Want to avoid paying for car rental on a North America road trip?
How does it work?
America really is the land of the automobile – a nation of gas guzzlers, and the spiritual home of the road trip. Each year countless hire cars, motorhomes and camper vans are driven across the country as Americans and visitors tour the land. As a consequence, car and motorhome hire companies are in constant need of drivers to take vehicles back and forth to the right destinations – often to the place where they started the trip – for each new wave of road trippers.
One of the best known deals is the "Florida drive out", when prices are slashed for anyone looking to rent a car for a one-way drive up north in spring. Meanwhile, driveaway companies – which deliver cars around the country – connect drivers with vehicles that need transporting, offering a free set of wheels – and sometimes a tank full of gas – in exchange for delivery. For the flexible traveller looking for a cheap ride, this can be the perfect opportunity to bag a vehicle for next to nothing, and explore America on the way.
Who can do it?
To deliver a vehicle for Auto Driveaway, which is the largest driveaway company in the US, you need to be at least 23 years old and hold a valid driver's licence. Foreign travellers also need a passport with a valid exit visa and a copy of their driver record. Some driveaway companies require the drivers to be older and are subject to background checks. For drive out deals, you just need to meet the same requirements for usual car rentals. The minimum age to rent a vehicle in America is usually 21, except in New York state and Michigan, where it is 18.
Where can you go?
When it comes to driveaways, you could potentially go anywhere. It's just a matter of biding your time until a car that needs delivering in the direction you want to travel becomes available. At the time of writing, there are cars available on the Auto Driveaway site that need to be taken from California to New York, Florida to Washington, and Arizona to Delaware. There are also driveaway companies in Canada that run deliveries from Toronto and Vancouver to locations around the US. Drive out deals can also take you to a wide range of destinations, but the Florida drive out is primarily to take vehicles back up to northern cities. With both types of deal you are free to decide on the route to take, but the limitation with drive outs is that you are still paying a rental fee for each day, and with driveaways, as you are delivering someone else's vehicle, there will be a limit on the number of miles and days you can take to complete your trip.
Motorhome company The Motorhome Experts are also offering cut price deals this spring for anyone willing to transport brand new vehicles from Chicago – where they are manufactured – to locations across North America, such as San Francisco, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Boston, Philadelphia and Atlanta. They are also offering similar deals in Canada for anyone happy to drive from Toronto to Vancouver.
When can I do it?
Driveaways are available year-round – just keep checking to see when a suitable delivery becomes available. With rental cars, most end up in the southern states during the winter, so it is during spring when you can catch the best drive out deals, when the rental companies need their vehicles taken north again. However if you are flexible, it's worth calling round the car hire companies to see if there are any other destinations they are looking to move their vehicles to.
How much does it cost?
Driveaways can be completely free: you pick up the car with a full tank and can often be given a reasonable fuel allowance for the journey. Of course, if you decide to amble along, taking detours and making stops en route you will spend more of your own money on fuel, but this will really be your only expense bar the security deposit. Auto Driveaway require a deposit of around $350 (depending on the location), which is refunded on delivery.
Drive out deals vary for each company and the type of vehicle you decide to hire. Alamo and National are currently offering one-way rentals out of Florida for just $9.95 a day for anyone travelling between April and May. If you fill your car with friends, this could mean you are paying as little as $2 a day each for transport.
Prices for The Motorhome Expert's spring drive out deal starts at $35 a day including insurance. Bearing in mind you can potentially fit seven people in these vehicles, that could work out as $5 a day each, including accommodation.
Where do I sign up?
Auto Driveaway has been in business since 1952 and has the largest vehicle relocation network in the industry, with 40 local offices around the country.
Toronto Driveaway, founded in 1959, also has many years experience connecting drivers with cars for delivery. Though based in Canada, it services destinations across America, predominantly Florida, California and Arizona. Drivers need to be over 30 years of age, with a clean licence and references, and need to provide a deposit.
The Motorhome Experts are one of the leading motorhome rental companies in the US. To find out more about their spring drive out deals, contact them directly on 044/1304 898159 or email reservations@TheMotorhomeXperts.com.
Car hire sites such as Hertz and Alamo update their sites with details of drive out deals as the season approaches. Full details of Alamo's Florida drive out deals can be found here and details of National's Florida drive out deals can be found here. Smaller car hire companies offer similar deals.
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image: © craig Cloutier