By on January 30, 2012


Cody writes:

Dear Sajeev and Steve,

I work as a research scientist, and currently we have a visiting scientist from South Africa working with us for six months. Normally visitors stay in university housing and are able to take the shuttle bus to our lab, but our current visitor is bringing her husband with her and staying in a house they found themselves. She should have about a 30 minute 20 mile drive to the lab and just looking for reliable transportation around a medium sized city, and maybe the occasional weekend sightseeing trip. She does already have a rental scheduled at the airport for the first week (probably an Impala), but for more long-term what type of newer car should she be looking for that will retain its value when she goes to sell it at the end of her stay, or would it be more reasonable to rent for six months? I will mention she drives a Land Cruiser most of the time in South Africa and seems to like it a lot.

Steve Answers:

The question for your friend may not be ‘the car’… but ‘the owner’.

Forget about rental. If she wants to make a mid-four figured donation to the nearest automotive for profit that’s fine. In the world of dollars and sense long-term rentals simply don’t make sense.

What she needs is a well maintained vehicle in the $4000 range. Let them spend a few weekends shopping among private owners, or, they can go on Ebay and find a nearby seller with strong positive feedback and a vehicle that they would likely enjoy.

Good luck!

Sajeev Answers:

Steve, as per usual, is right.  My father is a professor/research scientist, and it seems that the PhD/Post-Doctoral lifestyle is far from platinum grilles and Bentleys. Honestly, it’s also far from buying a late-model family sedan for short-term use, either. Someone in your friend’s shoes needs a short-term vehicle that’s cheap to purchase, have close to no depreciation, and mainstream enough (no finicky European whips) to guarantee a quick sale on Craigslist when the sabbatical ends.

She likes her Land Cruiser?  My advice is to get a sub $10k Jeep Wrangler, Toyota Tacoma/4Runner, Ford Ranger, 1st-2nd Gen Explorer, Nissan Hardbody/Pathfinder, Jeep Cherokee, Chevy S-10…or any other cheap to own, easy to sell trucklet. No Suzukis or Isuzus, please: they seem fairly hard to re-sell in a hurry. The smarter money is on a 5-10 year old W-body/Panther, older CamCord or anything else Honda or Toyota, but they aren’t teenagers with no finances to speak of.  Spending a few hundred extra for a non-Impala is understandable, and acceptable.

My fav of the bunch would either be a 5.0 Explorer or a nice V6 Tacoma with a stick. Both are a definite Ja-Nee given the circumstances.

Need help with a  car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to [email protected] , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make  the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.


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16 Comments on “New or Used: “Ja-nee” on short term Rentals?...”

  • avatar

    This person is from a foreign country and has six months here.

    It takes time to find a used car. It takes time to sell a used car. It takes time to find insurance for a driver with no US driving record, and it can cost a fortune.

    For someone in this situation, a rental may be a decent choice. It is possible to negotiate long-term rates that include insurance coverage, and this option avoids the need to go car shopping or bothering with the hassle of selling it at the end. I would not assume that buying a used beater is the best alternative.

  • avatar

    What about one of the auto lease trading services? Perhaps they could find a lease someone is trying to get out of that has the right termination date. Based on leases I’ve seen advertised, they should be able to get something appropriate for less than $400 a month and avoid the headaches of selling when they leave, which may be worth two grand or so.

    • 0 avatar

      What about one of the auto lease trading services?

      Not a bad thing to check into, but I suspect that the lack of a credit history could pose a challenge to someone who is new here and who is not establishing long-term residency. And the insurance could be costly.

  • avatar

    Hmmm, why does it have to be in the S4,000 range? Unless you’re going to treat the car as disposable, the real cost is the price you bought it for vs it’s value at resale. SO I guess the best car for her would be something popular that can be sold quickly and fetch a good price at used-car market. Is there such a thing as short term lease?

  • avatar

    Wouldn’t it just be easier to rent a graduate TA as a lab tech and telecommute from home? ;)

  • avatar

    I wouldn’t necessarily write off rental agencies. They often have very competitive rates if you rent by the week or month, especially once you’ve added on a few discounts. The real issue is getting car insurance coverage since paying for the loss damage waiver on a rental car is pretty costly if you do it through the actual rental agency. I actually think the cheapest way around this is to get someone here with an American Express card to sign up for their car rental loss damage waiver program and then get american express to issue an additional card to the researcher coming here which she’ll then use to rent the car. You can set the limit on the additional card very low (but enough to cover the rentals) but that way she’ll be able to get rental car coverage for $19.95/$24.95 per 42 days of renting ($75,000 and $100,000 coverage respectively) or $17.95 in California. See here: She’d just have to re-rent the car every 40 or so days to avoid being uncovered but it’s the cheapest possible way I can think of for getting covered with zero driving record in the US. Since she has no credit record here you’ll need someone to add her on as the additional user but again the risk is fairly limited since American Express lets you set a low limit on the additional card via their website so you can just put enough of a limit to help cover the monthly rental fees and authorizations but you’re not really at risk of them charging up your card (I’d probably still ask them to prepay for the rentals).
    I just priced out a compact car in an expensive NYC suburb area and it’s about $590 per 25 days at Budget (the discount used limits me to 25 days at a time) when booked via Costco’s travel website (I’m sure you can find a Costco member to help you out). The Hertz near me is pricing out to $690 a month (with heavy taxes) for a compact crossover with all the taxes included “Ford Escape or Similar” with a USAA price code and a $50 monthly coupon. That may sound expensive but if you take into account the insurance situation it might actually even out very quickly since $4200 basically has you covered with liability and what not from the rental agency and the American Express card would have you covered for everything else for basically $20 a month. By the way renting it one month at a time appears to be a lot cheaper than using the multimonth rates the rental places offer so you’re basically better off renting one month at a time and using the American Express card’s insurance.
    Just tried a California suburb and Hertz will do a Kia Rio for $575 a month (including taxes) though oddly all the larger cars are even more than in the NYC area. I’d definitely get quotes from several rental places since prices vary a lot by model and location.

