Live Green and Earn Points


Drive a green rental car

By Jennifer Spero |
Once you arrive at your destination, choose a rental car company that offers fuel-efficient options, such as hybrid, electric, and biodiesel cars.

Despite its transient nature, driving a green rental car gives motorists the same opportunity to curb global climate change and localized air pollution as hybrid and alternative fuel vehicle owners.

Find it! Green rental car agencies

Whether traveling for business or for pleasure, why not take a vacation from your regular ride and opt to drive something a little (little being the operative word) more sensible? Reflective of the automotive buying trend towards more petite and fuel-efficient vehicles, the major domestic car rental agencies have performed green enhancements and added hybrids — and in some cases, flex-fuel cars — to their fleets.

Before you book

Check availability before attempting to book a green rental car. Don't expect to immediately find and rent a Prius. Avis, for instance, only offers hybrids in its California, Washington, DC, Seattle, and Portland, Oregon, markets. Additionally, expect to pay more to rent a hybrid in lieu of another economy car at some agencies. These companies believe that savings in gasoline will offset the increased rate.

Driving a green rental car helps you go green because…

  • Green vehicles use less fuel and produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions, making your vacation more sustainable.

Eco-friendly vehicles, including smaller models, hybrids, flex-fuel capable, and biodiesel compatible, are increasing in popularity all across the country and around the world. And with good reason! These alternatives to conventional cars have significant environmental benefits:

  • When accelerating, a hybrid rental car will run off a battery-charged electric motor, not gasoline, curtailing global-warming-causing tailpipe emissions. Hybrids can reduce air pollution by as much as 90 percent..[1]
  • As concern over the cost and source of petroleum soars, hybrids have been proven to have excellent fuel economy due to advanced aerodynamic designs (which reduce wind resistance), light-weight engines, and other fuel-efficient features. This is a distinct advantage for renters who plan on driving extended distances.
  • While at a standstill, a hybrid rental's engine shuts itself off and the vehicle runs on electricity. Every two minutes of idling in a standard car consumes the same amount of gas required to drive approximately one mile — a waste of resources and a contributor to smog.[2]
  • Flex-fuel cars produce around 20 percent less carbon dioxide emissions than standard gasoline-powered vehicles.[3]

Representative of the shift away from vehicles like SUVs and towards smaller, more fuel-efficient cars like gas-electric hybrids, the car rental industry has seen a swift increase of such cars on its North American lots. In 2006, green rental cars numbered only a few hundred; as of the summer of 2007, there were over 6,000 nationwide.[4]

In June 2007, major rental agency Hertz revealed plans to spend $68 million on the addition of 3,400 Toyota Prius hybrids to its domestic fleet by 2008. Replacing 1,000 standard rental cars with the Prius will reduce carbon dioxide emissions by approximately 3,000 tons per year, according to Hertz. Additionally, Hertz offers a "Green Collection" Smartway-certified vehicles on offer.

Enterprise — the largest rental car operation in North America — claims to have an "unparalleled fleet of fuel-efficient vehicles" and added 3,000 hybrids to its fleet in 2007. Additionally, Enterprise rents 41,000 flex-fuel vehicles capable of running on ethanol to its customers.

Avis offers both Nissan Altima and Toyota Prius hybrids at select locations, adding 500 of the former to California locations in the summer of the 2007. Domestic rental agencies offering vehicles that run on alternative fuels like biodiesel and electricity have not yet risen above novelty status.


  • automotive fuel economy: Fuel economy in cars is important because carbon dioxide emissions are directly related to the amount of fuel burned. "Miles per gallon," or mpg, is the way most Americans measure fuel economy, while other countries may use liters of fuel per 100 km traveled. To measure your fuel economy, fill your tank and reset the odometer. At your next fill-up, divide the miles traveled by the amount of fuel needed to refill the tank.

External links


  1. Care2 - EcoInfo: Hybrid Cars
  2. California Energy Commission - Consumer Energy Center
  3. The Boston Globe - Car rental outfits head in a green direction
  4. The Boston Globe - Car rental outfits head in a green direction
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