Reasons for renting vary, but popular choices include getting away for the weekend, celebrating a special night out, driving kids to a weekend sports tournament, attending a high school reunion, bonding with family members on an extended vacation or simply hauling home improvement supplies.
And it's big business, too, as rental car locations are increasingly found in the neighborhoods where consumers live - not exclusively at airports. In fact, Enterprise Rent-A-Car, North America's largest rental car company with 5,000 neighborhood locations, is reporting significant growth in this particular segment of its business.
As you might imagine, there are a number of factors fueling the trend, including changing lifestyles. We all lead busier and more varied lives than prior generations, creating the need on occasion for vehicles other than the ones we keep in our garages.
In addition, years ago we typically borrowed vehicles from relatives and friends for special occasions, like a first date. But borrowing is taking a back seat to renting these days. In fact, the survey revealed that nearly 60 percent of Americans prefer to rent rather than borrow a vehicle.
Availability, convenience and affordability also account for this growing trend. Rental cars are available in some markets for as little as $9.99 a day on weekends, and rental locations are increasingly found in the neighborhoods where consumers live, so there's no longer a need to go to the airport.
While there are plenty of practical reasons to change our cars like we change our wardrobes, there are also psychological ones. Cars are extensions of ourselves and so we can match our mood to our wheels with the help of accessible and affordable car rental options.
There is a lot to be said for these temporary automotive relationships after decades of monogamous ties to daily transportation.
America's love affair with the automobile is alive and well as we move into its second passionate century. And renting is adding some spice to the relationship.
Michael Marsden, chief academic officer and a professor of English and cultural studies at St. Norbert College in De Pere, Wis., is a nationally recognized expert in automotive popular culture.
Media Release Date: 7/23/03