A Guide to Hybrid Car Rentals

A few years ago, it was nearly impossible to rent a hybrid car. Now, the ability to complete a hybrid car rental is only limited by your willingness to plan ahead. All the major rental companies—including Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Hertz, and Avis-Budget—have added thousands of hybrids to their fleets in recent years, and they would like to add more to meet growing demand. Unfortunately, the rental car companies are fighting for the same limited hybrid inventory that has put retail consumers on long waiting lists.

“What we’re able to get into the fleet is dictated by what we’re able to buy,” said Lisa Martini, a spokesperson for Enterprise Rent-A-Car, in an interview with HybridCars.com. The Enterprise website states it more emphatically: “We’ll take as many [hybrids] as we can get.” The company currently has more than 4,000 hybrids, with plans to double that number in 2009.

Avis-Budget, which is also targeting a significant increase in its number of hybrid car rentals, is confronting the same supply problem. Lauren Nodzak, corporate communications specialist, told HybridCars.com, “Manufacturers will only sell us hybrids in very small quantities.” And Hertz is in the same boat. “We’re looking into adjusting our fleet to meet the demand for hybrids,” said Leann Sabato, a company spokesperson.

Toyota, the world’s leader in hybrids, allots only so many vehicles to fleets. In 2007, less than 5 percent of Toyota’s hybrids sales went to fleets—and those are divided between government, corporate, and car rental companies.

Hybrid Car Rental Is a Necessity

Going green and efficient is becoming a business imperative, according to Chris Brown, editor of Auto Rental News, a publication that monitors the car rental industry. “Let’s face it. The customer is driving this cart. Nobody wants to rent SUVs anymore,” said Brown. “The car rental companies have no choice, so they’re becoming proactive.” The rising demand stems from consumers hoping to pay less for fuel, but also a desire from customers wanting to conduct an extended test-drive of hybrid vehicles—as a way to learn more about the driving experience, if they are thinking about purchasing a hybrid.

As production of gas-electric and other alternative vehicles expands, and the rental companies add additional hybrid car rentals to their fleets, getting behind the wheel of hybrid on a vacation or business trip may not require an advanced reservation. Until that time, consumers should make a special effort to book a hybrid in advance, specifically by make and model.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Hybrid car rental fleet: More than 4,000 hybrids, including Toyota Prius, Nissan Altima Hybrid, and Ford Escape Hybrid, with plans to double that number in 2009. (These numbers include hybrid car rentals available from National and Alamo, which is owned by Enterprise.)
Hybrid locations: Throughout the United States (with more limited availability of the Nissan Altima Hybrid).

Hybrid reservations: Local offices will make an effort to accommodate hybrid requests, but it’s not guaranteed.

Hertz

Hybrid car rental fleet: Approximately 4,000 hybrids (up from 1,200 in 2007).

Hybrid locations: Top 50 airports throughout the United States, and other various locations.

Hybrid reservations: Guaranteed reservations available for 3,400 of the hybrids in their fleet.

Avis-Budget

Hybrid car rental fleet: Approximately 2,500 hybrids.

Hybrid locations: Priuses are available in California, Florida and selected cities, including Seattle, Wash.; Portland, Ore.; Washington, D.C.; Boston, Mass.; Chicago, Ill.; Dallas, Tex.; New York, NY.; and Philadelphia, Penn. Nissan Altima Hybrids and Ford Escape Hybrids are also available in California and Florida.

Hybrid reservations: Hybrids are available with guaranteed reservation.

The number of hybrid rentals in any company’s fleet may give some indication of its commitment to fuel efficiency. But the more telling statistic for the rental companies is the average fuel efficiency of their entire fleets. In that regard, the race looks like a dead heat, with all the major car companies reporting that nearly half of their vehicles have fuel efficiency ratings of 28 mpg or higher—a figure which is almost identical to the average fuel economy of all new cars.

Customers interested in fuel economy, but who are unable to reserve a hybrid due to limited availability, can take the next best step by reserving or renting a vehicle within the most efficient “class” that meets their needs—for example, opting for a compact car rather than a full-size model, or a sedan rather than an SUV.


  • Neil

    I am glad to see rental car companies offering hybrids. This gives everyday renters a chance to try a hybrid without having to pester a friend (if one even has a friend with a hybrid), or even worse go to a dealer and try out driving a hybrid car while being pressured to make a purchase by a sales person. Of course for the past few months hybrids have been selling themselves, so good luck even getting a test drive.

    My first hybrid driving experience was in 2006 with a hybrid-only rental car company, EV Rental, in Phoenix. I had a chance to rent a hybrid Honda Civic while on a business trip, so it didn’t cost me a cent personally. Since then I have purchased the 2008 model of that same car.

    One other trend I have noticed a lot of at rental car companies is that there are a lot more “free” upgrades to larger vehicles. I think this is because these gas guzzlers are not selling off the dealer lots, so the manufacturers are selling them as fleet cars to rental car companies at significant discounts. Ironically enough, this allows the rental car companies to “upgrade” rentals – and why do they even care because the rental car company is not buying gasoline to refill these. This is from my personal observation and may or may not be an actual trend, so I invite comments from others on this topic…

    All around hybrid rentals give average people a chance to try out some new technology, so this is good!

  • Enrique

    There is a company called EQOCAR right next to the airport that rents nothing but hybrids, they have much lower prices than the big companies, sometimes you can find hybrids for under 50 bucks, anyone renting in that area should definitely check them out.

