When planning a domestic or international adventure, one part of the trip that could add some extra cost is renting a car, campervan, or motorhome. While my preference is to stay in fancy hotels when abroad, I also appreciate a scenic road trip as a means to explore a country’s natural beauty.
The costs associated with renting a vehicle can add up quickly, though, with fuel, insurance, and daily fees all contributing the total. Further, if you are like me and look to a one-way rental to maximize your time in a country, you could be looking at a hefty one-way rental fee imposed by the agency.
These one-way rental fees are a way for the car rental agency to recoup the cost associated with getting the car back to its place of origin. After all, they may have to send an employee out to collect the vehicle, and this involves transportation, wages, fuel, accommodation, and meals.
For example, many travellers fly into Calgary, rent a motorhome, drive around the Rocky Mountains, and then finish their trip in Vancouver. So, all of a sudden, the rental agencies have a bunch of motorhomes in Vancouver that they need to get back to Calgary.
What Is a Vehicle Relocation?
Rather than sending an employee out to drive vehicles back to Calgary, many rental companies will offer travellers the opportunity to book vehicle relocations – which are effectively excellent one-way car rental deals – to avoid the aforementioned costs.
In exchange for driving back to its place of origin, agencies will rent vehicles for between $1 and $20 per day (depending on the type of vehicle), which is a significant discount from the usual price. Occasionally, and usually with larger vehicles, you may even be offered a fuel credit to put against the cost of filling the gas tank.
With a bit of planning and flexibility (as is the norm with miles, points, and budget-conscious travelling), vehicle relocations can help you can find excellent value and embark on great adventures both at home and abroad. Let’s look at some resources and some currently available relocations in various parts of the world.
Vehicle Relocation Websites
Transfercar offers vehicle relocation services in Canada, the United States, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. Each country has its own website, and the website acts as a link between rental agencies in need of drivers and travellers looking for a deal. I really like the user-friendly design of the website, with maps that show starting and ending points for vehicle relocations.
Imoova is another resource that connects rental agencies with drivers. The website offers relocations in Canada, the United States, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. From my experience, the website tends to have the biggest selection of vehicles, although I don’t find the website to be as user-friendly as Transfercar’s, as the available vehicles are shown in a list instead of on a map.
Hittheroad.ca is a Canadian specific vehicle delivery service. All routes either originate or terminate in Canada. While you likely won’t find a motorhome or campervan here, if you are looking to do a road trip across Canada or to/from any “snowbird” destinations in the USA, you could be hooked up with a pretty nice car. There have been Teslas, BMWs, and other luxury cars available in the past and likely going forward.
Note that for Hittheroad, you will need to submit an application with your driver’s license, your driver’s abstract, passport, and some other information. Unlike regular vehicle relocation services, you will be paid for this service (on top of fuel), which according to the website, is usually enough to cover the return trip from your destination (and sometimes more).
A few specific car rental agencies will also post relocations on their websites, so it’s always a good idea to check these out if you are looking for something specific: Jucy USA, Jucy New Zealand, Jucy Australia, FraserWay RV, and Canadream.
How Vehicle Relocation Works
Applying for a vehicle relocation is fairly straightforward, and the process is similar with both Transfercar and Imoova. The availability tends to be released several weeks out, so you may need to have some flexibility if you’re usually a person who likes to plan things out months in advance.
Once you have found a routing and vehicle that works for you, you’ll need to create a profile and submit your request. It is important to read over the policies, too, as you usually have to put down a deposit (usually between $500–$5,000, depending on the type of vehicle).
You will also see how many free or low-cost days you have and how much it costs to add extra days. Some routes are more lenient with these days than others, so if you plan on taking your time, it would be good to compare your options.
Once your request is submitted, the rental agencies have 24 hours to respond to the request. If it is accepted, you will receive a confirmation email from the company for whom you will be relocating a vehicle. If it is declined, you will have to go back to the drawing board.
