions inherent in their data:

  • The taxi fare and Uber fares provided are each way from the airport.
  • Some cities with Uber fares listed technically don't allow Uber at the airport (looking your way, Santiago, CL).
  • The car rate is an approximation for a single 24-hour rental period, such as a one-day business meeting.
  • Percentage comparisons between car cost and taxi cost require a round-trip (two taxi fares).
  • eTurboNews does not include parking, tolls, or fuel in the rental car calculations.

Like any other approximation, the data has to be taken with a canister of salt but for many individuals who are simply going to/from the airport to the city center, rental cars might not make sense.

  • Two of the 85 cities don't have rental cars available!
  • In 22 of the 85 cities, it was less expensive to take a taxi round-trip than the base rental car rate (again, that's even before parking, tolls, or fuel). 
  • In most cities with Uber, the savings over a taxi were substantial but ...
  • Eleven cities have regulated structures where taxis are cheaper than Uber.

There are still places where a taxi can take us to the other side of town!

In fact, there are even cities in the world where round-trip transportation to/from the airport/downtown in a taxi or Uber are cheaper than an award day redemption in some U.S. cities (sorry again, San Francisco). 

eTurboNews isn't a definitive new source but provides a decent starting point. The site doesn't account for potentially major costs of rental cars like fuel, tolls, and parking. The site also doesn't account for the fantastic rental car savings AutoSlash finds on behalf of our fellow travelers every day! Or other transportation options frequently available such as rail, light-rail, or buses. Or the discounts we write about with ride-hailing firms; although many of those programs have rules that theoretically only apply to rides in the United States, we've been pleasantly surprised in our global travels!


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