Gas-economical rental car?
September 21, 2005 7:25 PM   Subscribe

What's a (cheap) rental car that will get me great gas mileage in CA?

I'm going to be in the USA for the first time in a year in October. I'll be doing a LOT of driving on the west coast, in a rental car. Any advice on a (cheap) car, available to rent (in S.F. area, preferably) that will give me great gas mileage? I don't want to get killed at the filling station, since money is definitely an object for me.

BTW: there's no other option, I *must* drive.
posted by Joseph Gurl to Travel & Transportation around California (14 answers total)
The "compact" or "economy" car at your favorite major car rental company (Hertz, Avis, etc.) will be as good on gas as anything you're likely to find. At SFO, for instance, Hertz has Hyundai Accents (~30 mpg) and Ford Focuses (~28 mpg), and the competition will be similar (Avis offers the 30 mpg Aveo as its example of an economy car, for instance).

Some Hertz rental places have Priuses, but I suspect the extra cash to get the Prius over the Accent would cancel out any gas difference.
posted by mendel at 7:46 PM on September 21, 2005

I've been thinking Accent, thanks. Luckily I'm touring as a duo so size (of vehicle, sheesh) doesn't matter.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:49 PM on September 21, 2005

Unsurprisingly, you can rent hybrids in San Francisco, and the rates are pretty decent. You'll be able to work out whether the MPG offsets the extra you'll pay.
posted by holgate at 8:06 PM on September 21, 2005

hmm, I'll do some math on that...
(either way, that rental co. looks like it has the Accent cheaper than the place I was going to use! whoo hoo).
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:14 PM on September 21, 2005

I rented a hybrid at SFO last week. I would highly recommend it.
posted by cali at 8:14 PM on September 21, 2005

Don't forget to print out the 5% off coupon online before you pick it up if you do pick the hybrid.
posted by cali at 8:15 PM on September 21, 2005

I can't do the math. I'm retarded.

You haven't done the math already, have you cali?
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:59 PM on September 21, 2005

If you don't get a hybrid, a Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic is going to get better gas mileage than nearly any other small car.
posted by kindall at 9:36 PM on September 21, 2005

Standard advice (just in case; not mentioned above):

(1) If you can avoid renting at the airport, you'll generally pay a lower rate (lower taxes);

(2) and have good car-comparison features. At mimimum, see what the rates are at the airports, as a comparison. (Oakland airport has easy access via BART.)

(3) Sometimes you can get a less expensive rate by waiting until the last moment, but that's a gamble.

(4) There is no penalty for making a reservation and then cancelling it at the last moment, so you might want to lock down something, then keep looking for something less expensive.

(5) You obvious want the "unlimited mileage" option, which is generally standard for car rentals, but could be a "gotcha" if you're not careful (for example, 100 mile per day limit)

(6) Enterprise car rental is pretty aggressive about their pricing; try their website (pick a city that you'll find convenient, as a start).

(7) Watch out for penalties if you leave California (you mention "West Coast" driving) - you can avoid these if you make arrangements in advance (at least for most car rental agencies, I believe).
posted by WestCoaster at 9:51 PM on September 21, 2005

The math is un-do-able at this point I'm afraid, gas prices are too variable. Based on recent trends I'd say they aren't going to go down though.
posted by cali at 10:29 PM on September 21, 2005

aside to joeseph:

holy shit the haters are playing the show you're doing in sacramento? I've heard good's possible that a friend of mine who totally vanished off the face of the earth would possibly be drawn out by such an event.

I guess I'll make plans to come out and see it. Supposed to be in the bay area on the first but I should be back in time.

Do you guys have places to crash etc yet?

emails in profile.
posted by fishfucker at 11:23 PM on September 21, 2005

fishfucker - dude couldn't figure out yr email but yeah it's the 10th annual sacto NORCAL Noise Fest. There are lots of other great acts, including Ron Lessard from rrrecords (as emil beaulieau). I think we got a crash in SF but if you know a cool sactoian that might be a hook up. I'm rasbliutto A T g ma i l D oT com

everyone else so sorry to derail my own thread. Your comments have all been helpful, and I've already nailed down one $100 cheaper than what I'd been looking at. I'll continue to play the field until z-day.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 8:07 AM on September 22, 2005

Remember that rental cars are finite resource, and rental car companies typically overbook (or just can't manage their own schedules) so you'll occasionally get the "we've upgraded you to a HUMMER for $5 a day" crap. If you can, allow some leeway in the time you want the vehicle -- if you show up at 2pm and the car's not there, and you can take it anytime from 2pm-8pm, then one might show up in that time. Also, when they do upgrades, there's a seekrit (at least with Enterprise, at least in one instance I'm aware of) -- they have to see if you're gullible enough to pay for the upgrade, and if you say no, they'll offer it to you free of charge. Of course, in your case, you probably don't want it anyway.
posted by user92371 at 10:29 AM on September 22, 2005

Yep definitely be aware of the total cost which includes taxes and assorted levys and insurance. I paid 25% in airport taxes the first time I rented a car.

When I rented in Oklahoma we were able to travel into any adjoining state but no further. If that's the case with your preferred vendor you might want to fly into Oregon instead of California if you need to go to Washington.
posted by Mitheral at 2:28 PM on September 22, 2005

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