Normally election week is slow-going for a consumer reporter such as myself. Who wants to hear about consumer scams and rip-offs when the entire country's obsessed with election scams and rip-offs? But just when I thought I should take a vacation, along comes a quirky study that neatly merges the consumer and political beats.
Ever since election year 2000, anybody who doesn't live in a cave knows that pundits have divided the country into blue states that typically vote Democratic and red ones that usually lean Republican. Could it be that these colors are deeply ingrained psychological preferences?
The curious folks at National Car Rental wanted to know. So they dug into their data and found that when car rental customers are given a choice between just red and blue cars (silver is actually the most popular), their preferences look a lot like a political map. Check it out:
The percentages are 54 percent blue cars versus 46 percent red ones. Amazingly, 40 of the 50 states match up between car color preference and political preference! If you compare the National Car Rental map with ABC's own prediction map, the feisty 10 that refuse to fall into line are:
State, Car Color Preference, and Political Preference:
Alaska: Blue, Red
Idaho: Blue, Red
Indiana: Blue, Red
Kansas: Blue, Red
Minnesota: Red, Leaning Blue
Nebraska: Blue, Red
S. Carolina: Blue, Red
Tennessee: Blue, Red
Washington: Red, Blue
Wyoming: Blue, Red
Of course, the more intriguing question is how the so-called battleground states will vote, since their choice is expected to determine who heads to that swanky house on Pennsylvania Avenue in January. Well, if car color equals vote color, the Obamas don't have to rent a U-Haul. Here are the 11 states ABC considers likely to decide the election and how the people of those states "vote" when choosing a car color.
New Hampshire: Blue
North Carolina: Blue
Wisconsin : Blue
National's study joins a long line of offbeat political crystal balls. Washington Redskins wins, Family Circle cookie recipes and 7-11 candidate coffee mug sales have all been used as predictors as well. If you don't like National's red and blue predictions, allow me to make a green one: use the following car rental tips and no matter where you rent, I predict you'll save money!
Book ahead but verify. Typically booking a car online is cheapest. But when you get to the counter, pretend you don't have a reservation and ask about the price. If things are slow, the on-the-spot price may be lower. If it's not, THEN reveal that you have a reservation and go on your merry way!
Consider skipping personal accident insurance. "PAI" pays a death benefit or pays a portion of your medical bills if you're in an accident while driving the rental car. If you have a good life insurance policy and good healthcare coverage, you shouldn't need this.
Skip the Personal Effects Coverage. "PEC" is insurance for your luggage while you travel. Many homeowner's and renter's policies cover this. Find out, and if so, don't waste your money.
Weekly may be cheaper. If you are planning to rent a car for four or five days, inquire about the weekly rate. Often the weekly rate is actually lower than paying the daily rate for several days. Also inquire about special weekend rates.