What timing: In the same week that gas prices jumped 11 1/2 cents in California, Budget at LAX began renting out Honda Insight "hybrid" cars that get 70 miles per gallon--the EPA's highest rating ever. Budget said it's the first rental-car company in the U.S. to offer the gas-sipping, two-seat sedans for daily rental.
The $19,000 Insight, the first product that the environmentally conscious Sierra Club has ever endorsed, has dual gasoline and electric motors. The gas motor recharges the battery pack during deceleration and braking, so the car doesn't have to be plugged into a recharging station, unlike all-electric vehicles. It can go 600 to 700 miles on a single tank.
Susan Welty, spokeswoman for Illinois-based Budget Rent a Car, said renting means "you can try it before you buy it."
So far, Insights are reported to be scarce to absent on Southern California new-car lots, with the few that arrive already reserved by customers who have placed advance orders. Meanwhile, renting an Insight could be an alternative to a gas-sucking SUV for your next weekend trip.
Of course, what you save in gas with an Insight you may lose in the rental charge: $99 per day (plus taxes and insurance, at regular rates), which Welty said is comparable to charges for specialty and luxury vehicles such as convertibles.