Thursday, July 22, 2010

How to Get Cheaper Hybrid Rentals

Here’s one way to potentially get a cheaper hybrid rental: join a car sharing program.

I recently searched for hybrid car prices in San Francisco and Chicago through Connect, Hertz’s new car sharing program. With Connect, a Toyota Prius rental will run you about $9 an hour or $58 a day in those cities.

These prices are potentially lower than if you rented a Hertz hybrid from a nearby airport. Depending on the exact details of where you rent it from and for how long, a Toyota Prius rental from Hertz could cost you anywhere from about $80 to more than $100 a day, according to searches for a rental car I recently did on Travelocity.

Similarly, John Williams, a spokesman for another car sharing service, Zipcar, said the company generally does not charge more for hybrids than similar-size regular cars in any of its markets. In fact, at certain times of the day, the hybrids are available at discounts of about $3 or so off per hour, he said.

Why the price differences for hybrid rental cars?

“We actually discount them at certain times of the day to encourage short, in-city trips” to help keep fuel costs in check “since we pay for gas,” said Mr. Williams of Zipcar. Zipcar, he added, includes “free gas in our hourly rates on all our vehicles, which is a strong motivation to purchase highly fuel-efficient hybrid vehicles and to incentivize our members to use those hybrids by offering lower hourly rates.”

Over at Hertz, “car sharing and ‘Rent-a-Car’ are two separate business models with different operational requirements, thus pricing between the two entities is different,” said Paula Rivera, a spokeswoman for Hertz. The different business models result in a higher relative cost for hybrids at Hertz Rent-a-Car.

Gas costs, for instance, are included in the car sharing rate, she said, and since the cost of gas with hybrids is less than with a traditional car, Hertz is able to pass along that savings to its Connect members. In addition, she said, because hybrids in Hertz’s regular rental fleet are part of its “Green Collection,” there are additional operational costs associated with them that result in higher price. One of those additional costs, she said, is making sure the specific car is available and waiting on the lot.

To be sure, you need to factor in the car sharing program’s one-time application fees of $25 and annual $50 membership fees into the equation as well as any costs for getting from an airport to where you can pick up a hybrid shared car. You may also be able to find cheaper hybrid rentals if you rent from city rather than airport rental car locations, according to car rental agencies.

But still, if you frequently rent hybrids, the costs at a car sharing program may often be lower in total, and the cost is certainly lower if you just compare the actual rental rates.

How have you found that car sharing versus car rental prices compare?

No comments:

Post a Comment