If you Need to Hire a car, how do you Work out the Cheapest or Best Option?
I sold my car when I moved to Melbourne because I lived close to the city and no longer needed it. A few times in the past few years I have hired a car or used car share services. When you add up the cost of owning a car with petrol, maintenance, insurance, depreciation and replacement, it gets expensive fast! Have you ever worked out the total cost of ownership for you? It’s eye-opening!
As someone who rarely needed my car, it made sense to rent/carshare as needed instead of own. When I lived in Canberra, it was better to own.
Here are the pros, cons, costs and more of each carshare option then the car rental companies I have used.
Disclosure, we do use affiliate links on the site. Read the full disclosure here. This is our honest review of each platform in February 2017. Updates as indicated since then.
How Did I Compare?
Either myself or people I know used each service so we could provide an accurate comparison. On my block I have Car Next Door, Go Get, Flexicar, RACV Carshare and a few others. I’ve been able to see who is using which one, the type of cars available, costs and overall experience. Be aware, all of them will pre-authorise your card with an amount e.g. $250.
As a base for this comparison, I am using a Toyota Corolla style car. You can hire larger cars on each platform, including vans to move larger items. When comparing car hire for this type of car it varied drastically depending on dates and locations except for carshare companies. I tried a variety of dates for Melbourne and the cost from a regular car hire was $126.30 to $169.84 for 24 hours, whereas Brisbane was only $59.82 to $65.05 for the same dates! So that’s the starting point, anywhere from $60 to $170. Plus you need to pay for fuel. Carshare for short, local trips worked out cheaper.
Car Next Door – Cheapest
Updated Dec 24, 2019. I have continued to use Car Next Door mainly because I had credit. It is not my preferred option. And with recent changes to their terms of service, I wouldn’t be inclined to rent my car out through them if I owned one anymore.
If you want the cheapest option, Car Next Door is it. From $25.00 a day or just $5.00 per hour and just $0.33km plus a $4.99 booking fee (unless you are on the $19 a month plan, which then removes that booking fee), it is priced well. Plus you can get $15 off your first trip here, making it even cheaper.
I have used Car Next Door for well over a year now from hiring a van to move house to little weekend trips e.g our trip to Warbuton. That said, I feel they have gone downhill in terms of customer service, ease of use and insurance coverage.
Pros of Car Next Door
- It’s cheap.
- Price includes fuel, insurance, everything.
- You can use it to make money. If you have a car you barely use, list it and make some of your own cash.
- It was relatively easy to join. Go through the steps, then verify your identity with a picture of you holding your licence and they approve you.
- You can use it online or via the app.
- Refer a friend program means any friends you refer who use the service within a set period get $15 and you get $15 credit.
Cons of Car Next Door
- The lockbox can be clunky. They are big and sit on the outside of the cars or hooked up to a fence/letterbox. You get a code and enter it to open the box then do the same at the end.
- You are hiring other people’s cars. This means they might not be clean, any damage might not be shown in the picture, there might be mechanical issues etc.
I’ve used it numerous times and over half the cars have been dirty or there were mechanical issues including a check engine light on consistently, no liquid for the windscreen wipers and dirt all over it making it difficult to see out the windscreen. You do have the option to contact them to change the booking but I had a family emergency and no time.
- If you pay for petrol on a trip, they credit your account instead of refunding the money. This means, the money goes to your Car Next Door account. Then you request to withdraw it. Each time I have done this, it hasn’t worked and it has taken WEEKS to get customer service to finally process the refund to me.
- Customer service is extremely slow.
With multiple options for private, business, students and seniors, there appears to be something for everyone. They do require you to sign up for a plan, either monthly or annually. Rates vary but with a Corolla for private use is $89 a day (inclusive of 150kms) or $10.90hr and $0.40km, plus the fee of $49 a year or a monthly fee (minimum of 6 months). If you have a business the rates drop with no annual fee and only $76 a day with 150kms included or $6.50hr plus $0.40km.
- It’s easy to join (as all the car share options are). With Go Get you join then within 2 days will be sent your card or you can pick one up from specific locations.
- You can use the app or website.
- They have dedicated parking areas.
Swipe your card just like using PayPass to get access to the car. The keys are already in the car.
- Fuel cards are used and you need to fill up with these.
- They clean the cars. I regularly see the ones near me being cleaned and detailed. The fleet of cars is well maintained.
It’s initially more expensive than Car Next Door but if you are travelling 150kms, it’s basically the same price.
An annual fee is used with Flexicar as well, though they have a few options and the rates vary depending on how much you will be using their services. At a starter rate for irregular use, they are $49 for the annual fee, $79 a day (including 100kms) or $13.50hr. This drops to $55 a day plus 150kms or $8.95hr. With daily bookings, the rate for any km over the 100kms or 150kms limit varies from 25cents per km to 39cents, depending on your plan.
It’s easy to join and you are usually approved to drive within 24 hours. To use it, get the app, book cars as needed and return to the same location. Flexicars have dedicated parking like Go Get. You will simply need a pin from the app to access the car, the keys are in it ready to go and a fuel card is there to fill it up.
Pros of Flexicar
- It’s readily available in major cities
- It’s easy to join and use
- Refer a friend program is $30 and their sign up credit is $30 here
- 20% discounts for longer hires e.g. 3 days or more through Hertz and 10% off overseas
Cons of Flexicar
It worked out to be the most expensive for just the day but customer service is better.
You’d assume a car share service run by a car hire company would be good, user-friendly and the customer service would be on par. It wasn’t. RACV was by far the worst out of the lot. The customer service didn’t respond to an email I sent, when I called a week later the rep didn’t know anything and I had to keep checking then got it wrong. I would not recommend them to anyone.
Pros of RACV
- The cars are all relatively new and there are a variety of options and locations.
- 350kms per day hire compared to only 100kms to 150kms with the other services.
Cons of RACV
- Customer service is terrible
- The system is old and not user-friendly compared to the other platforms.
- Petrol is a pain. If there is no fuel card, you fill up then get reimbursed. I did have to do this with another car service, but RACV also charges $50 if someone doesn’t leave the car with at least 1/4 of petrol. Thus, it should be reasonable to assume there will be petrol in the car when you hire it.
Overall, I would not recommend RACV.
Final Thoughts On Carshare
From our experience, Car Next Door was the cheapest for our needs and didn’t require an annual fee, but you need to be careful about which car you hire. Go Get was preferred for cleanliness and ease of use. RACV was the worst.
Car Hire Companies
Since I travel full time, I have used car hire companies in a few locations. Sometimes I book directly through the car hire company itself, other times through a third party with a greater discount.
In all honesty, they are all pretty much the same. Customer service was far superior with Thrifty, Hertz and Europcar compared to the carshare companies. The cars are clean, pick up and drop off is easy, they have roadside assistance and the pricing is better for longer bookings. If you only need a car for a few hours, carshare is better.