Want To Rent A Hybrid? Be Prepared To Pay A Lot More Green

When it comes to car rentals, I’ve rarely cared about the make and model of what I’m driving, so long as it’s in my (low) price range, it has a working radio and the driver’s side door operates properly. So it’s a good thing I’ve never tried to rent a hybrid, because the New York Times says I’d be paying anywhere from 30-70% more for the thrill of it all.

A Times Bucks blogger did a semi-scientific study of hybrid rental prices at the San Francisco airport and while the results varied by company, the common thread was that hybrids will make up for what they save in gas money by costing you more at the rental counter.

At Alamo, renting a hybrid cost $123. That was 71% higher than the company charges for a comparable non-hybrid.

Enterprise charged $93 each day for a hybrid, 29% more than a non-hybrid. Hertz, which had a $132/day rate for hybrids was similarly around 29%.

A hybrid at National cost the most, $152, but so did their comparable standard, so it was only a 36% price hike.

A rep for Enterprise blamed the exorbitant upcharge for the airport rental by saying, “limited availability of hybrids at the airport can result in a higher pricing” and that “you will see much less price volatility” at Enterprise locations in the city.

The mouthpiece for Hertz said that the higher rates for hybrids are primarily because hybrid renters want specific makes and models, as opposed to most renters who just want a 2-door hatchback or a mid-size sedan. She also pointed out that prices will be higher in places of high hybrid demand, like California.

Have any of you rented a hybrid before? How much more — if anything — did you pay?

And how much more would you pay to rent a hybrid?

The Excessive Rates for Hybrid Rental Cars [NY Times via Jaunted]


Edit Your Comment

  1. wcnghj says:

    Who is paying National nearly $100/day to rent a standard car? I guess the NYT didn’t even attempt to find a Discount online. They are plentiful.

    • themicah says:

      In most parts of the US $100 a day is very high, but $100 is typical for rental cars in NYC, where many discount codes don’t work. I can often find better deals (I rent cars a lot since I don’t own one), but the last few times I’ve picked up a car in Manhattan I’ve heard other people at the counter quoted rates in the $120/day range. Considering that a parking space in Manhattan costs at least $300-400/month, $100/day isn’t all that expensive for the occasional weekend jaunt out of the city.

      I’ll also pay $5-10 more per day for a hybrid if I’m going to be driving any decent distance, because the savings in gas balances out the extra cost of the rental, and I’d rather my dollars help keep Hertz in business to provide me with convenient rental cars than help keep the Saudis in business pumping oil. If I’m just driving from an airport to a hotel and back, though, I won’t bother with a hybrid.

  2. wrjohnston91283 says:

    Make sense – hybrids cost more for the rental company to buy, so it makes sense that they would cost more to rent.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      I imagine it also takes more money for maintenance, too.

      • mythago says:


      • Jfielder says:

        Nah. I’ve worked at a few service shops that had service accounts with some car rental agencies, and I can definitely say that they all sell their cars off long before any real maintenance is needed, usually in the area of 30-50k miles. In that time frame you’re looking at oil changes, tires and wiper blades, which are the same price as for their gas guzzling counterparts.

      • AnthonyC says:

        Not at all. They don’t cost any more to maintain than any other car. I should know; I drive one.

        And before you ask, the hybrid battery is under warranty for 10 years, and usually lasts much longer than that. Regardless, rental companies aren’t going to be keeping the vehicle that long.

        • skilledone says:

          Who cares! I wouldn’t want a stankin’ hybrid anyways (Honda or Prius), what pieces of crap.

    • Hoss says:

      Cost is 10% more, not 70%

  3. smo0 says:

    My cousin is flying here from FL with her friend in August. From here, her, her friend, another cousin of ours and myself will be driving to LA (from Las Vegas.)
    I figured renting a Hybrid would be nice, espectially since my aunt is going to chip in for gas and rental cost – it seems ridiculous that you’d pay the same amount as you would a “luxury” rental for something that helps the environment.
    If rental agencies are going to have these cars widely available in the future, I should hope it will “normalize” the price.

  4. Southern says:

    I know I’d LIKE to rent one (of a specific make/model) for a few days so that I can get a better “Feel” for how the car operates before I commit to actually buying one. A quick 10-minute “Test Drive” at a dealer just doesn’t cut it.

    I wish dealers had this type of service, honestly – where you could “rent” a car you’re thinking of buying for up to a week or so, and if you DO buy the vehicle, the “rental” is free – otherwise you pay the going rate (or maybe a discounted rate) for the extended test drive. *Shrug*.

    • nbs2 says:

      Didn’t someone offer that once upon a time? Something like “Take a 5 day test drive” I think it was Chevy – er, Chevrolet – that was doing that. It wasn’t a purchase, but rather an extended rental. If I remember right, they even had it set up like most dealers do with their loaner car programs. If you bought the car, I think you got some percentage (all?) as a credit towards the purchase price.

