A Dream or a Headache? Review: Renting a Tesla EV at Hertz

22 minutes

Hertz has started offering Tesla Electric Vehicles for rental throughout North America. It has been on my to do list to try one of these electric vehicles. When a trip from Vancouver to Seattle came up, we rented one of these cars putting almost five hundred kilometres on it over the weekend. How would the experience go and would we actually save any money? The truth would end up bering a lot different than we initially expected.

If you enjoyed this post, please follow us here or on social media through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more travel tips and hacks on how to “Upgrade Your Travels”.

A Dream or a Headache? Review: Renting a Tesla Electric Vehicle from Hertz.

I’ve had the opportunity to rent a lot of automobiles over the past fifteen years because I’m one of those people that travels a lot for work. I think I’ve probably hired several hundred cars over the course of my business and personal travelling career.

For this trip, I had a need to get from Vancouver, Canada to Seattle, United States for a last qualifying stay at the W Bellevue to renew annual Marriott Bonvoy Titanium status. This was a distance of about 200 kilometres or 125 miles one way. Given that this weekend trip was going to put on 500 kilometres onto a car, I figured I’d rent a vehicle for the journey as opposed to taking my personal car.

Being voracious recyclers at home, it was a perfect opportunity to try out an electric vehicle, and see whether this would be a dream or a headache experience.

Renting a Vehicle from Hertz:

Hertz has ordered 100,000 Tesla Electric Vehicles to compliment it’s worldwide rental car fleet. While they were initially a little slow to roll out during the mid days of the pandemic, most major city locations have Tesla’s now available to rent.

Renting a Hertz Tesla EV is fairly easy. I picked the city and location of where I wanted to book through their global website. In my case, I selected the Vancouver International Airport, Canada and the Tesla’s were located at the top of the rental car selection of vehicles through the Hertz website.

Hertz had three varieties of Tesla’s available for rental:

  • The Tesla 3 SR (compact RWD luxury car – standard range – approx 430km)
  • The Tesla 3 LR (compact AWD luxury car – long range – approx 560km)
  • The Tesla Y (Sport Utility Vehicle – approx 531 km).

The price point of the Telsa’s were about double in cost for what you would expect from renting a regular car. I figured that I might offset the additional through gasoline savings over the 500 kilometre trip.

I ended up using the American Express Platinum Card’s discount code for Hertz, which offered a twenty percent discount and a complimentary additional four hours on the rental. As a result, I booked a Tesla Y rental for 28 hrs on a weekend rate from Friday 2 PM to Saturday at 6 PM. Given that there was also 20% discount for prepaid rentals, I ended up pre-paying for this rental.

About two days prior to my rental period, Hertz sent me some automated emails about what to expect driving a Tesla. The emails took viewers to a Hertz Tesla Educational Series webpage that offered some basic questions and answers surrounding how to operate, unlock and charge a Tesla.

Unfortunately, as a result of having a busy work schedule, I didn’t get the opportunity to fully watch every video on the web page before our weekend rental. While I did get the basic concepts down of how to unlock and drive a Tesla, I didn’t get much information on the process to charge a Tesla. If at all possible, it would be better to get these videos at least 5 days in advance of any rental.


Picking up a Tesla:

On rental day, I aimed for convenience and took the bus into Vancouver International Airport. I went to the Hertz rental counter and went through the usual process. There was additional paperwork for the Hertz Electric Vehicle, but as a Hertz Gold Plus Reward member, there weren’t any additional forms to fill out. Since I had booked the Tesla Y as a specific model, there was no further Hertz President’s Circle upgrade offered.

I was given the keys and walked out to stall number 22, which was located at the end of the bank at Vancouver International Airport. A 2022 Tesla Y Performance was waiting for me in sharp Red Multi Coat Paint. It’s been a while since’ I’ve owned a red car, but the look of the red was actually pretty sharp and a change fro the usual whites and black luxury cars out there.

Collecting a Tesla Y Performance at Hertz Vancouver International Airport, Canada
Collecting a Tesla Y Performance at Hertz Vancouver International Airport, Canada

The Telsa Y has a higher centre of gravity and had the jelly bean shape of my old BMW 535i Grand Turismo. The vehicle had been given a government decal “OK” sticker for its use in High Occupancy Vehicle lanes in my home province of British Columbia, Canada.

