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Ahhh the joys of having a large family. While I chose to have a large family, and (for me) the positives outweigh the negatives, there’s no denying that having a large family presents “interesting” challenges that other families don’t have. One that was recently on my mind involved the joys of renting a car with a family of 8
Driving with a family of 8
As a family of 8, our normal family trips are in a 2004 Chevy Venture, which has 8 seats and therefore fits us perfectly (though as the kids get older, to be honest we’re getting a little cramped)
But you can’t rent an 8 passenger minivan!
When we looked at car rental options, all the suggested minivans were all 7 passenger minivans. When I called some of the companies, they said that their minivans are 7 passengers. Since arriving in a city and needing a car would put me in an awkward position if I didn’t have a way to get my family where we needed to go, I knew this wouldn’t be an option
(SEE ALSO: Why does renting a car feel like such a scam?)
So let’s look at what options are out there. I’ll use Autoslash to check some prices for a rental in Denver
As you can see, the “Van” price is over twice what it costs to get a regular “Economy” car. Don’t be fooled by the SUV price – that’s actually just a 5 passenger SUV (Ford Escape or similar).
Sure, let’s try an SUV or Passenger Van
But let’s say that besides all that, you want to go ahead and book the Premium SUV or Passenger Van! Guess what?
YOUR ODDS ARE BETTER THAN NOT THAT THEY WON’T HAVE YOUR VAN THERE WHEN YOU GET THERE!
If you’ve rented enough cars, you know that unless you’re booking just a standard car, the inventory you book is not always there when you get there. About 20-30% of all car rental reservations are no-shows, and to combat that, most rental car companies don’t try super hard to actually have the car you’ve booked at the place you said you were going to pick it up.
And the downside for you, the renter, is huge. Imagine the scenario where our family of 8 gets off the plane (or in this case the train) and the rental car company doesn’t have the car that you booked. You’re kind of at their mercy because what else are you going to do? You can’t go anywhere else, and if you try to rent a car from a different place, the last-minute rate will likely be the roof.
So we chose to rent 2 Intermediate cars, and after using Autoslash, which saved us about an extra 25%, they each were $113.66 out the door for the week.
Benefits of being a 2 car family
One unexpected pleasure is that it let us split up the kids, which helped to minimize the “he’s touching me” problems all families have. If you acted up, oh then you got sent to the “bad car” (i.e. riding with dad 😀 ).
If 2 of the kids were having trouble getting along, then at the next stop, we could split them up. For the week’s worth of driving, it actually worked out pretty well.
Gas ended up being about the same. We drove about 2000 miles and averaged about 35 mpg for our 2 cars, which is comparable to the 12-20 mpg we’d have gotten in an SUV or passenger van (and probably slightly under what we’d have gotten in a minivan)
Downsides of having 2 cars
Vacationing with 2 cars actually worked out pretty well for us. Some of the big downsides however were:
- Not being able to switch off drivers. Since my oldest child is only 15, it’s just my wife and I who are (legal) drivers. Having 2 cars meant that we both had to drive ALL THE TIME. Since we were driving for at least a few hours nearly every day, this got to be somewaht
- Having to pay double “per-vehicle” entrance fees. I mentioned when I shared the budget for our family of 8 that one of our “budget hacks” for entertainment is to look for places that charge “per-vehicle” instead of “per-person”. Usually that works out great for us, but we had to pay an extra $30 to get into Yellowstone, and a second $11 to get into Mt. Rushmore. Still probably a good deal, but kind of annoying
- Coordinating things like gas stops, breaks and “potty emergencies” – it worked out okay, but it of course would have been a lot easier in the same car.
If we had to do it again, I think we’ll be a 2 car family again, and maybe this time, one of my older kids can help drive!!!