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This past fall my wife and I spent nearly two months in Costa Rica while we adopted our three kids. We arrived on September 12 and didn’t leave until November 4. Although we were (sadly) stuck in San Jose during most of that time, we did want to get out and see the country a bit.
A typical adoptive family would have hired a private driver for their transportation needs. But we are anything but typical. I wanted the freedom of being able to come and go as we pleased, so I decided to rent a car. I also figured it’d be cheaper, but sadly, it was probably the same after the obscene (and mandatory) insurance charges were tacked on. We also paid the nominal charge for roadside protection, which turned out to be entirely worth it (SEE: Should you purchase roadside assistance protection when renting a car?).
But it did make for an adventure and some great memories. The best part? The car I rented was a standard. It’d been years since I’d driven one routinely, and it was a blast. Here are 5 reasons I think you should rent one, too:
To prove you’re a real driver
Reportedly, only 18% of Americans know how to drive a standard. That’s honestly appalling. If you can manage a stick, this’ll give you a time to show your stuff. I learned to drive one with my first car. And then my second and third. It all easily came back to me with a fury when we were in Costa Rica.
Now I sport an automatic minivan, so any vehicle bragging rights have been obliterated. My only consolation is that it’s a Honda.
For all those mountainous roads
Costa Rica is made of mountains. In the United States, we have ways of dealing with them. Cut pieces, fill pieces, tunnels…the interstates just push through them. Not so in Costa Rica. The roads wind and wind. Forever. One of our outings was snaking our way up to Volcán Irazú (SEE: Visiting Irazu Volcan in Costa Rica).
If you’ve ever had to do a lot of mountain driving, you’ll know that having a manual is an asset. It’s far more comfortable to control your speed by shifting rather than riding (or burning) the brake the whole way. I know many automatic cars allow you to put the car in a manual mode (of sorts). But an actual manual transmission is always preferred.
You can push-start it when the kids leave the light on
This is a welcome, if unexpected, feature. The first week we had our mini SUV in Costa Rica, one of the kids left the interior light on overnight. The battery was completely dead the next day, and we had somewhere to be. Not a fun situation to be in.
But all was not lost. With a little help from a hotel staff, the car was easily pushed out of the garage and into the road. Thank goodness for the hills in San José! I stuck her in second, picked up a little speed, popped the clutch, and off we went.
It’ll save you money
Want an automatic? In many places, this will mean forking over a little more cash. In Costa Rica, the price difference was nominal. It was like $5 more for the month. But in other places it isn’t that cheap.
For example, the cheapest car with a standard rented at Rome Fuimicino (over random dates this fall) rings in at $163 for a week. The automatic is $264. That’s a $101 back in your pocket for your stick-shift know-how.
It might also be your only option. Imagine booking a car and then showing up to the counter, just to find the lot devoid of automatics. Ok, I’ve never heard of this happening, but I have heard stories from multiple friends about a rental car agency not having the type of car they rented when they arrived to pick it up. Heck, I’ve gotten “stuck” with a Tahoe when I booked a Corolla. If this can happen to the type of vehicle, it may apply to your choice of drive train, too.
It’s more fun
Really, it all boils down to this. Standards are 1000% more fun than automatics. Anyone who drives one knows this.
And this is why I enjoyed every last minute in our gutless Daihatsu Bego.