These days, there are so many great alternatives to car rental it can be tough to pick the best one. Whether it’s mass transit, ridesharing services, or giving car sharing a shot, each option has its own pros and cons depending on your budget and where you’re looking to travel.
Ideally, every city would have a great mass transit system. Buses and trains are generally a safe, efficient, and affordable way to gain ground and see a new place. But unless you’re in New York City, Chicago, or a major metropolitan area, public transit can be a real roll of the dice. Sure, it’s cheap, but think of the time spent figuring out a spaghetti-like mass transit map in an already unfamiliar area. Even if you can figure out how to reach your destination, there’s likely to be a fair amount of walking and stopping time factored into your trip.
- Safe, lively, & authentic
- Efficient travel with little to no traffic (unless you’re on the bus)
- Incredibly affordable
- Unreliable if you’re not in a major city with solid mass transit infrastructure
- Time spent learning maps, navigating, and lining up transfers
- Usually doesn’t go directly to your destination
Public transportation is generally best for the patient, budget-focused travelers who don’t mind putting a little effort into navigation or the potential of getting lost.
Ten years ago, ridesharing was almost unheard of. Now, taking ride sharing services like Uber or Lyft is a regular part of traveling in a new city. Ridesharing services can be great if you don’t really need a car all that often, or you’re only traveling short distances. It’s incredibly low-effort; you can literally browse your phone instead of drive. The downside: ridesharing adds up fast due to popularity and surge pricing. It’s easy to look back on a trip one and realize you spent $100+ on ridesharing in just a few days.
- Only need to use ridesharing services a few times per trip
- Usually the fastest, most direct option
- Low-effort with the ability to take in sights and sounds
- Can be costly and variable depending on surge pricing
- Awkward small talk with drivers, coordinating pick up/drop off
Ridesharing services are generally best for the busy business traveler or when your itinerary only involves a few short-distance rides.
Scooter & bike sharing
We’ll be honest: this is probably the most fun alternative to car rental. Nothing beats zipping around bustling city streets with the wind in your face at a safe, but exciting speed of 7-10 mph (fast AND furious). Seriously though, scooters and bikes are great for short, quick trips and make for very shareable videos and pictures. Companies like Lime, Bird, Citibike, and Divvy all offer convenient subscriptions and affordable one-time use pricing. Downsides? Safety, range, and time. Flying around without a helmet drastically increases the risk of injury. Plus, scooters and bikes are incredibly unsafe for nighttime travel. If you’re trying to go more than a few city blocks, you might as well call a taxi or rent a car.
- Fun rides that make for shareable videos and pictures
- Short, quick trips to see the city
- Safety, vulnerability, and risk of injury
- Small range of distance
Scooter & Bike Sharing is good for a day trip around the city to explore hidden gems or travel short distances. It’s also best for able-bodied travelers with quick reflexes.
Car sharing is the similar alternative to renting a car to renting a car. It’s also one of the fastest-growing parts of the travel industry. You’ve still got wheels and the freedom to drive anywhere you want, but it’s generally cheaper and more laid-back.
- Great for long or short trips, the car is yours for the entire trip, so you have the freedom to drive anywhere
- Generally cheaper than renting a car and more laid back
- Experiences vary between companies
- Responsible for gas, parking, tolls, etc.
Each car sharing company does things a little differently.
With Avail, there are no young driver fees, no second driver fees and every trip is protected by insurance from Allstate. Avail car sharing gives you the best of both worlds. With Avail, you get:
- A great car at an affordable daily rate
- Protected by Allstate insurance
- The freedom & flexibility to reach destinations outside the city
- 24/7 roadside assistance
The bottom line
So, which is the best alternative to renting a car? It depends…
Staying in the city? Your best bets are:
- Public transit
- Ridesharing services
Looking to get out & explore?
Car sharing with Avail provides a flexible & affordable way to explore new places and cut the red tape of traditional car rental.