The trunk offered a fair amount of room, although it was a bit smaller than you might expect for a sport utility vehicle. It had more than enough for two rolling carry on suitcases, along with power lifts for the trunk lid.

The Tesla Y Had Ample Trunk Space for Two

The interior of the vehicle was clean and futuristic. The interior is described on Tesla’s website as an “all black premium interior“. Tesla’a only offer a large monitor screen in the centre of the car. There is no analog (or digital impression of an analog) speedometer or tachometer. While it took a little getting used to, the screen was, for the most part, intuitive and fairly easy to navigate.

A Clean Looking Interior – Tesla Y Performance

There are no physical metal keys provided with a Tesla. The Telsa is unlocked by swiping a key against the B Pillar of the Door. The Tesla is also started by placing the key card in the centre console of the vehicle.

The Tesla Keycard Used to Unlock a Tesla Vehicle

In my case, the Hertz Rental vehicle was presented with a 100% fully charged battery and 9,857 kilometres on the odometer. I was offered the opportunity to “purchase electricity” from Hertz at the end of the rental for $35 CAD. I foolishly declined this- which I’ll get into more later. I was verbally told to bring the vehicle back with 80% charge, but this wasn’t written down anywhere on any paperwork that I received.

A Tesla Vehicle Inspection Sheet with Full Tank / Battery Markings

Instead, the attendant marked my Hertz Vehicle inspection slip as “Full” and “8/8” on the gas / electricity level. I was quickly released and sent on my way.


Driving a Tesla:

After a quick check for pre-existing damage at the rental facility, I set out on the open road from Vancouver to Seattle. With about two hours in the vehicle and two hundred kilometres to travel, I would get a fairly comprehensive feel for the vehicle.

One of the first things that you might notice is that the Tesla EV’s have a fair number of proximity sensors around the vehicle. Tesla displays a rather unique display on the left hand side of its monitor that offers imagery of vehicles present around the car.

Tesla’s Unique Information Display

Starting our journey, we made a run for the international Canada / United States Border at Peace Arch Crossing at Blaine, Washington, United States of America. It was pretty quiet at the border today, and we were on Interstate 5 headed south really quickly.

Crossing the Canada / United States Border at Peace Arch Crossing, Blaine – Washington, USA

The Tesla’s offer a best in class navigation system. In addition to the usual features of a navigation system such as arrival time, the navigation system gives you an idea of the expected charge left on your vehicle on arrival. In our case, our two hour drive was showing an arrival with a 33% charge remaining.

Tesla’s Navigation System offering integrated battery performance expectations

This version of the Tesla Y featured the basic level Tesla Auto Pilot. Tesla describes this as “Autopilot enables your car to steer, accelerate and brake automatically within its lane. Current Autopilot features require active driver supervision and do not make the vehicle autonomous”. It’s worth noting that this set up does not include a full navigate while on auto pilot, a summon feature or a self park feature that has received a lot of media attention for it’s occasional accidents.

A Driver’s View Cruising in a Tesla

While the Tesla Auto Pilot feature did add some convenience to the vehicle, I actually found it a lot less intuitive than the features in the comparable Volvo and Audi vehicles that I’ve driven. The Tesla system required a re-set every time I changed lanes; perhaps discovering the real reason why I always see many Tesla drivers clogging up the fast lane in my part of the country. It also included some annoying computerized chimes when you activate the system; the perfect thing for interrupting the rhythm of conversations with your other vehicle passengers.

The other feature that took some getting used to was the Tesla ReGenerative Braking. When you are driving, Tesla allows the momentum and the velocity from the vehicle to charge the vehicle’s batteries. Unlike the BMW Efficient Dynamics system or the Audi Re-Generative Braking Systems (which are almost completely transparent), the Tesla ReGenerative Braking systems are much less invisible.

In short, Tesla ReGenerative Braking is about as subtle as a gun. When driving at freeway speeds, taking your foot off the accelerator is similar to throwing an anchor out of your car, or dragging a brick along side the under carriage of your car. Releasing the gas, the Tesla immediately starts to slow, almost akin to a hauling a refrigerator behind your vehicle. The Tesla ReGenerative Braking took some getting used to, and it took a lot away from the free wheeling experience of coasting down a highway without a care in the world.

