The Ultimate “Green” Rental Car

May 11, 2012

in Travel Tips

  • SumoMe

Interested in reducing the carbon footprint of your travels? One solution: Drive a “Green” rental car.

Whose Got A “Green” Fleet?

Hertz Green CollectionHertz has a Green Collection which it says made up of “fuel efficient, environmentally-friendly cars that are both easy on the wallet and good for the environment” like the Ford Fusion, “smart fortwo,” the Nissan Altima, and four Toyotas, including two hybrids.

Hertz Smart for TwoThe diminutive “smart fortwo” and a Nissan Altima hybrid are Avis’ Cool Car Eco-Ride options, but you might be able to rent a Prius at some locations. (If you want a Cool Car, but aren’t conservation minded, Avis can send you roaring down the road in a Corvette, Hummer, or Toyota FJ Cruiser).

In the U.S., National’s fleet includes a Ford Escape and Toyota Prius, both hybrids. Alamo has the Prius and Ford Fusion. Budget can provide you with a Ford Fusion or Escape, Nissan Altima, or Toyota Prius at some of its locations.

How Many Greenback Does it Cost to Drive “Green”?

On a 2008 trip to Phoenix I rented a Prius from Hertz at a rental rate less than I had been quoted for a full-size, four door sedan. The car had plenty of trunk space for the luggage my wife and I had brought, drove solidly, had plenty of acceleration on the freeway, and in full-electric mode got 99 MPG (downhill on the freeway at the 75 MPH speed limit).

GreenbackTwo months later I discovered that renting an SUV from Hertz for a day in Seattle cost considerably less than my first choice: A Toyota Prius. And when I made another trip to Phoenix in 2009 I opted for a full-size Hertz sedan because the rate for a renting Prius from Hertz was now much higher, instead of lower, as it had been the previous year.

I live in the San Francisco Bay Area where every third car on the highway seems to be a Toyota Prius. So for purposes of this story, I compared the weekly base rental rates (without discounts, and not including taxes, fees, CDW, or optional equipment) for renting a Prius versus a full-size, 4-door car, from noon September 11, 2012, to noon September 18, 2012, from these five companies which have fleets at San Francisco International Airport:

Company Prius Full-Size Sedan
Alamo Not offered $540.95
Avis $533.39 $504.99
Budget $529.95 $418.99
Hertz $614.49 $534.49
National Not offered $580.86


Then I checked to see if third-party booking sites Expedia, Kayak, or Travelocity could search for “Green Rental Cars” available at San Francisco International Airport. Only Travelocity offered that option and it simply quoted me the same base price for renting a Prius (“or similar” car) that I had found on Avis, Budget and Hertz Websites.

Rental rates might be less at other times of year, or at the other two major Bay Area airports, Oakland and San Jose. And don’t forget that taxes and fees can jack up the total rental price substantially (around $150 on the Prius quotes I received).

Discounts may be offered to auto club members or those with corporate accounts or discount coupons. Paying the entire rental amount in advance at the time of booking (“Pay Now”) instead of at the time you return the car (“Pay Later”) could save you a lot of money, but be sure to read “the fine print” and, in particular, any fees that my be imposed for changing or canceling your reservation.

Give Me the Ultimate “Mean, Lean, and Green Driving Machine”

Ferrri TricycleBut what do those “Green” cars lack? “Sex appeal.” The Ferrari Tricycle ($203) is “Italian eye candy” by comparison.

There is one car that definitely qualifies as the ultimate “Mean, Lean, and Green Driving Machine.” And you can help save the planet while screaming across its surface at warp-speed in this baby.

The Rimac Concept_One all-electric sports goes from 0 to 60 in less than three seconds, and at a top speed of 192, could blow every other car on the Autobahn out of your way as you make the 365 mile run from Berlin to Munich while consuming less than a single “tankful” of “juice.”

Alas, only 88 of these electric “muscle cars” will be manufactured. And at a retail price of $1 million U.S. each, don’t expect them to be part of any major rental car company fleet in Germany or elsewhere.

A “Greener Drive” from Home

Prius V on RoadIf you are going on a “road trip” directly from home rather and it’s time to replace your old bucket of bolts with a new car, check out this review of the new Toyota Prius “V” (as in “Vee”) by technology writer David Pogue of The New York Times. Pogue didn’t just take the car on a test drive, he actually bought one to replace his family’s mini-van. Here’s an excerpt from the review:

Of course, you’re not going to go zero to 60 in five seconds in this car. But it gets 44 miles a gallon and produces one-tenth the pollution of a regular car, which makes me very happy.

“Best of all (for a technophile like me), the Prius V is the first Toyota to incorporate a new electronics system, Entune. The concept is brilliant; the dashboard touch screen offers buttons for apps like Bing, Traffic, Weather and Pandora radio that connect to the Internet through your phone. It works with iPhone or Android phones, as long as you’ve downloaded the necessary Entune phone app and signed up for a free account.”

Prius V EtunePogue reports that Toyota needs to fix a glitch in “Entune” so iPhone owners can to connect to the Internet wirelessly through the Prius’ “Entune” system. He found that the car’s GPS can use his smartphone to download traffic information and guide him around traffic jams. However,  he discovered that when the car is moving neither the driver nor a “navigator” riding in the passenger seat are allowed to enter a new destination, and the screen display lags a bit behind the “real-time” world of traffic. [Note: I ran into a similar lag time issue while using the otherwise very accurate and handy free version of the INRIX Traffic iPhone app while driving my GPS-less 2000 Toyota on San Francisco Bay Area freeways.]

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