In my experience, I applied for a campervan on a very popular route (Brisbane to Sydney), and on the second day after applying, my request was accepted. The information, including where you need to pick-up and drop-off the vehicle, was sent to me shortly thereafter.
It’s worth noting that you can also choose to pay a higher daily rate in order to lower the amount of your deposit. For example, the bond on a 4×4 relocation in Australia was $5,000 for a $1/day rental, but was reduced to $2,500 for a $25/day rental. In general, you can expect lower deposits for cars and campervans, and higher deposits for trucks and motorhomes.
A Few Examples
While I didn’t find any relocations available in Canada at the exact time of writing, I have seen many relocations available for some spectacular road trips in the past. Why not cruise around the Rocky Mountains on a relocation between Calgary or Edmonton and Vancouver?
Or on the other side of the country, explore Cape Breton Island, the Bay of Fundy, Prince Edward Island, and the Gaspé Peninsula on a relocation from Halifax to Toronto?
While many of the relocation offers in the USA are for rental cars, there are also some opportunities to do some very scenic drives in motorhomes. One of my favourite road trips is the Pacific Coast Highway that runs from Washington to California. I did this road trip with my family several times when I was a kid, and I have been itching to do it again soon.
There is currently an RV relocation available between Ferndale, Washington and San Francisco in an RV that can accommodate five adult passengers. The cost is $1/day for 4 days, and up to three extra days can be added for an additional $60/day. So, let’s say $184 for a one-week, one-way RV rental plus the cost of fuel.
On the other hand, a quick search on an RV-rental website shows the cash price as more than five times the relocation price – making the vehicle relocation a very good deal indeed.
I would love to spend a week driving down the Pacific Coast Highway with family or friends, checking out some spectacular scenery and enjoying some world-class seafood. You can also check out Astoria, Oregon (where The Goonies was filmed), go for a run in Coos Bay, Oregon (the hometown of legendary track and field athlete Steve Prefontaine), and marvel in the glory of the redwood forests of northern California.
There is an abundance of vehicle relocations available in Australia. With the generous MPM offered between Canada and Australia on Aeroplan redemptions, and the excellent value of using Avios for intra-Australian flights, there are a host of possibilities for making memorable trips at a fraction of the cost.
If you are flying into and out of Perth, why not book a one-way flight to Darwin and drive the rugged Great Northern Highway back to Perth?
Or, as a classic option, you could drive the Great Ocean Road on a relocation between Melbourne and Adelaide.
Or perhaps you want to maximize your beach time and decide that a relocation between Cairns and Sydney, driving down Australia’s beautiful eastern coast, is a great way to spend your holiday.
I haven’t had the pleasure of visiting New Zealand (yet), but when the time comes, I will definitely be looking out for vehicle relocation deals.
Perhaps I’d fly into Auckland drive to Wellington via the Thermal Explorer Highway, being sure to soak in hot springs and sunshine along the way.
Another destination high on my list is South Africa. A quick look at the availability shows some great opportunities. I would love to schedule a stopover in Johannesburg on an Aeroplan redemption and then continue on to drive between Cape Town and Durban along the southern coast.
Lastly, a brief glance at the Imoova website shows a few relocations between various parts of Europe. One that would interest me is flying into Rome and then driving a campervan through to Edinburgh for only 7 euro per day.
So, for 49 euro (plus fuel), I could casually meander from Rome to Edinburgh over the course of a week, stopping along the coasts of western Italy and southern France, and continuing on to explore rural France, England, and Scotland.
There are so many possibilities with vehicle relocations around the world, and they are a great way to stretch your travel budget even farther. With some flexibility in your plans, you can save a lot of money while exploring areas that are either difficult or impossible to reach without access to a vehicle.
This is of particular value to families, as you can have your accommodation covered with a very affordable rental rate and the cost of fuel. If you were to rent a motorhome, then the ability to cook your own meals and move around as you please would come as additional benefits.
Have you gone on a memorable road trip solo, as a duo, or with friends/family? Have you done a vehicle relocation before? Feel free to share your inspiration or experience below.