HomeMoneyOne Way Car Rentals Are Really Cheap

One Way Car Rentals Are Really Cheap

Over Labor Day weekend, I went to Boston to visit my family and friends, and then on Monday, drove down to Long Island for a wedding.

car rental

What We Were Planning On Paying For Travel

We flew in to Boston, so had no car. We were planning on taking a bus to New York for around $30 each, but when I found out that two friends were going to do the same thing, I checked out car rental prices. To my surprise, a one-way car rental from Boston to New York was just $88, including taxes and fees, for a day. We’d have to pay for gas and tolls, so it wouldn’t be cheaper yet, but it would be significantly more convenient and comfortable.

We then thought about how we would get to the airport the next day. Well, a shuttle was going to cost us another $60 to get the the airport for our 7am flight (and would mean leaving at 4am). That didn’t sound very appealing, so having a car looked like a very good option.

Car Rental vs. Buses and Shuttles

Just looking at the price (and leaving out the convenience factors), it would have been $120 for buses for the 4 of us, plus another $60 to get to the airport on Tuesday morning, for a total of $180. OK, well this became a no-brainer fairly quickly. We were only going to be driving around 300 miles, so add in another $50 for a tank of gas and $32 for tolls and we were still on track to save $10. The convenience itself was worth something, but I guess it’s hard to quantify.

But wait, there’s more. The night before we left, on a whim, I looked up prices at the Providence Airport, where my brother was going to be dropped off Monday morning anyway. Turns out, a rental there was just $66, so that’s another $22 added to our savings.

Is It Worth It To Prepay Gas?

We were given the option to either return the car with a full tank of gas or to prepay for a full tank of gas (at a nice discount of almost 50 cents per gallon). While normally I would say returning with a full tank of gas would be the best idea, since we knew we’d be using at least 3/4 of the tank and weren’t going to be excited to fill up the car at 5am, we decided to go with the prepaid option. Plus, we had just saved $22, so decided to roll the dice.

As you can see from the photo above, we got great use out of our gas and were left with about a gallon left in the tank, so when you figure in the discount, we came out even, if not ahead (and saved our time on Tuesday morning).

Renting a car, even for a one-way trip, was far cheaper than I expected. I learned a few things about car rentals (did you know your spouse can drive your rental car, no questions asked?) and saved a whole lot of time and money by investigating our options instead of just assuming that buses were the way to go.



  1. “Did you know your spouse can drive your rental car, no questions asked?”

    Yep, I learned that last year when we hired a campervan (weren’t quite married at that point though!)

    One way rentals aren’t always heinously expensive. The one way fee on the car we’re planning to take across the US is only about $250.

  2. One way car rentals are normally pretty expensive, but they can occasionally be cheap when a rental company wants cars moved to a particular location so it is worth looking into.

    Last November I wanted to fly into New Orleans the saturday before Thanksgiving (when flights were cheap), and fly out the Saturday after (when flights were several hundred dollars more). I couldn’t afford the flight back home, so I came up with a cheap solution.

    I flew there, but rented a car one way home. The one way rental cost me something like $120 for a single day, but I still saved a lot of money over flying. It is worth looking into.

  3. Depends on where you’re going from / to. Short trips in a major commuter corridor like Boston / NYC can be reasonable. But as soon as you go some place off the beaten path, or a long distance, they tack on “drop fees” in the hundreds of dollars, so you’ll see estimates of “$40 / day” but for a 3 day rental the total is $900.

    Glad your rental worked out for you!

  4. I tried doing the same thing twice recently. Both times I opted not to rent. They wanted drop off fees. One wanted two hundred dollars, and the other four hundred. Needless to say those extra costs made the idea very unattractive.

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