Why rent a car? There may be a cheaper option that allows you to travel in style

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When Terika Haynes landed in Mexico, she jumped the rental car – and she jumped the cab too. Haynes, who works as a professional travel planner, did the math and determined that a limo was the cheapest option to get her and her friends from the airport to their resort.

She calculated the cost of insurance, filling the gas tank, and parking prices for the resort, not to mention the inconvenience of standing in line at the rental car counter. In short, it was not difficult to justify a limousine for his 2018 trip.

Fast forward to summer 2021, when most travel experts agree we’re in the middle of some sort of rental car apocalypse. Rental car prices are skyrocketing and some of the most popular tourist destinations are sold out with rental cars on busy weekends.

In this era of COVID-19 travel, limo rentals might not only be easier to justify – they might actually be cheaper than car rentals and taxis. In 2021, there are many instances where renting a limousine is the smart move.

What happened

Several factors are contributing to the current shortage of rental cars. Because many travelers are still hesitant to jump on a plane, car travel is hot this year. Some car rental companies have adjusted their offerings to reflect the low travel fares of 2020 – but travel has picked up faster than some had anticipated.

Add in a global semiconductor shortage that is slowing auto manufacturing, and finding a rental car in 2021 can be more difficult than finding toilet paper in 2020.

Plan ahead to get a deal

Especially in tourism dependent cities still recovering from the shock of COVID-19, it is not difficult to find a deal on a limo.

Unlike ridesharing services, where prices can fluctuate at any time, you can easily research limo deals at your destination before you arrive. Special airport transportation deals or other promotions may be offered, so you can often find a reasonable rate if you book in advance. Additionally, you may be able to negotiate the rate by contacting the company directly.

For example, in Las Vegas, stretch limousines can be found for around $ 65 an hour. Luxury sedans can be rented for even less, at around $ 45 an hour. It’s not much more than the $ 45 to $ 50 or so it would cost to hail an Uber UBER,
+ 2.21%
from the airport to downtown Las Vegas. And that’s cheaper than the $ 50- $ 65 or so it costs to use Uber Premier, which is the car’s luxury service.

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Even if you’re just going to the Strip, a carpool from the airport to a midway location, like Caesars Palace, can cost over $ 30 for the short ride, unlike the full hour you get with the rental. limousine. And if you can find a rental car in Las Vegas, be prepared to pay $ 200 – or even more – just for a weekend rental.

And it’s not exclusive to Las Vegas. Tourist towns offer several limousine options which are likely to be competitively priced.

The advantages of a limousine over rental cars or taxis

Even though the price is higher than a rental car or taxi, there are more benefits to having a limo than feeling like a VIP.

You can make several stops

Paying for individual taxis to take you between tourist destinations is not only expensive, but also includes the downside of having to hail a cab every time. A limousine will drop you off and wait for you when you are ready to go.

This was the case for real estate entrepreneur Mattias Magnusson. He lived just outside of San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge, and his family was from Europe. The group of six wanted to see all the sights – like Lombard Street and Chinatown – in one evening, and they wanted to spend a night at the famous Fairmont hotel at the top of Nob Hill.

“Saturday night prices and the availability of taxis, Uber rides and ferries were not a fun alternative,” he said. “When we compared prices, time and flexibility, it quickly became clear that booking a limo was worth it.”

Along the way, they might burst bubbles as well, which you probably can’t do in a taxi.

“With a flat rate, a vehicle that showed up on time, multiple stops, a luxury experience and six more than impressed foreigners, it was worth every penny,” he says.

You can use your limousine to stock up on travel supplies

And while you can stop at tourist destinations, you might also find yourself using your limo to make more convenient stops.

This played into Haynes’ decision to hire a limo for her trip to Mexico, which was primarily planned for her to host an event for her luxury travel company, Dynamite Travel. Upon landing, she needed to pick up supplies, decorations, and refreshments. Considering the number of stops needed for errands, a limousine was cheaper than renting a taxi, which typically charges a base fare, plus a fare measured by time and distance.

Even if you’re not hosting an event, you might want to replenish the sunscreen and toothpaste that you couldn’t carry in your carry-on rather than paying inflated prices in the convenience market. hotel. Additionally, you might consider saving money by stopping by the grocery store to stock up on snacks, alcohol, and easy-to-prepare meals (room service cereal is expensive). If you are staying in a condo or rental house, you will definitely need to stock up on food and drink.

It’s not every day that you see a limousine arrive at a grocery store, but it can make sense.

You can also have a built-in tour guide

For Karen Arrington, who works as an entrepreneur, philanthropist and founder of the Miss Black USA pageant, a limousine was a lifeline on a trip to Italy.

“Not only did my driver take me where I wanted to dine, he served as my guide and personal assistant,” she said. “He took me to the best cafes to find Italian coffee, negotiated for me with vendors because I don’t speak Italian and carried my bags.”

Who should consider limousines?

For an individual or a small group that needs a car for long periods of time most days of the trip, a rental car may be wiser. But there are times when a limousine makes sense.

Large groups

Since Haynes had a small group with her on her trip to Mexico, a limo turned out to be a money saver as well. Larger groups will likely need to rent a large van or SUV, or divide people into multiple sedans or taxis. Consolidating everyone into one limo can not only cut costs, but also reduce chaos with fragmented groups.

Visitors to towns within walking distance or with plenty of public transport

“You really don’t need a rental car in Las Vegas, New York, or most major cities, unless you plan to explore out of town more,” says Bruce Rosenberg, president of HotelPlanner.com, a website specializing in hotel reservations. for groups.

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With hotel parking fees well over $ 50 a night in many major cities, it’s probably not worth the trouble of looking after your own rental car. In Las Vegas, you’ll probably find yourself walking the Strip, which is part of the fun. And in New York, you might find that the subway is faster anyway.

Travelers staying at the resorts

If you are staying at a resort, you probably won’t be using a car a lot, if at all. Many great resorts are designed so that you never need to leave – they have all the pools, dining, entertainment, and activities you want to experience while on vacation there. Even if you want to leave the resort, it is likely that your hotel offers a shuttle service to major tourist sites. Or the concierge can probably help you book tours, including transportation.

And there’s an unintended benefit: Haynes said she found herself walking more than a normal day while on vacation in Mexico since she didn’t have a car. Without a car, you could take more steps than you are used to and your health will appreciate it.

If you’re having trouble finding a rental car

If you don’t need to rely on a car for most of your trip, it may be a good idea to skip the rental car and refuel a limo. In some cases, the cost will be a wash; in others, you might even come out on top.

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Make sure you factor in all of the costs associated with renting a car: the base rental amount, gasoline, parking fees, and even tolls in some cities.

“Compare prices and factor your transportation costs into the total cost of your trip,” says Rosenberg. “Look for hotels that offer free shuttle service to and from the airport, downtown, and popular local destinations. This is the best way to save money.

And for that occasional city break, a limo rental can be both the most glamorous – and the cheapest – way to get there.

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Sally French writes for NerdWallet. Email: [email protected] Twitter: @SAFmedia.


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