Hiring a Driver vs. Renting a Car

I’ve touched on this idea once or twice before but let me expand a bit.

I have a friend who is exceptional at finding certain types of travel bargains. I once found a rental car for $8/day. She found one in the same place for just over $1/day.

That said, it’s still true that in most places you’ll pay “American” prices for certain things when you travel and rental cars is one of those things.

Driver waiting for us at the airport in Panama City

Driver waiting for us at the airport in Panama City

In many countries where the cost of living is lower than the US, Canada and Europe, a local might be very happy to act as your personal chauffeur (using his own car) for about the same price as it would cost you to rent a car and drive yourself.

In my mind this is a huge advantage.

  • For most kinds of vacations, you don’t actually drive around all that much. You just want to get to the beach or theme park or wherever it is you’re going that day and get back to where you are staying. During the time in between, the car is just parked.
  • In some places, you have to pay for parking. But if your driver just drops you off then comes back to pick you up later, you save that expense.
  • You will not have to pay for gas, insurance or any of the other unexpected charges that so often crop up only after you’re standing at the rental car counter.
  • Your local driver knows the roads. He can get you where you want to go faster and more efficiently than you can get there yourself.
  • A good driver will suggest attractions to visit, places to eat, and things to do that you might not have discovered on your own.
  • There is something about being driven that just feels more luxurious than driving yourself. Even when it is in a Toyota Tercel.

If you can get all that for the same price as renting a car, why wouldn’t you?

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