Hard-to-Rent Hybrids

October 28, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
With the high price of gasoline these days, the demand for hybrid car rentals has shot up. But it can be tough even finding one to reserve.On recent trips, Nick Mirto has found trying to rent a hybrid car has been no easy walk in the park. "It's really hit or miss, and to get one guaranteed is out of a reasonable price range."

More and more people, like Nick, are looking to rent hybrids. Hertz says it's seen a 40 percent increase in requests for hybrids so far this year.

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

Consumer Reports did some booking. It tried to reserve a hybrid a few days in advance of a three-day stay in Los Angeles. Checking six agencies, only three - Alamo, Hertz, and National - had a hybrid. Booking two months in advance was a bit better. The same three agencies plus Avis had a hybrid.

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

But Consumer Reports found renting a hybrid won't necessarily save you money. For instance, Avis quoted a rate of $253 for a three-day rental of an Altima hybrid versus $111 for the Chevy Impala. Agencies charging more for fuel-efficient cars can cancel out any savings on gas.

"So 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," says Stanger.

Consumer Reports says you may be able to get a better rate on a non-hybrid fuel-efficient vehicle. To get Consumer Reports' list of fuel-efficient vehicles so you know which cars to book, Click Here.

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