If you're concerned about the environment and want to make up for the carbon footprint of your rental car? Several car rental companies offer carbon offset programs that let you counteract your vehicle's carbon emissions—your rental car's "carbon footprint"—while contributing to a more sustainable future.
But is this green new deal actually no deal for renters?
Carbon offsets are essentially a form of trade. When you buy an offset, you fund projects that reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.
How Car Rental Carbon Offset Programs Work
Since 2008, Enterprise Holdings—which owns Alamo, Enterprise and National—has offered CO2 Offsets on rentals through a parnership with TerraPass. The three companies offer the carbon offset for $1.25 per rental for 30 days. The offset fee for a four-hour rental is the same as that for a four-week rental. The base proceeds always go to TerraPass to fund sustainability projects, and Enterprise even offers a match (while Alamo and National do not match the contribution).
Enterprise Fine Print
Enterprise Rent-A-Car is pleased to offer you the opportunity to benefit the environment by offsetting greenhouse gas emissions generated by a rental vehicle. For just $1.25 you can offset emissions produced by the average rental. The money will go to TerraPass to fund certified offset projects that work to remove carbon from the atmosphere. What's more, we will match these customer contributions dollar-for-dollar up to $1 million.
Alamo and National Fine Print
CO2 Offset is an optional environmental service, chosen at the time of reservation that affords you the opportunity to offset the greenhouse gases emitted by the vehicle when it burns fossil fuel and releases carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere. This per-rental charge represents the estimated amount (as calculated by Terrapass, inc., a CO2 Offset firm) necessary to offset the CO2 emissions produced by the average rental transaction and is not based upon your specific vehicle or miles driven. Funds collected from this charge are remitted to Terrapass, inc. See www.terrapass.com for more information.
In 2017, The Hertz Corp. also began offering a carbon offset program exclusively to corporate customers with the opportunity to reduce the carbon footprints associated with vehicle rentals through the purchase of carbon offsets. Hertz has also partnered with TerraPass. The partnership allows Hertz to provide carbon emission reporting to customers. The report feeds directly into a personalized platform, which allows corporate customers to then purchase carbon offsets, if desired, to neutralize their environmental impact.
What's Not to Love About Car Rental Carbon Offset Programs?
While we're all for doing our part for the environment and to combat climate change, we find greater value contributing in other ways that make more sense to us. Like all other add-ons offered by rental car companies, carbon offsets aren't necessarily a great green deal for renters.
First, it's very likely that you're paying additional taxes and fees on top of the carbon offset charge. Many local governments and airports tax all revenue collected by a rental car company for add-on charges, including contributions to environmental causes. So the $1.25 carbon offset charge per rental has tax on top.
Second, we question whether contributing to TerraPass is the most effective way to counteract your carbon emissions. Terrapass is a for-profit company that's part of the publicly-held utility called Just Energy Group. We don't doubt that it does good work, but if you really wanted to help the environment, you could choose to rent a low-emissions hybrid car.
Check out these hybrid rental offerings:
- Alamo Hybrid Rentals
- Avis Fuel-Efficient Green Fleet
- Budget Hybrid Rentals
- Enterprise Hybrid Rentals
- Hertz Green Traveler Collection
- National Hybrid Rentals