5 On Your Side

Renting a hybrid might not save green

Posted October 16, 2008

High gasoline prices have made hybrid rental cars a popular choice among travelers. But Consumer Reports found that high rates and limited availability might make renting a hybrid hard.

Hybrids are a distinct minority among the many models filling airport rental car lots.

"It's really hit or miss, and to get one guaranteed is out of a reasonable price range," customer Nick Mirto said.

Increasing numbers of customers such as Mirto want to rent hybrids. Hertz officials said the company has seen a 40 percent increase in requests for hybrids this year.

"Car-rental agencies have been adding hybrids like the Nissan Altima, the Toyota Prius," Consumer Reports staffer Tobie Stanger said. "But when you try to rent one of those hybrids, they can be hard to find."

To check on availability, Consumer Reports tried to reserve a hybrid a few days in advance of a three-day stay in Los Angeles. After calling six agencies, staffers found that three – Alamo, Hertz and National –  had a hybrid.

Booking two months in advance got slightly better results: The same three agencies, plus Avis, had a hybrid available.

"We found that calling the rental companies was a more successful strategy for renting a hybrid than going online," Stanger said. "Enterprise wouldn't let us rent a hybrid through its Web site. National told us there were no hybrids available, but when we called, we were able to get one."

However, Consumer Reports found that renting a hybrid will not necessarily save money. For example, Avis quoted a rate of $253 for a three-day rental of an Altima hybrid and $111 for a gas-only Chevrolet Impala.

Those higher charges for fuel-efficient cars can cancel out any money saved on the gas bill.

"When you're renting a car, look not just at the type of vehicle you're getting, but also the rate, so you can get the best deal," Stanger said.

Consumer Reports said that companies might offer better rates on non-hybrid, fuel-efficient vehicles.

For those who really want to rent a hybrid, agencies at major airports are most likely to have a hybrid available in their larger fleets. Rentals might also be available from a hybrid car-maker, such as Toyota.


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  • 4Runner Oct 20, 2008

    I work at a Toyota/Scion dealer and I know we rent Toyota Camry, Corrola, and Siennas. But larger dealers offer the Prius, Tundra, Tacoma, and even Avalons and Solaras. The realy big dealers will rent Scions too. But TRAC, (Toyota Rent A Car) rents per-day, unlimited miles, where as Enterpise, National, Hertz, and all others prices are for the number of days then a mileage rate that you drive and may charge fees if you drive over your limit.

    Simply.... T.R.A.C. is cheaper and.... its a Toyota... and if you get a quote from anyone else, they will match or beat it.

  • dcatz Oct 17, 2008

    If it wasn't for the environazis and there cavalcade of ridiculous regulations designed to "save the environment". We used to have cars that got as high as 5o mpg (Honda Civic VX) but then some state's such as the People's Republic of California decided that they were producing too much pollution.

    So they introduced regulations which, for example, restricted how the fuel can be burnt in the combustion chamber. So now we have cars that end up wasting more fuel. Instead of reducing pollution, environmental nut jobs have ended up actually polluting more because even though a given unit of exhaust has less overall pollution, there is more exhaust because the engine uses more fuel.

    Hybrids are little more than gimmicks for yuppies. Oh and, it's not environmental friendly. All those batteries use toxic heavy metals. And, good luck finding someone that has the skills and parts to fix a hybrid if you break down in the middle of nowhere.

  • geosol Oct 17, 2008

    Hybrids are a disgrace! A "true American" will buy and rent big gas guzzling vehicles that help make our enemies richer!

    Go whack-jobs!!!!

  • iamyeary Oct 17, 2008

    I say, don't rent any car unless you absolutely have to! They are all over priced.

  • ContinuityMan Oct 17, 2008

    Hybrids will be around until someone wraps one up, gets the contents of 100 ruptured batteries dumped on them, and successfully sues the daylights out of the manufacturer for making an unsafe product.

  • Mr. Iowa Oct 17, 2008

    I just rented a Chevy Cobalt for a weekend trip. I got 34 MPG in conservative driving. Sure, a Hybrid gets maybe 10 MPG (although the impact diminishes once you get above, say, 30), but I paid far less than you would a Hybrid. The trick is to not get a car any larger than you need. Just you or maybe one other person? Go Economy. Just two small kids? A small will do.