Traveling is a great adventure, but it’s also a logistical puzzle. Never before have travelers had so many choices when it comes to getting around a city. It can be daunting figuring out whether you should go with a traditional car rental or a for-hire service.
The days of having only limited options are forever gone. The gig economy is rapidly rising, and the travel industry is not immune. In 2016, revenues of for-hire car agencies surpassed those of traditional car rental companies for the very first time. Companies such as Uber and Lyft, which provide safe, economical options for city dwellers and visitors alike, also recently introduced business packages that not only boosted customer bases and profits, but also gave them an edge in the competition against traditional car services.
This doesn’t mean that car rental companies are being pushed out of the market — revenues are increasing for these companies, too, thanks in part to expansions outside of airports into urban and suburban centers and the diversification of services. After Avis purchased Zipcar in 2013, for example, it broke away from the traditional car rental model and began offering hourly rentals. Since then, Hertz and Enterprise also debuted hourly rentals.
There’s a reason why traditional car rental companies and ride-hailing services are doing so well: Both offer unique advantages and drawbacks. To figure out which you should go with, consider these questions.
1. What options are available?
Ride-hailing may not be available at your destination. For instance, Barcelona, Spain; Buenos Aires, Argentina, Vancouver, Canada; and Frankfurt, Germany, all have strict regulations preventing ride-hailing companies like Uber from doing business. Some U.S. cities, such as Buffalo, New York, and Austin, Texas, also have similar restrictions. If this is the case for your destination, your options may be restricted.
2. How long will you be staying?
For shorter trips that don’t require long-distance traveling, a service like Uber is probably more convenient and affordable. For longer trips with a lot of driving, you’ll want to stick with a traditional car rental.
3. How much walking will you be doing?
If you plan on mostly exploring your destination on foot, it’s probably easiest to just rely on a ride-hailing service whenever a car is needed. If you plan on going back and forth between destinations or taking a longer trip, go with a rental.
4. Is your trip occurring during a major event?
If a major event, such as the Kentucky Derby or the Super Bowl, is occurring during your visit, it may affect your options and their costs. Uber, for example, increases fares when demand spikes. Research this ahead of time to more accurately compare prices.
5. What’s parking like?
In some cities, parking prices are steep — a week of fees could easily cost you $75 or more. Ask your hotel concierge about the parking situation. If the prices are at a premium or garages are hard to find, consider relying on ride-hailing services. If parking is plentiful and affordable, a rental car might be the appropriate choice.
These five questions should help you narrow down the transportation options and guide you to the right fit for your trip. Sit back and enjoy the ride, or take the wheel with confidence — either way, enjoy your adventure!
Tony Tie is a numbers-obsessed marketer, life hacker, and public speaker who has helped various Fortune 500 companies grow their online presence. Located in Toronto, he is currently the senior search marketer at Expedia Canada, the leading travel booking platform for flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises, and local activities. Connect with Tony on Twitter @tonytie.