Dump the Car Payment and Rent Instead

Rental Car Counter

We do it with our housing. Why not transportation?

Have you considered renting a car occasionally instead of buying?

This is what Tomi Grover does.

I met Tomi at an online entrepreneur’s networking function last weekend. She confidently told a group of us that she doesn’t own a car. Instead, she rents a car only when she needs it.

Knowing Tomi lived in the sprawling suburbs of the Dallas / Fort Worth Metroplex, where everyone needs a car, I thought this was impressive.

We’ve all heard of people near urban centers making use of car share/rental services like ZipCar and Car2Go. But those services have yet to reach the burbs.

Saying Goodbye to Car Payments…the Hard Way

Tomi’s relationship with cars hasn’t always been so functional. She calls herself a “car enthusiast”. She grew up in a family that only drove new cars.

She says her father smoked cigarettes, and as soon as “the ash tray got full” he would trade in the car for a new one.

Fast forward to 2010, and Tomi’s love affair with cars had fixed itself on an Acura TL with leather interior. It would be her last car though.

A major medical issue left her unable to pursue her entrepreneurial dreams, and thus, unable to make her car payments. She gave up her car and even chose to cash out some of her retirement to pay for some of the medical debt.

Since that time, Tomi has recovered and continued to pursue her entrepreneurial, mission-minded dreams (even completing a book this year).

But she hasn’t returned to the world of car payments.

Fortunately, Tomi’s husband, who works in law enforcement, was able to purchase a truck. Tomi is able to use the truck, when her husband isn’t working one of his two jobs. She also occasionally borrows a vehicle from her children.

This approach isn’t for everyone. Like me, Tomi mostly works from home. She’s an author, speaker, teacher, and info-preneur on the issue of human trafficking. Her work requires that she travel away from her home a few times a month to mostly regional locations. It’s obviously more difficult to borrow a car for these trips.

Renting Occasionally vs Buying a Car Outright

Instead of buying a car, which would come with insurance and maintenance costs – not to mention a car loan or large cash outlay – Tomi has decided to rent.

This decision isn’t so uncommon. It was recently discussed in the Mr. Money Mustache forums. See this thread for more of the financial breakdown of the rent vs buy used comparison.

Tomi rents mostly from Enterprise, who has a location just two miles from her home. Enterprise will “pick you up”, which in Tomi’s case, gives them a leg up on the competition.

Many people are taking Enterprise up on this offer. I spoke with a representative and they said roughly half of the customers who rent from their “neighborhood” rental locations use the “pick me up” service.

Enterprise also has weekend rates as low as $9.99 per day. This is limited to 100 miles per day, but Tomi says this is often more than enough for her weekend speaking gigs.

Joining the Enterprise rewards program, Enterprise Plus, has also been a good way to lower rental prices and occasionally qualify for free rentals and upgrades, says Tomi.

Tip: Check out these other car rental money-saving tips from a former Enterprise employee.

Sell Your Second Car and Rent Instead?

I’m certainly inspired by Tomi’s story. It made me reflect on my own situation.

We have two cars. Since I work from home, we could potentially get away with dropping to one car. It would be inconvenient in ways, but it’s certainly do-able.

I look out my front window and see my 2002 Honda Accord. It’s long since paid for, but I’m paying roughly $60 a month in insurance costs, plus $450 annually in taxes, fees, and maintenance.

Should I sell it, invest the cash, and only rent when I need a car? Definitely something to consider.

What about you? Have you considered renting for your transportation needs?

Image by peanutian

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About Philip Taylor, CPA

Philip Taylor, aka "PT", is a CPA, blogger, podcaster, husband, and father of three. PT is also the founder and CEO of the personal finance industry conference and trade show, FinCon. He created this website back in 2007 to share his advice on money, hold himself accountable (while paying off over $75k in debt), and to meet others passionate about moving toward financial independence. He uses Personal Capital to track his wealth. All the content on this blog is original and created or edited by PT.


  1. doctorofcredit says

    I don’t own a car or rent, I live in a neighborhood where I can catch public transport or ride my bike. I pay a bit more in rent, my commute is much shorter and I save thousands each year.

  2. CollegeMomCFU says

    In most states this won’t work if you are under 21 and if you are under 25 you may face a hefty underage surcharge, but it is an interesting idea. I actually rented a car for a weekend trip several years ago when my ten-yr-old car was acting up and I didn’t want to push it. If you think about it, we often rent vehicles that we don’t use often enough to warrant buying – pickup trucks, moving vans, etc. I think if you only need a vehicle a couple of times a month it absolutely makes sense in certain situations to rent rather than own.

  3. Philip Taylor says

    Tyler_DebtReckoning Having a paid off, reliable vehicle is great. Yeah, this doesn’t work as well if there’s no rental location close by.

  4. Tyler_DebtReckoning says

    While I like the idea of avoiding a car payment, I do like having access to my own vehicle when I need it.  Perhaps if I lived in a big city this would be idea.  For now, I’m hanging on to my paid for truck.

  5. Insurance Hunter says

    I think that this is a great idea if you live in a big city. You can use public transportation to get around when you need to and then rent a car when you need it for longer trips. You can also use car sharing as well if you need a car in the city. This will save you money over time because you wont have regular car payments or insurance costs.

  6. HullFinancial says

    Before you make a decision like that, you need data. Not just a few days worth, but probably several months. You need know how much you drive the second vehicle when the first vehicle is unavailable, how far you drive, how much it costs, etc. Once you have that information, you can make a reasonably informed decision about whether or not the occasional Zipcar/Uber/ride on the back of a kid’s bike option is the more economical. Most of us are willing to pay more to have the convenience, but if it truly is a convenience, then its utility can be measured and we can figure out how much we’re paying for that convenience.

  7. DebtChronicles says

    This really has me thinking….I drop my wife off at her morning job because it’s on my way to where I work.  When it’s time for her to go to her afternoon job I pick her up and drop her off so she doesn’t have to pay for parking downtown.  The net is, we use our second car VERY infrequently.  Renting a car for a day when we need a second vehicle may be an option that would work for us…especially when there’s a car rental place just a few blocks from our home.

  8. artofbeingcheap says

    Interesting idea.  I would take this one step further and say this also applies to getting a smaller car when you only need a bigger vehicle or a truck once in a while.  Some people think they need a truck because they haul stuff twice a year.  If you get the smaller car and rent a truck twice a year when you need it you will save a bunch of money.