Feeling stuck with that SUV or luxury sedan in the driveway? Pity the car rental companies, which own many thousands of them.
Or pity their poor customers, who keep getting stuck with those gas-guzzlers when they try to rent smaller, more fuel-efficient cars.
My brother, Patrick, who travels often for business, reported this phenomenon to me last December. He said he kept reserving small cars, only to be involuntarily “upgraded” to larger ones.
I shouldn’t admit this, but an upgrade like that changed my life.
It was about 10 years ago. Somehow, I ended up in a rented Buick LeSabre. I was afraid to drive the hulking thing for the first hundred miles, but slowly I settled in. By the end of the trip, I had developed a serious crush on that big boat of a car. It was like driving my living room around. Mmm. Comfy.
Shortly afterward I bought a used LeSabre. My peeps would have been no more astonished if I had shaved my head and joined a cult. For years, I had driven little Fords and Nissans. This was my first six-cylinder car and first automatic transmission – and it was an upholstered tank. I loved it.
“Once you drive the big metal, you can’t go back,” my friend Bill warned.
But I have gone back, reluctantly, to a four-cylinder Subaru Outback. Oh, I like it fine. It’s a good car. Too good, really. The Buick was … well, it was sort of bad.
So, anyway. I’ve reformed. The Buick wasn’t really “me.” It was all a (premature) mid-life crisis. I’ve rediscovered my core values. I beg my friends and family to forgive me. I hope the media will respect our privacy at this difficult time so that we can heal. I’ll be entering rehab next week, etc.
And so I have been renting smaller cars. In Turkey I rented a smallish Pugeot (or maybe a Renault). Manual transmission, too.
We didn’t get much of a choice in Turkey, where the diesel fuel cost $8 a gallon, roughly. I think. It was sold in liters and we paid in lira. I commanded my sister Maryanne to figure it out, arguing that she must know some math because she is an engineer. And she came up with $8.
So no wonder the rental cars there are smallish, as they will be here when the rental companies figure out how to unload their SUVs and big sedans..
But, meanwhile, what if? What if I reserved a little car and the agent just insisted that I take some wide-ride Buick or SUV out of the lot. Would I really resist? Or would I take it somewhere, out behind some strip mall, where I could just, y’know … sit there.