1837: Rental Car

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Jump to: navigation, search
Rental Car
Technically, both cars are haunted, but the murder ghosts can't stand listening to the broken GPS for more than a few minutes.
Title text: Technically, both cars are haunted, but the murder ghosts can't stand listening to the broken GPS for more than a few minutes.

[edit] Explanation

In this comic the couple Megan and Cueball want to rent a car. The Cueball-like guy from the car rental agency tells them they only have two vehicles available:

  • One car that puts its occupants into mortal danger, so much so that it is called The Murder Car. The danger, however, is abstract—the car is haunted by a ghost, and actual death befalls only "maybe one in six". (That is the equivalent of a round of Russian Roulette.) This is the fatality rate for drivers (in this case, Megan), while the rate for passengers is not mentioned.
  • The other car, a regular sedan, has a defective GPS that incessantly gives instructions to go specifically to Seattle, regardless of the driver's intention to go there. And it cannot be turned off.

Megan believes she can ignore this and accepts the least lethal car. The comic suggests that driving with a GPS that tries to guide you to a different destination than that which you wish to visit—so it is always recalculating and asking you to do U-turns—is incredibly annoying. So annoying that given the choice between the persistent low-level annoyance of the GPS on one hand, and the ("low") probability of being murdered on the other, most people will choose the latter option. After all, they might survive murderous ghosts but they feel they will not survive long having to listen to the broken GPS.

According to the title text, the murderous ghosts haunt both cars, but as soon as the car starts driving and the GPS begins to drone on, even the ghost cannot stand listening to the broken GPS and stops possessing it.

Apart from the joke about GPS, this is also a subtle joke on the horrible cars one might get at a car rental service.

It is possible that the car rental service is trying to drive people away from the haunted car, which we can assume is just a normal car, to get more profit when people come back and take the "haunted" car when their GPS is broken.

[edit] Trivia

  • With an estimated 1.25 million vehicular deaths globally in 2013[1] and approx. 1,187 million vehicles on the road in the same year [2], the number of fatalities per vehicle comes to be around 0.1% or about 1 in 950. This number includes trucks and commecial vehicles.
  • As of 2014, there were 253 million cars on the road in the US [3] and only 32,675 deaths [4], giving a rate of fatalities per car of slightly over 0.01%, or 1 in 7,700)
  • The car lethality risk is lower in the US by a factor of 8, compared to the worldwide vehicular lethality risk.
  • The global number of haunted cars is not available, but believed to be at least five in number. [5]
  • Similarly, while the number of faulty car GPS devices is not available, Garmin recalled 1.3 million Nuvi GPS units in 2011. [6] These recalls were not for bad directions, but for fire hazards.

[edit] Transcript

[A Cueball-like guy standing behind a desk looking at a computer screen services Megan and Cueball on the other side of the desk.]
Guy: We have two rental cars left.
Guy: One is the murder car. But don't let the name scare you!
Guy: It's definitely haunted. But most drivers don't get murdered.
Guy: Maybe one in six.
[The guy lifts his hand and looks at Megan and Cueball.]
Guy: The other is a regular sedan.
Guy: But it has a GPS that's stuck trying to navigate to Seattle, and you can’t turn it off.
Megan: ...I can ignore it, right? That's fine.
[In a frame-less panel Megan and Cueball drive in the sedan.]
GPS: Turn left
GPS: Recalculating
GPS: Make a U-Turn
GPS: Recalculating
GPS: Turn right
GPS: Make a U-Turn
GPS: Recalculating
[Megan and Cueball walk back into the agency with the guy behind his desk. Megan holds out the car keys in one hand.]
Guy: Back already?
Megan: We'll take the murder car.
Guy: Popular choice.

comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!


Started with a bare-bones explanation. Please elaborate further. Nialpxe (talk) 09:28, 15 May 2017 (UTC)

It looks like the "one in six" figure might be a reference to 795: Conditional Risk? 09:34, 15 May 2017 (UTC)

Added a transcript (that ip is mine, was not logged in)PMR GO (talk) 10:01, 15 May 2017 (UTC)

Maybe the murder car is a reference to Christine? See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christine_(1983_film) 14:45, 15 May 2017 (UTC)

Seems like a stretch. Christine killed like 6 out of 8, for starters, and wasn't a rental... 20:38, 15 May 2017 (UTC)

Is the Trivia section meant to be a joke? Otherwise, the paragraph "That equates to a reduction in risk..." should be deleted, as it is totally meaningless. Comparing two entirely different figures (number of deaths per vehicle sold worldwide one year, number of deaths per vehicle on the roads in the US the next year) makes no sense. If it's a joke, it should be made clearer. Zetfr 08:19, 16 May 2017 (UTC)

Could this joke be about how a broken GPS has higher odds of getting you killed than playing Russian Roulette?

Don't tell me the odds.
Personal tools


It seems you are using noscript, which is stopping our project wonderful ads from working. Explain xkcd uses ads to pay for bandwidth, and we manually approve all our advertisers, and our ads are restricted to unobtrusive images and slow animated GIFs. If you found this site helpful, please consider whitelisting us.

Want to advertise with us, or donate to us with Paypal?