Monday, April 06, 2009

Carless for a Year

I didn't mean to become carless -- it just kind of happened.

The 2004 Mercedes E500 has a poor track record for quality, so a week before the warranty expired on mine, I sold it. I couldn't figure out what to buy, and there are so many cars to test drive. (Who Has Time For This?)  That was 14 months ago.

It hasn't been so bad, really. I hitch rides with my wife and my colleagues, and sometimes I bike to work. I borrow my friend's car when he's away on travel, and I joined ZipCar. And when I'm not traveling for a whole month, I pay Hertz $600 to rent an Audi, BMW, or Infiniti .For regular customers like me, Farshid at Hertz Palo Alto drops off and picks up the car and -- here's the best part -- It turns out that renting is actually cheaper than either buying or leasing.

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Here's why it works for me (and maybe for you): my wife drives an old Odyseey minivan (winner of the WhoHas award), for which the liability insurance has got to be cheaper than for any other car. But still the policy covers my liability for rentals up to one month, and AmEx covers any damage to the rental car (as I now know first hand). I don't have to pay for insurance, registration, sales tax, maintenance, depreciation, cost of capital or even car washing. (I still pay for gas, but less than before, thanks to BillShrink.) Even if I rent the car 7 or 8 months a year, it's still way cheaper than owning the same luxury car, and I get to feel just a tiny bit greener.

So when the hell are you going to buy your own car? they ask me at work as I bum rides home.  Well, I did put down a deposit on a Fisker Karma, so that pretty much guarantees I won't own a car any time soon!

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  1. Anonymous10:26 AM

    How did you get such a low Hertz rental rate for a nice car? Do you have some special discount? What was the rate after all the taxes and fees? I like the idea, but can't get close to the rate in Boston. Thanks.

  2. Ah, yes, I do get a discount for being a frequent/lifetime/preferred customer. So I get a free upgrade to Luxury from the Fullsize rate, which is only $639 at the non-Airport location I use. I'm not sure how quickly you could negotiate a similar rate, but do approach your local non-Airport office manager directly. Hertz currently offers $50 off monthly rentals ( And if Hertz won't do it, I'm sure there are lower priced competitors (I never shopped around).

  3. Smartcar!!! *very* cute!

  4. David, welcome to the (near) future. One day, we will all agree that "transportation" (even "driving") and "car ownership" are NOT the same thing.

    When we move beyond ownership, EVs also make more sense.

    I think you would get what we are trying to do at itMoves (, the company I started six months ago after leaving GM. Check it out!