By Susan Burke March
Ecuador’s roads are much improved from just a few years ago. Given the manageable size of the country, the low price of gasoline, and the ease of navigating on well-paved roads, it makes sense to travel by car and see the country, whether you’re planning a week-long vacation or longer, or just venturing out to a neighboring province or planning an overnight trip.
Traveling by car has some distinct advantages.
My number-one reason to rent a car is to go at my own pace. When you have your own wheels, no one is telling you what time you have to depart, or dictating how much time you can stay when you get to your first…or second…or third destination. You’re your own boss and you make the schedule. You can be spontaneous, hang out if you’re having fun, or start the engine when you’re ready to move on.
If you’re hungry, or need a baño, you stop at your discretion. If there’s something that’s fascinating on the side of the road, you can pull off and take that photo. You get to choose the music.
Say you want to visit a smaller village, or an out-of-the-way beach. Renting a car saves you time. Some destinations in Ecuador are not easily reachable by public transportation — and if they are, the trip can be interminable. You’re always on someone else’s schedule.
Traveling in your own vehicle means bringing as much clothing as you like — and you can even pack a cooler. Bring that water, beer and wine with you — bring hielo if you like.
Travel to places off the beaten path. Ecuadorians and expats know that most routes are in good condition, but in the Sierra, some dirt roads need extra oomph! Having your own 4×4 means you’re not limited to well-visited, main road attractions — you can really explore.
And renting a car is a blast. It’s an adventure, it’s going to allow you to really feel like you’re part of Ecuador. You’re in the driver’s seat, and it just feels like fun.
Cuenca Car Share: Your Key To The Open Road
Three years ago, American expats Juan Carlos Morales and David Korkoian had rented a car in Cuenca to explore Ecuador. They enjoyed their sightseeing and the freedom to wander on their own schedule, but when they returned the car to the rental agency they found that they hadn’t read the fine print on their contract closely enough. What they’d thought an acceptable security deposit wound up costing them much, much more. They decided that there was a good opportunity to start a better-than-rental experience here in Cuenca, one that they’d used in their home state of Florida — a car share.
Cuenca Car Share is not a rental car company — it’s a car share company. When you book, you’re assured your wheels will be a late-model vehicle. You’ll travel in style and in the secure knowledge that the vehicle will be well maintained, safe, and insured — and that when you drop it off, there will be no hidden costs.
Juan Carlos and David first purchased their own vehicle, and started sharing it with locals. When one regular declined to give them a recommendation, saying that he didn’t want to take the chance that the car would be booked when he wanted to use it, Juan Carlos and David said, “a business is born!”
Cuenca Car Share is an economical and hassle-free way to travel throughout Ecuador. Because they’re a “car share” and not a rental company, the costs are less, and transparent.
David and Juan Carlos’ customers include tourists, here for a limited time, who want to explore Ecuador from their home base in Cuenca, and locals, who want the convenience of a reliable car to take day or overnight trips — for example, a visit to the waterfalls at Girón, or to Paute for their famous Sunday market. Business people will book a vehicle to travel to their destination and back, and CCS also offers the option of one-way booking, for example, from Cuenca to Quito, dropping the car off at your destination.
From one vehicle three years ago, currently you can choose from nine privately owned vehicles, none older than 2014.
It’s super-easy to book your vehicle — just log on to the website. Select your dates, choose your car, and see all the details about pickup, drop off, and insurance, deposits, and extras.
When you book a car, you will be sent a PayPal invoice for 25% of the total bill to reserve the vehicle.
At pickup, you pay the balance — in cash or by PayPal.
Log on to take a test drive. Click to see an actual photo each car, (not just a stock photo from the manufacturer), the type (Van, Sedan, or SUV), the fuel type, the gearbox (automatic or manual 5 speed), the passenger capacity, and price. Also listed are each vehicle’s extras: air conditioning, type of radio/cd, and, of course, the price, ranging from $35 per day for smallest Chevy Sail (a 5-passenger economy car) to $89 for the new Hyundai H1 passenger van (seats 8 comfortably, with room for luggage in the back).
You can also opt for a GPS for just $3 per day — it’s updated with local maps, and something I think is essential for driving today.
Juan Carlos and David explained that there are no dues or fees to be a member of Cuenca Car Share. Each cars are priced by the day, plus 10 cents a kilometer is due when the car is returned.
If you’re a legal resident of Ecuador with an Ecuadorian drivers license, you pay a security deposit of $500. A legal resident without an Ecuadorian license pays $750, and if you’re a visitor, $1500.
When you pick up the car, you’ll complete the paperwork: your security deposit is refunded within 3 to 5 days after returning the car (on time, and without damage, and clear of violations).
Collision and comprehensive, and liability insurance are included in all bookings, as well as roadside assistance. Just like if you’d borrowed the car from your neighbor or friend. If something happens, you only forfeit your security deposit.
So, get on the road! If you’ve been putting it off, just get your feet wet with a day or overnight rental. It is loads of fun.
Cuenca Car Share will assist you with all the requirements for getting your Ecuadorian drivers license (click here for more information), as well as helping you buy a vehicle if you would like to invest.
Someone who might want their own car sometimes, but not necessarily all the time can earn some return from their car in two ways with Cuenca Car Share.
First, they can put their vehicle 100% into the program with Cuenca Car Share. David and Juan Carlos manage everything, including maintaining, registering the car and providing the insurance. Besides earned revenue, the owner has the option to reserve their car for four weeks a year — they only pay for the kilometers that they drive at 10 cents per kilometer.
A second investor option is to buy a car, use it, insure it, and maintain it, and have Cuenca Car Share manage all the bookings. The owner retains the majority of revenues earned. Owners can block of their personal-use days 2 months ahead.
Click here for more investor information. David says that investing in Cuenca Car Share is perfect for people who are seasonal visitors to Cuenca. Instead of the car sitting in the garage, it earns income.
Click here for Cuenca Car Share FAQs.