Alternative Car Options for Short-Term Drivers

posted in: Money Blog

When it comes to purchasing a vehicle, with the variety of regional and metropolitan differences, one size does not always fit all. Fortunately, there are now many options to choose from rather than going through the traditional process of buying or leasing a car.

rent a carSome people travel a lot and don’t use their cars for weeks or even months at a time. Perhaps you use public transportation most of the time, but need your own vehicle occasionally, like when family and friends are in town. Or, maybe you only need a car now, and don’t want to commit to a long-term financing plan.

Luckily, there are alternatives for those who don’t want to be stuck with a car they may not want, use or be able to afford down the road. So, before you turn to traditional auto financing, insurance and maintenance, consider one of these alternatives.

Long-Term Rental

Through most well-known rental car agencies, you can temporarily use a vehicle through a long-term car rental agreement. This is an ideal option for people who travel often for work or who only need a car for a few months. According to Enterprise, a long-term lease contract can save drivers up to $75 per month. These contracts are handled on a month-to-month basis, which can be useful for someone who is unsure how long they will need the car for a period of time. Avis has a similar option, which is called a “mini lease.” This program does not require a return contract or renewal. You are billed for each month you use the car and can return it when you no longer need it. Considering the alternative cost of financing, insurance and those surprise maintenance bills, this overall cost could make more sense for your situation and your budget.

While a long-term rental car is convenient and discounted from regular rental prices, it can still be pricey. If you need a car longer than a year, the costs can be high. However, the cost usually includes roadside assistance and other extras that you would have to pay for separately with a traditional lease.

Cancel-Anytime Lease

A cancel-anytime lease is a relatively new concept offered by used and new car dealerships. Spearheaded by DriveTime, a company that specializes in affordable car-buying options, this new way of car ownership has the benefits of a traditional lease without the long-term commitment. According to DriveTime’s social media pages, a cancel-anytime lease is a way drivers can have a car for a long period of time, while also being able to cancel that lease, upgrade to a newer car or even buy the car at any point.

This program also requires a smaller down payment, so it is an ideal option for those who want more flexible terms or don’t have a lot of money to pay up front. Again, the month-to-month cost can be a little more, but you have the flexibility that is not available with traditional car-buying programs. Unlike a long-term rental, car service is not covered with this lease program, but it does offer a “life of lease” limited warranty that covers any major issues you may have.

Car Sharing Programs

If you are really anti-commitment and looking for alternatives when it comes to car ownership, a rideshare or car sharing program may be right for you. This is especially beneficial for those living in dense metropolitan areas who only need a car one or two days a week.  Services such as ZipCar offer affordable memberships that enable you to borrow a car by the hour or by the day, depending on how long you need it.

Once you have a membership, you can search available cars in your area and reserve it for however long you need it. This is certainly a practical option for those who don’t want to pay an expensive monthly leasing fee.

To own or not to own a car. You now have choices. As you consider your own personal and family situation in your geographical location, work arrangement and household budget, it’s truly helpful to know there are now options for handling your transportation needs.