    • smo0 says:

      There are some dealerships/companies that do this.
      Maybe not the ones you want, though, it’s usually the sh*tty car companies. :D

      • fatediesel says:

        I’ve always been able to keep a car for a couple days (for no charge) that I’m considering buying at my local dealership (which sells new Toyotas, Dodges, and Jeeps, in addition to used cars). I’ve done enough business with the dealership that they know I’m not just looking for a free loaner though, as I doubt anyone can take a car home. After getting used to this I would never buy a car with just a test drive, I want it for at least 24 hours.

  5. Buckus says:

    I rarely ask for a specific brand/model, but after having rented a Dodge Caravan for a 600 mile vacation, no longer. I will specifically go with other rental places when I know I can get a minivan that is not a Dodge Caravan. That thing was a giant piece of crap.

  6. GWC3 says:

    I bet renting a hybrid costs less at the Detroit airport than it does at San Francisco.

    • Jfielder says:

      Ya sure? A Fusion hybrid from Hertz at DTW is 131 a day…. want a Camry? That’ll be 153 a day.

    • thedude says:

      I rented a car for a week in Detroit about a month ago. Ended up with Prius at normal price.

  7. HannahK says:

    This is funny, because I just rented a ZipCar yesterday, and even though hybrids aren’t that much fun to drive, we went with a Honda Insight purely because hybrids are the cheapest option, at $7 an hour (compared to $10 or $14 an hour for other cars).

    • AnthonyC says:

      Keep in mind that zipcar rentals (unlike other rentals) include gas, and these cars get driven a LOT. Most of the costs of a hybrid are fixed- car payments, insurance- so the most important factor is how many hours they get rented.

      Also, the motivations for zipcar are partly environmental, in addition to it being a for-profit company. At least, that is part of it’s image, and low-priced hybrid rentals help further that feel-good image.

      • Southern says:

        Also keep in mind that even at $7 an hour, that’s $168 per day.

        I do like the Zipcar concept for short rentals when you only need an hour or two, though. Anything more than that and you’re typically better off with Enterprise or Budget

  8. mythago says:

    No doubt related to the rental companies’ profits on gas. With a hybrid that uses less fuel, it is much harder to get customers to prepay for gas or “buy the tank” head of time, and charging them double or triple gas-station prices for bringing the car back with less than a full tank is not nearly as profitable when “less than full” means only a gallon or two.

    • danmac says:

      I was thinking this, and there’s another thing related to gas as well. This is merely speculation, but it’s reasonable to believe that some people who rent hybrids do so with the intent of saving fuel on long trips. If people are driving more miles in the rented hybrid, it will hit the mileage threshold for selling sooner. Consequently, fewer rentals will generate less income for the rental company.

      Like I said, that’s pure speculation, but it would make sense IF people drove hybrid rentals more than their standard counterparts.

      • bendee says:

        Knowing a Hertz GM in the Northeast, that is a big part of the reason – people are rarely shelling out for a hybrid to drive 50 miles over two days. They are usually going several hundred.

        The other reason is that it is a ‘specialty’ vehicle. Rental companies charge more because people usually need that car for a reason. It generally costs a lot more to rent a mid-size SUV such as a Rav4 than it does a full-size car like a Camry, even though the MSRP is similar.

      • anewmachine615 says:

        Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. In my 2 years, most people wanted comfortable cars for long trips. Hybrids (even ones based on a standard body type like the Camry and Fusion) are seen as uncomfortable, and fewer people were willing to take them. That said, I could sell a V6 Ford Taurus very easily to a cross-country roadtripper – despite that they’re super-heavy and gulp gas.

        • AnthonyC says:

          Hybrids are seen as uncomfortable? If so, that’s only because the people doing the renting have never ridden in one, or are not looking at other cars in the same size/class. Reality doesn’t always align with perception, especially when new-fangled ways of doing things are involved.

  9. whogots is "not computer knowledgeable" says:

    The numbers in the article are just stupid. Anyone who pays full price for a rental probably doesn’t give a damn if the specific model they want is $30 or $40 extra.

    I have some real numbers.

    I’m driving a rental at the moment, using a tiny Enterprise office located at a university conference center in Atlanta. I had a Prius for a while at about $37/day (after tax, before reimbursement). I think that’s a reasonable price; I usually pay about $27/day for a Pontiac G6, but the Prius is a little fancier and the mileage difference really adds up if I’m traveling. Also, it’s totes amusing to try to keep the average close to 50mpg.

    After about ten days with the Prius, I realized that my car wasn’t coming home anytime soon. The $11/day I was paying above Geico’s chintzy reimbursement rate didn’t sound impressive, but I couldn’t stomach $330 for a whole month. I turned it in for a zippy little Ford Focus, which goes for about $25/day and gets 32mpg.

  10. sock says:

    I own a hybrid. They’re fun and interesting to drive. The novelty took about 18 months to wear off.

    Last summer, when renting a car in San Francisco, the extra cost renting a hybrid would have eaten up any savings in gas I might have realized. So, I rented a tiny Ford crap bucket. Now I know why I don’t own a tiny Ford crap bucket.

    • hoi-polloi says:

      Agreed. I have a 2006 Prius, and I’ve rented a few cars while I’ve owned it. My primary (and nearly exclusive) concern when renting is the price. I don’t care about bells, whistles, etc. If any savings in fuel are going to be eclipsed by the rental cost, I’ll let some other hippie rent it.

