Travel Nursing Pay: Rental Cars

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We were often asked about rental cars as a travel nursing recruiter. For various reasons, many travel nursing companies no longer offer rental cars. In addition, there are financial issues to consider when deciding whether or not they want to utilize a rental car for an assignment.

Why aren’t many travel nursing agencies offering rental cars?

It’s much harder to come by companies that offer rental cars these days. They’re out there, but there are far fewer of them. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, rental cars are extremely expensive. The lowest price that can typically be secured for even an economy class rental car is going to be over $500 per month with tax included. The agency may also incur additional insurance costs depending on the insurance that they currently hold as a company and whether or not it covers rental cars. Given the overall decline in bill rates for assignments in the last 5 years, these high rental car costs really eat in to the amount of money that the agency has left to pay. As a result, it may make it appear as though the agency is paying terrible rates.

Second, there are wage recharacterization issues. Again, a agency is technically not supposed to say something like, “The pay rate is $30 per hour without the rental car and $26 per hour with the rental car.” Doing so would open them to the risk of wage recharacterization accusations.

Third, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that agencies hate rental cars. I’ll bet that even those that offer rental cars aren’t too fond of them and wish they didn’t have to offer them. Managing rental cars is a hassle for many reasons. First, there’s a lot of paperwork that needs to be completed and kept up with. Second, because the agency is responsible for the car, they must ensure that the travel nurse takes the car in for regularly scheduled check-ins and maintenance over the 13 week contract. Third, the agency is also liable for any additional charges such as mileage overage charges. Between the paperwork and risk, rental cars are really something that all companies, agencies or otherwise, would prefer to do without if they could.

Is a rental car worth is for travel nurses?

Despite all this, your goal is to determine if a rental car is the right way to go or not. The first thing to consider is that you’ll be hard pressed to find an agency that offers rental cars which could ultimately limit your options if a rental car is a “must have” for you.  However, if you’re unable to find an agency that offers rental cars and also meets the rest of your needs, then you can always secure your own rental car. Remember, even if an agency provides a rental car, it’s not going to be free to you. You’re going to pay in one way or another with reductions in other areas of the compensation package. That said, there are some great sites out there for finding the best deal on rental cars. One of my favorites is rentalcars.com.

Your second consideration should be the financial implications of utilizing a rental car. As mentioned previously, rental cars are quite expensive. The cheapest you’ll most likely find them for is $500 per month. After taxes and other costs, you’re looking at $1,600 in costs during a 3 month contract. If you don’t have a car of your own and you’re going to a location where you must have a car, then a rental may be the only way to go. However, if you’re concerned about putting the miles on your car and the “wear and tear” issues, then you should consider the cost of shipping your car versus the cost of the rental car. You can perform an internet search for “car shipping.” The service that I’ve used in the past is movemycar.com. With this website, you should receive a list of quotes via email from various shippers in your area.

Now, to make a solid determination on whether or not it’ll be cheaper to ship or rent, you’ll need to consider the length of time that you’ll be staying in the area. For example, if you’re planning on staying for 3 months, then you’ll compare the shipping costs to 3 month’s worth of rental car costs. If you plan on staying 6 months, then you’ll compare the shipping costs to 6 months of rental costs. My experience indicates that it’s typically even at three months, and it’s almost always better to ship the car if you’re staying for 5 months or more.

As always, please share your feedback in the comments section below.

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4 replies
  1. Patrick Harris says:

    I live in Oregon but drove to Anchorage, Alaska for my 13 week assignment. I am considering shipping my car back down to Washington and driving back to Oregon from there. Can I write off the cost of shipping my car on my taxes?

    Reply
    • Kyle Schmidt says:

      Yes, you should be able to deduct the cost of getting your car back to your tax home. However, it’s best ask a registered tax adviser this specific question to make sure. We recommend traveltax.com. They typically answer questions like this for free. I hope this helps!

      Reply
  2. Tiffany says:

    My travel agency. Booked me a car at enterprise, but I had to sign a repayment plan. At a weekly deduction of 150.00 is this fair. It doesn’t cover gas, or insurance

    Reply
    • Kyle Schmidt says:

      Thanks for the inquiry, Tiffany. Every benefit that a travel nursing agency provides will come out of the bill rate for the assignment. So, if the agency did not account for the cost of the rental car when determining how much they would have left over for the pay package, then it would be fair for them to make such deductions (unless they told you otherwise prior to accepting the offer). The alternative would be for the agency to deduct the cost on the back end which would lower the value of the pay package by the same amount. In the end, the only way to know if you’re getting a good deal would be to perform a comparison with another agency at the same hospital, for the same job, with all the same benefits. I hope this helps!

      Reply

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