Rideshare vs Rental Car for Vacation: Which is the Better Option?

One of the most important considerations when planning a vacation is how you’ll get around once you arrive at your destination. Two popular options are ridesharing apps like Lyft and Uber and traditional rental cars.

Both have advantages and drawbacks, and the best choice often depends on your specific needs and preferences. Let’s take a dive into the pros and cons of each option to help you make an informed decision.

Lyft and Uber: On-Demand Ride-Sharing Services

Pros of Ride-Sharing Services on Vacation:

  • Convenience: One of the most significant benefits of using rideshare is convenience. With just a few taps on your iPhone or Android, you can request a ride and have a car pick you up within minutes. There’s no need to deal with the rental car check-in and check-out process.
  • No Parking Hassles: In cities where parking is limited or expensive, finding and paying for parking can be a significant inconvenience. With rideshare, you can be dropped off at your destination and forget about parking woes.
  • Flexibility: If you’re in a city with a reliable rideshare service, you can order a ride anytime, early morning or late at night.
  • No Hidden Costs: With rideshare, you see the estimated fare before you confirm your ride, which can help with budgeting. There are no additional insurance costs or refueling charges to worry about.

Cons of Ride-Sharing Services on Vacation:

  • Cost: Depending on how often you travel, the cumulative cost of multiple rideshare rides can add up, possibly surpassing the price of a rental car, especially in surge pricing times.
  • Availability: In some areas, especially remote or less populated ones, rideshare may be less readily available.
  • Lack of Privacy: With rideshare, you’re riding in someone else’s vehicle, which might provide a different level of privacy or comfort than having your rental car.

Rental Cars: The Traditional Mode of Tourist Transportation

Pros of Renting a Car on Vacation:

  • Freedom and Flexibility: With a rental car, you can go wherever you want, whenever you want. This is especially useful in areas where attractions are spread out or not easily accessible by public transport.
  • Cost-Effective for Longer Trips: If you’re traveling to a destination for a week or more or anticipate needing to drive frequently, a rental car can often be more cost-effective than multiple rideshare rides.
  • Privacy: Your rental car is your private space. You can leave personal items in it, listen to your music, and have private conversations without a driver present.
  • Luggage and Storage: A rental car can provide the necessary storage space if you have a lot of luggage. It’s also handy for storing purchases or souvenirs.

Cons of Renting a Car on Vacation:

  • Parking: Parking can be a significant concern in busy cities. It can be expensive, but finding a spot can be time-consuming.
  • Additional Costs: Rental cars often come with added expenses like insurance, fuel, and possible late return fees.
  • Navigation: While most rental cars offer GPS, navigating unfamiliar roads can still be stressful for some.

Making the Decision: Rideshare vs Rental Car

  • Duration of Stay: For short trips, rideshare might be more practical. But a rental car could offer better value for extended stays or frequent commutes.
  • Itinerary Density: A rental car provides more flexibility if your vacation is packed with activities spread out over a large area.
  • Budget: Calculate potential costs for both options, considering rental car parking fees and ridesharing surge pricing.
  • Comfort & Convenience: Rideshare might be the way to go if you value the convenience of being picked up and dropped off without the worries of navigating and parking.
  • Location: Ride-sharing might be more practical in cities with robust public transportation or a dense rideshare network. But in more remote areas, a rental car might be necessary.

Rideshare vs Rental Car for Vacation

The decision between rideshare and a rental car is highly personal, depending on your travel style, budget, and the nature of your trip. By considering these essential factors, you can make an informed decision for your vacation.

Photo Credit: [@terovesalainen/DepositPhotos]


Alexandrea Sumuel - Groves is a nationally syndicated travel writer and founder of the Wander With Alex travel blog. Her work has appeared on MSN, YAHOO!, Euronews, and FOX, ABC, and NBC affiliates across the United States. 

Alex travels to experience, eat, explore, and occasionally escape! She collaborates with destinations, vacation property management companies, and hospitality technology firms to provide her readers with exclusive insights and information.