      One notable exception to my “I’ll-take-anything” policy is when they tried to give me an 8-passenger van in Denver. It was my wife, my son, and me – not a pro volleyball team.

      • whogots is "not computer knowledgeable" says:

        I draw the line at SUVs. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve been offered a freaking Tahoe when I wanted a Versa or G6. And when I’d say no, they usually point out that they’re offering me a free upgrade. STOP DOING ME FAVORS, PEOPLE.

  11. anewmachine615 says:

    Only 30% or so seems pretty small. We used to charge $20-$30 more a day to “upgrade” to a hybrid from a normal reservation, which ran around $40-$50 a day. The crazy thing is, people would pay it pretty readily, too. I never had a hard time upselling hybrids.

  12. Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

    I travel a lot for work and have found that it really doesn’t matter what I reserve, since it will never actually be in stock. I just reserve the cheapest sub-compact and about 3/4 of the time, I’ll get a complimentary upgrade anyways.

  13. jvanbrecht says:

    I would not pay to rent a hybrid.. seeing as I used to own a hybrid camry…

    I dumped the beige box of boring.. or is it beige box of death.. I forget.. and bought an AMG C63 :)

    Going from tiny footprint on mother nature (or so they say.. but considering the manufacturing process is more detrimental for hybrids than non hybrids, that statement is likely crap), to one giant jack boot up mother natures behind.. and I am happy with my 10mpg 450HP V8 :)

    • AnthonyC says:

      What you drive is entirely your own decision, and must be based on many factors, but the “higher impact from manufacturing” is thoroughly overblown.

      Yes, the impact for manufacturing a hybrid is greater than that of a non-hybrid version of the same car. The difference is not nearly enough to even come close to the lifetime impact from gasoline consumption.

      Also, you’re not comparing two versions of the same car, you’re comparing completely different cars, with different weights, made in different factories in different places. Neither you nor I have any idea which has the higher impact from manufacturing.

  14. PerkStreetJen says:

    Funny – the few hybrids offered in my neighborhood by Zipcar are infinitely cheaper than the other cars. Like $5 an hour cheaper.

  15. NarcolepticGirl says:

    I just rent whatever is cheapest…
    while also using discount codes.

  16. AnthonyC says:

    Part of this is greed; people who want to drive a hybrid often want it for non-monetary reasons, and are willing to pay a premium.

    But part is also because, I expect, there’s less you can “strip out” of a hybrid to make a rental version. Those things that make a hybrid more expensive than its non-hybrid counterparts are non-negotiable.

    Additionally, I expect many people rent cars when they drive very long distances. That may offset some of the increase cost (but not all!).

  17. bben says:

    I do not specify a hybrid when I rent. However, I have ended up with several in the last year. The rate was the same as any other non hybrid. The company I use most often in Hertz.

  18. cupcake_ninja says:

    Wasting green to be green…makes perfect sense to me…

  19. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    This is only really true if you ASK to rent a hybrid. If you’re lucky enough to get one by pick of the draw, its the same price. I was given a prius my last time up out of Detroit, and it was nice not to have to pay so much green for the refill.

  20. wrtcedar says:

    I’ve seen a wide range of premiums for hybrids – even from the same company at the same location. The first time I rented a hybrid from Hertz it was the same price as a midsize at one location and 50% more at a city only a few hundred miles away. Currently it’s 55% more for the dates I checked at the city (Seattle) that used to have price parity.

    I hadn’t intended to pay a premium at Dollar, but I’d made the arrangements for my travel challenged stepson (first time renting a car) and they upsold him to a hybrid at the terminal. I guess that they neglected to explain the part about the rate nearly doubling.

  21. Forty2 says:

    At DFW, after the complimentary bus tour of the entire county, Hertz offered me a Prius in lieu of the generic compact I’d reserved, no extra charge. Wot, sure, OK, never driven one, WTF.

    I hated that car way more than I’ve ever hated any car, and it only got 32mpg. It is a car for people who hate cars, or hate driving, or both in its total disdain for any feedback or tactile response. It’s slow. Dangerously-distracting controls. Turn? Maybe, gets a little tippy on those tiny little wheels. Ugh.

    Granted there will probably be more demand for these little toads in image-conscious places like California vs. Texas, and I say that as a California native; if Hertz had asked for a premium I’d have declined and taken my crappy Focus or Cobalt or whatever.

  22. Chandru1 says:

    The only reason it costs more to rent a hybrid is because of image. The fuel savings will not save much money, as people don’t drive rental cars very much.

  23. varro says:

    Hertz offered me a Prius at MCI (Kansas City) for $7 a day extra for a 4 day rental last month.

  24. jessjj347 says:

    It costs more for Philly Car Share.

  25. nerble says:

    The price of hybrids and the maintenance costs are insane (did you know to work on one you have to wear linesmans gloves? or that disconnecting the battery does not discharge all that cool deadly electrictiy running through the car?) especially in comparison to a Ford Escort. Ergo, it costs more to rent.