Thursday, October 11, 2007

Renting a Car: The Battle of Green Brain vs. Man Brain

Whenever I rent a car, I inevitably end up caught in the middle of a debate between two conflicting sides of my brain:

Green Brain: Most of the time when I travel, I'm only driving short distances with myself and a couple of bags. I only need an economy-sized car. Even if they were comparably priced, why would I want a bigger car that would end up costing me more in gas? And more gas means more carbon emissions.

Man Brain: Allow me to spell it out for you: Bigger is better. Everyone knows that. It's the American way. Extra value meals. McMansions. SUVs. Are you anti-American? And why rent an economy car when you could get a midsize car for just $5 more? That's a much better value. Who cares if you actually need a bigger car or not? You buy laundry detergent when it's two-for-one at the grocery store even though it takes you 6 months to use a box of detergent. So why would you suddenly pass on a bargain here? You can't. You won't!
On a trip to Massachusetts earlier this summer, they offered me a free upgrade to an SUV at the rental counter. Man Brain said, "You never get to drive an SUV! It'll be fun! Plus, you'll have plenty of room to tote around various relatives on trips to the beach and such." Before Green Brain could get a word in edgewise, I'd taken the SUV. Soon enough, I regretted it, having to spent something like $50 to gas it up in less than a week of driving.

So on a trip to New Hampshire this week, I stuck with the economy car. It only had to get me from Manchester to Concord and back, so why did I need anything bigger? When I filled up the tank before returning it, I only had to put in 1.8 gallons of gas.

For those of you traveling out west, check out EV Rental, which offers hybrid rentals at several airports in California and Arizona. A few traditional rental companies like Avis are also slowly starting to add hybrids to their fleet.

The best way to drive change (no pun intended) in this case is with your wallet. If you're renting a car, ask for a hybrid. If they don't offer hybrids, ask why not. Hybrids cut down on the use of foreign oil, promoting America's energy independence. Isn't THAT more American than a gas-guzzling SUV?
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