All features aside, we had a straight forward drive down from Vancouver, arriving to the W Bellevue without any incident. Although straight foward, the Tesla Y wasn’t all that much fun to drive. I would probably rate it as a 6 out of 10 on the “fun to drive scale”. It seemed to clomp along over the segments of the interstate in a cumbersome manner. The higher centre of gravity also seemed to make it a little top heavy in the corners. It wasn’t something that I would look forward to driving, and I’ve actually had more engaging drives in a boring Kitchen Aid styled Toyota Camry.


Tesla Supercharging Charging Stop #1

Forty Three Minutes and $10.86 USD

Tesla advertises that a Tesla Supercharger can charge a vehicle up to 322km in 15 minutes. With this branding in mind, I was expecting a fast charging experience. What I would end up getting was a cumbersome process that was inconvenient to navigate on a rental or occasional basis.

After driving a short 200 kilometres, we found ourselves arriving into Bellevue / Seattle on a thirty three percent charge. We had a range of 156 km left on the car. As a result, we needed to charge the car in order to get the vehicle back home from Seattle to Vancouver – a distance of over 200 kilometres.

Tesla Superchargers are pretty easy to find on their website, or within the navigation system located in the vehicle. In our case, there was a Tesla Supercharger located about two blocks from the W Bellevue, so we didn’t have to physically drive a long distance to get to the Tesla Supercharger.

Locating Tesla Superchargers on the Internet

After a night at the W Bellevue, I snuck the car out the next morning at about 12:30 AM while MrsWT73 was getting ready. I had no idea how long the charging process would take, but allowed myself about 30 minutes in order to complete the charging process.

I would end up finding the Tesla Supercharger located in the underground of a private parking garage. I would end up having to pull a paid parking ticket at $7 USD an hour just to enter the garage, on top of any electricity charging fees. The fact that the chargers are located behind a pay wall aren’t really identified anywhere, and I thought that this was a bit of a hidden expense.

There were eight Tesla Superchargers at this particular Bellevue Washington, USA location. I was able to grab the last available supercharger. The charging is pretty straight forward. After parking, you plug the supercharger into the vehicle. Hertz bills your credit card used to rent the vehicle directly, and there is no need to present a card or membership card at a Tesla Supercharger.

Charging at a Tesla Supercharger – Bellevue, Washington, USA
Charging at a Tesla Supercharger – Bellevue, Washington, USA

While the vehicle was charging I received these friendly reminders on using the integrated navigation system. I didn’t bother putting theTesla Supercharging station into the system as a destination, given that it was only two blocks away from the W Bellevue hotel.

The view from this particular Tesla Supercharger wasn’t all that aspirational. I would rather frankly spend my time looking at something else than a drab and dark underground parking garage. At this particular station, most owners appeared to wait with their vehicles. Next to me was a woman in her early thirties with an Oregon plated Tesla Model 3 with a poodle dog in her car. On my other side appeared to an Indian tech type programmer; both skimmed through their smart phones while they were waiting for their charging cycles to complete.

While I was here, this particular Tesla Supercharging station would end up with a queue of two vehicles all waiting to get onto a supercharger. I find waiting for a gasoline pump to be off putting at times, so I couldn’t really imagine waiting for a Tesla Supercharger space. I assume once you’ve pulled a paid parking ticket, you’re committed to waiting for a charger.

The Tesla Charging configurations are set in the computer within the car. Unbeknownst to me, the Tesla Charging Configuration had been set by the previous operator to 50% charge. As a result, my charging session abruptly ended without enough electricity to get me back home to Vancouver, Canada.

After my car stopped charging at the 50% halfway mark, I eventually figured out to charge the vehicle up to the fastest 80% charge level. This was a bit frustrating, but if you were a Tesla owner, I presume that you’d get this figured out pretty quickly. As a Tesla renter, this took a bit of time to guess your way through it.

My two charging sessions at this single location cost $3.95 USD and $6.91 USD totalling $10.86 USD for charge number one up to 80% battery capacity.

As I left the parking garage, I had to also pay $7 USD for the forty three minutes that I was parked in the garage. Like I mentioned earlier, I found this to be a bit of a scam. Tesla doesn’t outwardly advertise additional parking charges, or that it’s Tesla Superchargers are hidden behind a pay wall on their Tesla Supercharger maps or websites.

