When most people think of off-roading, they envision an old clunker, covered in mud, flying over hills, and eventually getting stuck. However, off-roading doesn't need to be nearly as messy, dangerous, or costly, especially if you're using a car rental or SUV rental vehicle. In fact, if done correctly, on well-known terrain, off-roading can be safe and fun. Here are some tips to keep you on track the next time you decide to take your vehicle off-road.
Ask Before You Drive
Rule number one when it comes to off-roading in a rental car...ask the rental car provider if the vehicle can be used in this manner. Some car rental companies will instantly say "no," while others might be ok with driving off-road. As such, it is best to make your intentions clear before you sign for the vehicle. As well, even if the car rental provider does allow vehicles to be used for off-roading purposes, only certain vehicles will have the capability to be used in this way. For example, a sports car isn't something anyone would take off-road, but a Jeep or SUV might fit the bill. Even then, some vehicles are better designed for the rigours of off-roading. Just remember to always ask your rental car provider before taking their vehicle on an off-road adventure.
Slow and Steady Wins the Race
When it comes to off-roading, slow and steady wins the race. Off-road driving is an adventure, but it isn't a race. Take it slow, survey the terrain before you go, and know how to use the proper gears in your car rental vehicle. Using a low gear when descending a slope, and not gunning the accelerator or jamming on the brakes, will help keep your vehicle in good shape, and will keep you from getting stuck. Enjoy the scenery and enjoy handling your vehicle in a different manner, but don't rush. Excess speed can cause serious problems when off-roading and can damage your vehicle.
Only Off-Road on Specified Tracks
Off-roading doesn't mean turning off the highway wherever you want. There are locations and parks across North America that are designated for off-road driving. Michigan is widely thought of as one of the best off-roading destinations in North America; however there are parks, trails, and locations in almost every state and province designed for off-roading. If you aren't comfortable taking your car rental vehicle off-road, or your car rental provider does not allow off-roading with their vehicles, many off-road parks provide onsite rentals by the hour, where you can park your independent car rental vehicle, and take out one of their vehicles for the afternoon.
Know Your Vehicle and Know The Terrain
The first place you take your car rental or SUV rental should not be to an off-road park or track. Every vehicle handles differently and it's important to get to know your new ride; how the breaks react, how tight the steering is, and how to operate all of the mechanisms before you go off-roading. As well, take time to walk around the vehicle so you know the size and clearance of the vehicle. Similarly, you should attempt to gauge the terrain you will be travelling before embarking on your trip. This could be in the form of studying a map, going for a walk, talking to experienced drivers, or taking a virtual tour of the park. On the highway, it might be easier to avoid learning how to put your vehicle in four wheel drive, low gear, or exactly how much clearance the vehicle has, but on an off-road track, these factors count, and you'll need to make quick decisions to avoid damages or getting stuck.
Off-roading is a fun activity for drivers and passengers, if you plan ahead. First, ask your rental car provider if they have an off-road friendly SUV or vehicle available for rent. If not, perhaps simply ask the rental car agent where the nearest off-road park is that offers on site hourly rentals. If they don't know, they can likely find out for you rather quickly. After that, remember to know your vehicle, know the terrain, take it slow, and stick to the beaten path. If you can handle that, you'll soon find yourself cruising over beautiful and rustic terrain.