Buying and running a fully equipped adventure vehicle is pricey. Does it make more sense to rent one?

South Africans love the outdoors and the rugged transport that takes us there. We have all seen them at the local supermarket or on the school run: double-cab bakkies and pukka 4x4s loaded with enough equipment to reach Egypt. But therein lies the problem: many owners of these vehicles rarely embark on regular trips to neighbouring countries for holidays, or go on hardcore 4x4 adventures, yet they carry the cost of these vehicles that have the ability to do just that. Is there perhaps a more cost-effective solution? What about renting? Let’s look at the costs of owning versus renting a vehicle.

To help with the complex calculations, we sought the help of Jac Niemand, a financial reporting actuary at MMI Holdings. He factored in depreciation, inflation, servicing, fuel and financing costs, and based the calculations on a five-year ownership model (a vehicle bought on hire purchase with 10% deposit over 60 months). All costs are inflation adjusted to 2018, but Niemand cautions that cases may vary and it’s best to seek financial advice before making a decision.

Renting versus buying

Traditionally, South Africans prefer owning vehicles, but rental or lease options, popular in Europe, are becoming more accepted here. It’s satisfying owning a vehicle and having full control of its use, but leasing brings peace of mind of not having to worry about servicing, mechanical failures or resale value.

The comparison

Our test case involves a theoretical user who drives 20 000 km a year, plus an additional 5 000 km on holidays (where the rental option applies). We do not include travelling costs (or flying) to main cities where a rental would be collected, as this varies too greatly case by case.

We chose rental company Avis’ group N Ford Ranger double cab 2,2 TDCi 4x4 XLS as our example vehicle, as it’s ideally suited to a bush getaway for a family of four, and makes comparison easy with an identical Ranger you could buy from a Ford dealership.

What’s in the rental Ranger in our example?

Avis is one of the leading rental companies for overland adventure vehicles. Its fleet consists of many options, ranging from the Group N entry-level Ford Ranger up to a group C Toyota Land Cruiser. The Ranger we’ve used for this experiment is fitted with more than R220 000 of equipment, including:

  • Two rooftop tents with double beds
  • Kitchen with gas cooker
  • 270-degree awning
  • 80-litre water tank
  • 90-litre fridge-freezer
  • Table and four chairs
  • Safari linen and towels
  • 120 W solar panel
  • Electric tyre pump and pressure gauge
  • 163-litre long-range fuel tank
  • Uprated suspension

For the rest of the year

As the renting option excludes a vehicle for private use during the rest of the year, we chose two alternative Ford products for private ownership in the form of an Everest 2,2 XLS AT 4x2 and a Focus Sedan 1,5 TDCi Trend. Obviously, these alternatives do not need pukka off-road credentials, but both the Everest and Focus are family-friendly and ideally suited to everyday driving.

The table below shows the estimated total cost of ownership (over five years) for the three vehicles, as well as the number of days the rental Ranger can be leased per year with the money saved by picking one of the other Fords.
Buy or rent tableWhat we’ve found

It’s quite simple, really. Renting an adventure vehicle for a few weeks each year while owning a more road-biased, less-expensive car for the rest of the time is far more cost-effective. You could get that Ranger from a rental agency for 32 days a year if you had an Everest 4x2, and 51 days were you to choose the Focus.

For more info on Avis’ adventure-vehicle rental options, head over to