Making matters more inconvenient, this particular garage didn’t like Canadian Credit Cards at the payment kiosk. For our Canadian readers, they will empathize as this is sometimes found at US Pay at the Pump pay stations at many gas stations. I ended up on a “Press Here for Help” line with several cars backed up behind me. I eventually was let out without payment after the operator recording my name, drivers licence number and vehicle licence number.

Fiddling with Local Property Parking Payment at a Tesla Supercharger – Bellevue, Washington, USA

While this isn’t exactly on Tesla (or Hertz) for this matter, in today’s information environment, they should be indicating where their chargers are located. It would ultimately end up being a whole hour expended, after I took into account the time I drove to the Tesla Supercharger, charging of the vehicle, negotiating with the parking garage attendant, and driving back to the hotel.

Inconvenience Factor: 8 out of 10 (ten being highest)

Tesla Supercharging Charging Stop #2

One Hour and Twenty Minutes and $27.45 USD

After our stay at the W Bellevue, it was time to return to Vancouver. We set off with our 80% charge, and headed back up Interstate 5 for a two hundred kilometre journey returning back to Canada.

The drive itself was pretty straight forward. Using the Tesla navigation system, I navigated to the closest Tesla Supercharger to the Vancouver International Airport. This happened to be the Tesla Supercharger at Richmond Centre, located about 15 minutes away and 8 kilometres from the Vancouver International Airport.

Near the end of my rental, I arrived to the Tesla Supercharger with a 15% charge left on the battery. The Richmond Mall was a popular spot on Saturday night at about 4:30 PM when I arrived, and almost all of the twenty superchargers at this location were occupied. Most appear to have been left by their owners, as they dined in nearby Chinese Restaurants, or engaged in retail therapy in the nearby mall.

Charging at a Tesla Supercharger – Richmond, British Columbia, Canada

My Tesla was due back by 6PM, so with ninety minutes left in my available rental time, I was a little time constrained. I was still under the mind set from Tesla’s marketing that I could get an 80% charge in fifteen minutes.

Charging at a Tesla Supercharger – Richmond, British Columbia, Canada
Charging at a Tesla Supercharger – Richmond, British Columbia, Canada

The first Tesla Supercharging station space that I pulled into didn’t seem to connect with the car to allow for charging. This cost me about seven minutes fiddling with a charger that didn’t seem to want to sync with the vehicle and allow for delivery of charging. The Tesla kept reporting “Starting to Charge“, which was pretty ambiguous and non committal.

Arriving on Empty – Charging at a Tesla Supercharger – Richmond, British Columbia, Canada

After changing stalls, I was a bit horrified to learn that it was going to be one hour and fifteen minutes to get back to 100% full charge. I would later learn that the fastest charging for Tesla’s are up to the 80% mark, wheres Tesla’s take forever to charge the last 20% of their batteries. This is a really difficult standard for those that need to return a vehicle at 100% charge.

Getting shocked with a charge wait time of one hour and fifteen minutes

Toward the end of the charging cycle on the second Tesla Supercharger station, my car seemed to be get stuck on “Calibrating” while stuck at a 99% charge. I was never able to get it to a full 100%, despite sitting there for about eight to ten minutes. Together with my first charging failure, this added another twenty minutes of idle time onto my time spent at the charging station.

Getting Stuck on Calibrating, and failing to get to 100% battery

I was aware that I was going to start to get into the period of time during any car rental when you were going to be charged for half a day’s rate due to being late for one extra hour. Given that I had already used up my four hour grace period, I ended up abandoning the effort to get to 100% charge. I disconnected myself from the Tesla Supercharger and headed off to the airport to return the vehicle.

My two charging sessions at this single location cost $36.91 CAD or $27.45 USD for charge number two; over an excruciating one hour and twenty minutes of time. It is also worth mentioning that the fee for electricity in Canada is almost double what it is in the United States, eliminating most of the cost savings factor.

Inconvenience Factor: 10 out of 10 (ten being highest)

Charges on the Hertz Bill:

I returned the Tesla Y car at Hertz at Vancouver International Airport having covered 466 kilometres travelled. The Hertz roving attendant closed my contract out. He promised me a bill by email, which actually never arrived.

