So you’re planning a summer road trip, huh? According to a study this year by AAA, more than 66% of American adults plan to take a trip sometime between Memorial Day and Labor Day. That’s a whole lot of people hitting the road in some form or another. The good news is that you can still find some great deals on rental cars. While rates vary from company to company, place to place and, time to time, the average cost of an economy size car is right around $45 per day. It’s a bit of a game of roulette to get the best rates on rental cars but it can be done if you are prepared to do a bit of shopping around (particularly online). We’ve assembled a short (and definitely not exhaustive) list of some of the best cars to grab for that next road trip. Whether you’re heading to the beach or to the mountains these picks are sure to get you there in style and comfort—all for a reasonable price.
A Mini Clubman is almost perfect for a trip to the beach. First of all—just look at it! It just screams “I want to go surfing!” Load it up with a board, put a cooler in the ample space behind the second row of seats, and gather up your friends for a great road trip to the beach.
Hertz has them in their “Fun” Collection. Check out rates where you’re heading and book one for your next trip to the coast. You can also grab a Mini Convertible if you just feel like getting there with the top down. It’s got enough space for four medium sized adults and a tiny trunk to store your towels and a cooler.
Have a camping trip in mind? A pickup truck might be the best bet for you. You can hop into a Chevy Colorado, GMC Canyon or a Nissan Frontier over at Enterprise for right around $60 a day. If you aren’t looking to camp, but instead just drive the twisty mountain roads, look at getting yourself into the fantastic new Miata.
If you’re feeling adventurous, perhaps the “Fiata,” or the Fiat 124 Spider is right for you. If you think it looks an awful lot like the Miata you’d be right. Mazda and Fiat built the Fiat 124 jointly, and the Miata came out just a few months before the Fiata. You can check both cars out over at Hertz.
Parking—especially on the street--can be beyond tricky in big cities. Why not see if the place you’re headed has Car2Go? The Smart ForTwo has been greatly improved over the years, and they are beyond easy to park. Plus, you only pay for what you need.
If there aren’t any Car2Go rentals in your area, try looking for a Fiat 500 (bonus points for the Abarth!) or a Fiat 500 Cabrio. Both are immensely parkable and drive like tall go-carts. Plus they get great mileage in stop-and-go traffic.
If you’re going to log long hours on the road in the car, you want something that is great at cruising. Look no further than anything from Mercedes-Benz, as long as it is equipped with their best-in-the-business Distronic Plus system. The system is nearly self-driving and has all kinds of safety additions to keep you from nodding off or accidentally rear-ending someone in traffic.
Want to feel like a baller? How about rolling up in a hot convertible or a big, bold SUV? Check out Hertz’s Prestige group of cars or even better—head over to new-to the-U.S. SIXT. There you can get a BMW i8 for a whopping $416 a day. It’s guaranteed to turn heads.
You could also rent a Mercedes G550 if you really want to make a statement. Just be prepared for both the daily price and the amount of gas you’ll guzzle. Also—word to the wise, if you opt for the G-Wagen, pay attention to the speed limits on the off ramps—the thing is awesome to drive but feels a bit tippy if you take a corner too fast.
Are winding roads, good music, and maybe a sunset in your future? Then a convertible is the right choice for you. Drop the top, put on some tunes and let the sparks fly. You can get a good deal on a convertible Mustang or a Jaguar F-Type. We’d also recommend (again) the Miata. Yes. It is that good.
You want to seem practical, but also give the impression that you have good taste, right? Get your hands on a Honda Accord. If you want to go more upscale and speak to future family aspirations, grab a Volvo. The new XC90 crossover is a really good vehicle, complete with all the technological bells and whistles, and it's great to drive. Your future in-laws will be impressed with your practicality and your style.
Vans and music festivals just go together. In a pinch you can sleep inside them and have ample space to stretch out. They work great as a home base and can keep you dry and warm in case of bad weather. Check out the Kia Sedona or even rent a Ford Transit from Budget. These commercial/passenger vans are great vehicles and pretty easy to drive.
You don’t have to rent from the big companies, either. You can rent directly from other people who are willing to share their car with you. Check out services like Turo or GetAround to find out what is available in your area. You never know what you could find!
Stay tuned to this blog and Instamotor for more fun tips and tricks to saving money, finding the right new-to-you car, or just enjoying a roadtrip. Happy motoring!
Digital media content producer/consultant & former CNN senior producer, now running CN'TRL : Cars, Tech, Real Estate & Luxury.