Accidental tree-hugger

I'm a member of their #1 Club Gold, so when I arrive at a Hertz location I look for my name on a board and proceed to the parking space indicated. While I haven't been specifically requesting them, my last 5 rental cars have all been a hybrid Toyota Prius rented as a compact vehicle.

My guess as to why I'm getting them with great regularity is that Hertz has excess numbers of these vehicles as they're awful if you've never driven one before. Examples of why:

  • There is no actual key--just a key fob that gets plugged into the dash
  • The ignition system is not intuitive at all--you need to press the brake while you're hitting the [power] button to start the car
  • The shift control is weird
  • When the car uses battery power it doesn't sound like it's running
  • When the vehicle is stopped and it switches from the gas engine (with sound) to battery power (no sound), you'll think the car has just died on you
  • The 8" monitor staring you in the face while you're driving can be really distracting (see pic)

On my first rental, I arrived into D/FW feeling like I was coming down with a cold. I managed to get the vehicle started and on the road when I stopped to pick up some Alka-Seltzer Plus Cough & Cold. Getting back into the Prius, it took me 15 minutes of frustration (i.e., I was pissed) followed by a short phone call to Hertz to learn the secret of problem #2 above. I've gotten used to the car's quirks, and I now don't mind when I find a Prius in my assigned space.

I used to own a 1999 Volkswagen Beetle TDI (turbo diesel injected) that got 50 mpg, so one of the things that has really surprised me about the Toyota Prius is its gas mileage. After 5 rentals, I've gotten around 40 mpg doing "normal" city and highway driving. This mileage is great compared to gasoline engines, but it sucks compared to a diesel.

Until car rental companies start building an inventory of fuel-efficient diesel vehicles, I'll do what I can to rent a hybrid as I try to reduce my carbon footprint.