Hybrid and electric cars are eco-friendly options that will cost less to refuel than conventional cars, but typically cost more to rent.

Should I rent an electric car? Should I rent a diesel or petrol car abroad?

Whether you’re in the US or abroad, gas mileage and fuel efficiency are major concerns when renting a car because they influence what type of car you’ll want and how often you’ll have to refuel. This also impacts the final cost of your rental, so it’s an important factor to consider. The availability of electric and hybrid vehicles has added even more options, and each has their pros and cons. If you’re renting in Europe, you’ll also have to know the differences between diesel and petrol cars. This guide will explain the ins and outs of each type so you can rent with confidence.

Choosing between electric and hybrid cars

Choosing between electric and hybrid cars

Electric and hybrid cars are increasing in popularity every year, and you may be interested in renting a more eco-friendly car the next time you go on a long road trip. KAYAK offers eco-friendly options where you can filter for both hybrid and electric cars across all car categories. Renting the car is easy, but you may have additional questions if it’s your first time renting or even driving one of these cars. You might not be sure how to charge an electric rental car, where you can charge an electric rental car, how much mileage you can get from a hybrid rental car, how often you need to fill up a hybrid car, and have other similar questions.

The most important thing to know about both types of cars is that you can refuel them at charging stations. The price of a full charge varies by state, but it will be significantly cheaper than the price of an equivalent full refuel at a gas station. Electricity is priced at the cost per kilowatt-hour. As a simple example, a fully depleted kWh battery in a 70 mile range EV car will cost around $2.64 to reach a full charge if electricity costs $0.11 per kilowatt-hour. The tradeoff is that you’ll have to plan in advance to know exactly where the charging stations are. Free services like PlugShare and Open Charge Map feature maps of charging stations around the country to facilitate your planning.

If you’re interested in an eco-friendly rental car but want to keep the convenience of refueling at any gas station, you’ll love a hybrid car. Car rental companies may also offer more hybrid models in their fleet so you can rent a hybrid car on shorter notice than a pure EV. If you’re interested in the most eco-friendly option possible that you can save the most money on recharging, then you’ll love an electric car. You may also be interested in a specific EV model like the Tesla S, and the ability to recharge at a dedicated Tesla Supercharger station where you can completely recharge in under 30 minutes. These may be less commonly available, so it’s best to plan and book in advance.

Choosing between petrol and diesel cars

Petrol or diesel?

When renting a car in Europe, you’ll encounter the additional option of choosing between petrol and diesel cars. Petrol is just another way of saying gasoline, the liquid fuel you pump your car with at the station, whereas diesel is another kind of liquid fuel that’s not commonly available in the US. The key thing to remember is that you cannot put petrol in a diesel car or diesel in a petrol car. This leads to serious problems that your rental contract will not cover.

So if you’re not familiar with diesel, make sure you rent a conventional petrol car. If you’re interested in trying diesel for its better fuel efficiency and increased torque, you need to know how to fill it up. Once you get to the station and select a diesel option, you’ll notice that the pump nozzle is thicker than the gas or petrol ones you’re used to using. The diesel pump nozzle will fit snugly into a diesel “fuel neck,” whereas it won’t fit into a petrol “fuel neck.” Additionally, there should be a sticker on the fuel cap that specifies exactly what type of fuel to use.

If you’re out on the road and you can’t actually recall which type of car you have, check for labels on the car keys, on the dashboard, on the fuel gauge, on the dashboard, and on the fuel cap. Car manufacturers also specify in the model name, so check to see if there’s a letter D somewhere in the name, like in TDI or GTD.

Finally, if you make the mistake of putting diesel in a petrol car or petrol in a diesel car, don’t panic, and don’t start driving. Starting the engine will start circulating the fuel and start to cause the damage. Just get out of the car and ask the station attendant to help you move the car, then call the rental car company to assist you.

This post is part of our Car Rental Guide. Thinking about renting a car but have questions? We get it. Find the answers on our comprehensive guide.

See the guide