I ended up chasing after the bill through hertz.com customer service. I was a bit surprised to see that I was charged for two hours of additional time, which was appeared to be as a result of bringing the car back one hour and one minute later.

I lost all my EV cost savings, as a result of additional charges due to charging the vehicle

These extra charges is pretty much killed any savings that I might have had by operating an electric vehicle instead of a gas one. Even as a Hertz President’s Circle member, I thought it was a bit chintzy to charge for a full extra hour when the car was one minute late. Apparently, there is no further grace period there, with time clocked down to the minute.

In additional, some thirty days after my rental, my electrical charges don’t seem to have appeared to have been charged to my credit card. I’m not sure when it’s reasonable to expect them, but so far, they haven’t turned up. For a business traveller, this makes expense reconciliation a little problematic.

Cost Benefit Analysis:

In choosing a rental car, it’s a reasonable question as to whether it’s going to going to be cheaper to rent an electric vehicle versus a more conventional gasoline powered vehicle.

Comparing the two options, between the likely Hertz President’s Circle Upgrade Full Size Toyota Camry I would have received, I came up with the following price and time comparison. I have assumed a Toyota Camry with its 15.8 gallon fuel tank, and 3.99 USD a gallon for Regular Gas in Washington State, at the time of this trip.

Full Size Toyota Camry or SimilarAdd Time to Fill Up (in mins)EV Tesla YAdd Time to Charge Up (in mins)
Distance: 466 km
Price Premium of Tesla EV over a Full Size Rental$40
Gasonline Tank #1$63.085 mins
EV Charging #1$14.6040 mins
EV Charging #2$36.9180 mins
Additional Time charges resulting from additional charging$47.10
Total$63.08and 5 mins$138.61and 120 mins
Cost Difference

Advantage: Gasoline 
Time Difference

Advantage: Gasoline
+115 mins
Carbon Emissions Output
Goodwill Feeling
In summary,
  • Despite initial intentions to save money on an Electric Vehicle rental, it actually cost substantially more than a gasoline equivalent version.
  • The EV almost cost double the gasoline equivalent.
  • I spent $75 CAD more on electrical charging, rental price additions and late fees, as a result of the Tesla Charging
  • The Tesla also cost me an additional two hours of my life, fiddling with the charging system.
  • The expenses haven’t fully reconciled with the Tesla Rental, despite being more than 30 days after the rental.

Ultimately, beside the wonderful green commitment of no green house gases, the advantage between the two options is very clearly the gasoline version. I actually looked forward to rolling into my next gasoline station, and filling up my own car in five minutes with 900km range on the tank.

I think I will stay with my mild hybrid vehicle and a 5 minute gas fill up instead for the near future

Lastly, I happen to be at that stage in my life when time is my most valuable resource. I would have rather spent those two hours waiting on the supercharger doing something else. Even assuming I didn’t have to pay the rental late fees, I would have only saved about $30 a tank. I think my time, at least these days, is worth more than $30 / hour. I might feel different if I was retired or a student.


My Thoughts on Renting a Tesla with Hertz:

Hertz has taken the rental vehicle experience to a new level with the addition of Tesla Electric Vehicles to their fleet.

While I initially thought that I would be saving money by renting a Tesla to travel long distances, it actually cost me about $75 more than a comparable gasoline version. Perhaps worst of all, it cost me an additional two hours of time waiting and dealing with superchargers that didn’t always work, or weren’t easily accessible.

Perhaps of you had a charging system available to you at home as a Tesla Owner, this value proposition might be completely different. However, as a Tesla renter, it makes absolutely no sense at the current price point.

Wasting almost 90 minutes out of your rental cycle in order to return a car fully charged makes for a really inconvenient rental. The Hertz pre-delivery information doesn’t speak to this time commitment. The Tesla marketing of 15 minutes of charge fills that void and it’s not completely accurate. My advice would be to allow an additional two hours before you return the vehicle to the airport.

This equation is especially problematic for people like myself who travel on business and try to catch the evening flight home, after a day’s worth of meetings. In that equation, I can’t imagine spending additional time at the charger, prior to getting to the airport.

In my humble opinion, the Hertz EV Rental Experience very much falls into the “Headache” department, instead of the “Dream” department.

If you have rented an EV with Hertz, did you find it a “Dream” or a “Headache” ?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: