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Travelers are renting hybrid and electric vehicles to avoid high gas prices, but those savings could be offset by premiums for energy-efficient cars

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  • Between rising airfares and hotel costs summer travelers are looking to save wherever they can.
  • For some that means choosing a more fuel-efficient rental car — or going electric altogether.
  • The amount of savings ultimately depends on how much driving is on the itinerary.

When Jennifer Lewis was planning a road trip with her family from Florida to New Jersey, she told the Wall Street Journal she tried unsuccessfully to reserve a hybrid car in an effort to save money on fuel.

“I was sitting there thinking, ‘We’re about to spend $400 on gas,'” Lewis said. “I was trying to avoid that as much as possible.”

After an extensive search with the help of an Enterprise employee, Lewis was able to locate a hybrid for her thousand-mile trip north, managing to spend just $90 on gas, the WSJ reported.

Record high gas prices, paired with inflation and roaring summer travel demand driving up costs on airfare, hotels, and food, are leading more travelers like Lewis to try to cut costs anywhere possible. According to AAA, the national average has eased somewhat to around $4.80 per gallon, but that’s still about $1.75 more than last year.

More than twice as many people used Kayak’s eco-friendly filter when searching for a rental car on the site this year than they did last year, and the service saw a year-over-year boost for more efficient categories like compact vehicles and minis.

“Given the rise in gas prices and inflation, we expect to see this trend continue as travelers search for ways to save money this summer,” Matt Clarke, Kayak’s vice president of marketing for North America, told Insider in a statement.

While many renters would prefer to bypass gas prices altogether by borrowing an electric vehicle, most companies consider Teslas and similar models to be luxury cars, since customers have proven willing to pay a premium.

Some hybrids may also command a premium cost, which could erase the savings on gas, particularly during shorter trips.

“If cost is the overriding factor, look at what vehicle class is going to offer you the best deal, and if the fuel economy is different between those classes, think about how many miles you’re going to drive,” Jonathan Weinberg, founder and CEO of the rental deals website Auto Slash, told the Wall Street Journal.

In other words, travelers planning a long road trip will likely come out ahead by paying up for an EV, while those embarking on shorter or local travel might do better renting the cheapest car they can find.

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