  • avatar

    I like Tekdemon’s approach. From the perspective of my (not entirely on-point) experience buying AND selling are going to fall on the host. The guest won’t have the time or experience to do either even remotely successfully; particularly a ‘Craigslist’ style private sale at the end of the visit. Not only that, but the visitor will need the car right up to the point of final departure. Even if they attempt these things, the host will be so deeply involved the entire responsibility will fall on him anyhow. Essentially you can win good money betting that the host will end up selling the car a fter they’ve left the country and mailing a check, usually for less money than was predicted (by the host who will the considered the voice of experience in such matters).

    I can say that a letter from the home country’s insurance company stating an (ideally) long coverage history with (ideally) no claims can go a long way towards reducing insurance company fears and consequent expense.

    Don’t forget to obtain the requisite International Drivers license. You may or may not want to devote the time to getting a domestic one. In this case the lack of a language barrier make the testing easier, but it still -at best- would leave you with a week with no license and no insurance, stalling the purchase of a vehicle.

    So, arrange as many things as possible as early as possible, and rent if you can. 16 weeks isn’t very long really and the headaches of shopping, buying, tagging, insuring, advertising, and selling are goning to eat up at least 3 of them.

  • avatar

    I have a colleague here from Germany for six months, and he decided to buy a car and keep it, having it shipped back to Germany. I’m not sure how VAT works in Africa, but in his case, by owning it here six months, he completely avoids German VAT, which more than makes up for the shipping cost. Plus the particular car he bought is less expensive here.

  • avatar

    I’d ask around on campus if anyone has a spare 3rd vehicle they would loan or sell & buy back for the duration of this persons visit.

    As for insurance there are insurance companies who will consider foreign driving records in insurance quotes – I used this this when i move across 4 + years ago (I used this relocation service when i moved across
    but for 6 months it might not be cost beneficial)

    Another consideration is to make sure she gets an international drivers license before she leaves, otherwise (in my state at least) technically you can only drive for a max of 3 months rather than 12 months with an international licence

  • avatar

    Buy a Panther. NEXT!

  • avatar

    The possibly correct answer is whoever is hiring this person provides a vehicle as a company car. If it’s a fleet vehicle, insurance is usually very cheap(especially for a “new” driver). There may be some income tax implications for the employee, but it still has to be easier than buying and selling a used car.

    The cost of providing the car might even be tax-deductible by the employer?

    • 0 avatar

      Universities usually don’t have that kind of flexibility. At the very least, this visiting scholar’s boss will have to be a bureaucratic wizard to pull that off. Remember, most people who work for Universities are the same “government employees” that certain political groups resent, distrust, and try to hamstring at every opportunity. Also, Universities are large institutions with considerable bureaucratic momentum. But, alas, the resentment is misplaced — university employees don’t get paid much (compared to people with similar skills in the commercial sector), and we have to deal with a lot of internal of bureaucracy. Good benefits, meaningful work, and stability make up for it to some degree, though — especially the meaningful work.

      On the other hand, many Universities have a motor pool which, in this context, is an internal car-rental agency that provides vehicles for the use of faculty/staff for University business. They bill just like a real car rental agency, but the rates are usually competitive and they can only bill internally. But, it could be possible that her host could check out (and fund) a motor pool vehicle in her special case[0].

      [0] I can’t use a motor pool vehicle to commute to work because a) I can’t just write my boss a check to cover the cost, and b) getting me to work is not university business. But providing hospitality to short-term visitors is often considered University Businesses, so her situation might be similar. I’m sure it would have to be approved n-ways from Sunday, and they’d have to find funding for it — but my boss can occasionally pull off a stunt like this when the stars and several departments happen to be in alignment.

      • 0 avatar

        I like how you start off shaking your fist at your unwilling benefactors — you get points for your Abe Simpson “Old Man Yells at Cloud” style, by the way — then basically admit that’s all complete garbage and the problem is in fact obvious and easily understood bureaucratic inertia. Good on you.

      • 0 avatar

        ” At the very least, this visiting scholar’s boss will have to be a bureaucratic wizard to pull that off. Remember, most people who work for Universities are the same “government employees” that certain political groups resent, distrust, and try to hamstring at every opportunity. Also, Universities are large institutions with considerable bureaucratic momentum. But, alas, the resentment is misplaced — university employees don’t get paid much (compared to people with similar skills in the commercial sector)”

        I think you need to head over to Huff Po, as this has zero to do with why he boss might struggle to rent her a car, other than the “large institutions with considerable bureaucratic momentum”.

        Alas, you probably dont know how condescending you really sound.

  • avatar
    Tree Trunk

    What will kill her is the insurance.

    When I first moved over the Atlantic I was paying over 200$ dollars a month for decant coverage on a 10K SUV.

    When the insurance broker asked me about my driving history, 10year no accident was not the answer she accepted but rather last week for your US drivers license.

    So I was grouped with all the 15year old and people with major driving infractions without qualifying for any of the discounts available for those groups.

    The solution is of course to have a US driver front what ever purchase takes place. Just not sure how legal that is and the “owner” on record would have to be willing to take a ding on their insurance history if the transfer from the left side of the road does not go smoothly.

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