Renting a car? Consider hybrid and other eco-friendly options

Special to The Los Angeles Times

Travelers, you've made your voices heard. Whether you want to lessen your pain at the pump or reduce your carbon footprint (or both), you can find more hybrid and biofuel-powered rental cars these days.

Just remember, though, that you may be going green, but you won't necessarily be saving green.

If you're in L.A., San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Dallas, Chicago, New York City, Washington, D.C., Atlanta or Miami, you'll have a good shot at finding a hybrid.

Here's who's doing what:

* Enterprise, National and Alamo rent Ford, Toyota and Saturn hybrids, and they offer carbon offsets through TerraPass, a company that strives to reduce the negative effects on the climate of driving a car.

Renters contribute $1.25 per rental, and TerraPass uses funds for an emissions-offset project. It includes clean energy, such as wind farms; creating energy from farm animal waste; or capturing methane from landfills.

Enterprise's luxury division in West L.A. rents Lexus hybrids, and Fox offers Honda Civic hybrids and Toyota Camry, Highlander SUV and Prius hybrids.

* Hertz says it will have 3,400 Toyota Priuses to rent with guaranteed reservations by year's end.

* Avis and Budget rent the Prius, the Nissan Altima and Ford Escape hybrids and guarantee reservations.

* Avis, Budget, Enterprise, National and Alamo offer flexible-fuel vehicles, which run on E85 fuel, a blend of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline. However, E85 stations are scarce in California, with stations in Carlsbad, Oceanside, San Diego and Los Angeles (Conserv Fuel in Brentwood, open to the public.

Meanwhile, about 85% of Toyota dealerships participate in a rental car program, which may be another source of hybrids, said Sam Butto, a spokesman. For more info, go to

On Maui, Bio-Beetle's ( 17-vehicle fleet runs on fuel made from renewable resources, such as vegetable oil recycled from restaurants. Its Jetta sedans can go more than 400 miles on one (14.5-gallon) tank.

Biodiesel costs $3.99 a gallon versus $4.63 for unleaded. (Biodiesel is less expensive than gas on Maui because of strong state and county government support of the alternative fuel.)

Your greenness will come at a price, however: Renting a Bio-Beetle begins at $37.36 a day; that compares with as little as $20 a day for a compact from a "regular" car rental company.

Simply Hybrid (, a Los Angeles company launched last fall, rents only hybrids and emphasizes customer service. Co-owner Salah Alansary says its growing fleet includes Camry, Prius and Highlander hybrids, the Escape, the Civic, the Lexus RX and the GMC Yukon (which doesn't get great mileage, but emissions are vastly reduced).

All are fully equipped luxury models with factory-built navigation. Simply Hybrid offers free delivery and pickup at locations including downtown Los Angeles, LAX and Bob Hope Airport in Burbank with a three-day minimum rental.

Enterprise recently opened WeCar, a car-sharing service in St. Louis (, and Hertz now offers hourly rental options in Boston and Manhattan (

Renting green may help the environment, but it may not help your wallet. Orbitz can help you keep an eye on prices. Its "Go Green, Save Green" link on its eco Web page ( allows you to search for hybrid rentals from Hertz, Avis, Budget, National, Alamo and Fox.

You can save through discounts from Better World Club (, which bills itself as an environmentally friendly auto club, or coupon websites such as FatWallet ( and

Members of the Automobile Club of Southern California ( receive discounts and special deals on all Hertz Green Collection vehicles as well as from other companies renting hybrids.

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