  • adriana

    Which airport??

  • Enrique

    Sorry, Bob Hope airport in Burbank CA

  • Tim Sutton

    What a load of rubbish !!!!! I have just emailed the big 5 companies about a 10 day hybrid rental from Tampa Florida (I even provided a list of ALL hybrids on sale in the USA to them) and only Hertz replied saying they have a prius, but you can’t order their GPS Neverlost system with it….

    The other 4 all replied said they do not have Hybrids in their fleets.

    I am happy to forward their email replies if proof of this is required.

    Enrique, thanks for the Eqocar link, I am just awaiting their call back…I will keep you posted on how it goes with them…

    Thanks !!

    Tim in Switzerland

  • Tim Sutton

    Eqocar is currently based in Burbank, Calif. I called their call center and got a call back as promised. Nick (or Neil) said they are going to be ramping up over the coming months to provide in other destinations…..good luck to them !! I ended up getting a Prius from Hertz and buying a portable GPS. I also found that if you can get the number of the local rental station, then you can ask them directly if they have a Prius. For example, I also rented a Prius from AVIS in Chicago (despite the email I got saying they don’t do them) but the website did not have one on it and I only got one by calling them at teh pick up point….it worked out at an unbelievable $212 a day in Chicago !!!! but if you stay at The Avenue Hotel downtown, they let you park for free ($48 saved per day !!!)….hertz Prius rental I got by calling the Swiss hertz number and she booked it. Worked out at $613 for 9 days….about $68 a day…how come there is so much difference I wonder ????

  • HOOKAGREAT

    Thanks Enrique
    For eqocar.com information. yes indeed they are located at the Burbank Airport. the best car rental experience i ever had I work for a huge company and I travell all the time about 4 days a wk all over the country this is the first time i had found a company that I can really appreciate doining business with.
    I rented a Prius With Navigation for only $269/wk

  • laura

    NOT TRUE! I called all of the car rental companies listed in this article and NONE of them had hybrids for rent. I don’t know where the editor got their information for this article, but it is inaccruate!

  • Wayde

    You guys might also want to check out Simply Hybrid in Los Angeles. I’ve rented from them before and they have pure Hybrid vehicles as well. They have great customer service and they deliver and pick-up pretty much anywhere in the greater L.A. area and airports as well, oh and free of charge. Their website is http://www.SimplyHybrid.com. Check them out and let me know how it goes.

  • Oscar

    I needed to rent a hybrid so I checked out Simply Hybrid but there rates are much higher then eqocar (a lot higher) so I rented from eqocar. I was extremely impressed, they are the only rental place I will use from now on.

  • Maha

    Afte trying BIG car rental companies in LA which they promise Hybrid but most of the time they DO NOT give you a hybrid when going to their office. I tried Simply Hybrid Rent A Car System and they are as their name “SIMPLY HYBRID” all their fleet is hybrid, very clean cars, great & courtious service. They delivered and picked-up the car without having to go their office and wait and they did not charge for the delivery & pick-up of the car. Please try them they really worth it, http://www.simplyhybrid.com or call them at 888-359-0055, and drop a word about your experience.

  • Wayde

    Rental rates are flexible depending on the duration of the rental and the season. I suggest calling in and inquiring instead of just browsing online to get the best possible rates. I actually saw Simply Hybrid on the news last week for the Go Green Expo in Los Angeles.

  • HOOKAGREAT

    HERE we go again eQocar to rescue. I had just landed at the Burbank airport every car rental agency was sold out the one they have car they want $115 per day for chev Aveo, I call eQocar they deliver the car to me to my hotel for free Toyota Prius with factory Navigation for only $60
    a day. Please every body go to http://www.eqocar.com
    you will have a great rental experience at http://www.eqocar.com.
    thank you

  • CurtW

    How far does eqocar deliver?… Are they limited only within the Burbank area?… I usually rent from simplyhybrid because of their service. Eqocar’s rates are a tad better but for the conveniency of having my rental delivered virtually anywhere, i think simplyhybrid makes up for that much more. I’ll call eqocar and inquire.

    Thanks for the info guys!

  • hookagreat

    eQocar deliver 20 miles radius from Burbank Airport

  • amber

    This is so cool. My next car is going to be a hybrid, but it’s almost impossible to test drive one around here because they are all pre-sold before they get to a dealer. This a great option. Thanks for the info.

  • Kevin Taylor

    Just called Enterprise and they said the manufacturers are not selling hybrids to them and so they don’t have many hybrids left. I specifically asked about the Prius. So how does one get the Toyota to sell to the rental fleets?

  • jv1788

    This is a great guide! The reality is that hybrids are the promise of a better future, and the fact that there are already very well-known and affordable hybrid car rentals it’s a great way to offer people the chance of seeing that these cars are just as good as the classic ones, and have lower CO emissions. If this will increase the sells with at least 5%, it will be a success.

  • JerryW

    “GREAT GUIDE” Yes! but I am trying to rent a hybrid Toyota in Miami for a month, this coming March, 2012, and everyone says they are no longer available. What’s happening? Have all the RAC companies gotten burned out? Merry Christmas & Happy New Year!

  • sl786982

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  • Brian888

    I’ve been planning on renting a car for my next trip and was definitely considering a hybrid. Not only do I think it will help save on the gas cost, but it is also a good choice for the environment.

  • donating money

    Thanks for posting this