The perfect rental car? My experience renting a Tesla Model 3 from Hertz
I am a huge fan of electric vehicles.
I've driven a BMW i3 for the past year and a half and love the instant torque, quick acceleration and ability to save big on gas. EVs feel like how a car should drive — and, for me, have made gas-powered vehicles seem, frankly, antiquated.
So naturally, I was really excited when Hertz announced it would start offering Teslas at many of its corporate locations around the U.S. in 2021. The company purchased a whopping 100,000 Tesla Model 3s to add to its fleet of vehicles. Deliveries started quickly, despite Tesla founder Elon Musk claiming he didn't know about the order.
After the announcement, I looked for a Tesla at a number of Hertz locations around the U.S. They appeared in search results, but I wasn't able to find one with availability on most dates in December or January. That was until I searched the Hertz at Oklahoma City (OKC) airport in late January.
But was the Tesla I reserved actually there when I arrived in Oklahoma? And how was the experience picking up the car, driving it and charging it?
Let's take a closer look at my experience renting a Tesla from Hertz and why the Tesla Model 3 is the perfect rental car.
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Renting and picking up a Tesla from Hertz
Before you can drive off with a brand-new Model 3, you need to rent it first. Right now, Hertz is still in the process of rolling out these vehicles at many of its locations. As mentioned, it took some effort for me to actually find a location and date with these cars in stock. Thankfully, it's getting easier as Hertz receives more Teslas. For example, it's relatively easy to find one in Orlando right now.
My rental from Hertz in Oklahoma City was $163.50 for 24 hours after taxes, which is undoubtedly expensive for a rental car. That said, rental cars are expensive across the board right now, and this is comparable to what it would cost to rent a Tesla through the peer-to-peer car rental service, Turo, in many cities. (Teslas have been a common occurrence on Turo for years now.)
I assume that Model 3s will be expensive to rent for the foreseeable future. They're the hottest car on the market right now, and judging by how hard they are to find, I assume demand will be strong for a while. That's not even considering the ongoing rental car availability challenge fueled by a global chip shortage, which has made it hard for both rental companies and individuals to buy cars.
If you're renting a Tesla, make sure to pay for it with a credit card that offers primary rental car insurance. This will protect you if you damage your rental. In short, it pays for all damage so you don't need to file a claim with your car insurance provider. I paid with my Chase Sapphire Reserve, as I do for all rental cars.
Picking up a Tesla Model 3 from Hertz
Once I confirmed my rental, I began counting down the days until my rental was available. I was a little bit suspicious, though. In the past, I'd heard of other renters not receiving the car they had reserved from Hertz. Plus, as I mentioned earlier, Elon Musk reportedly didn't know about Hertz's massive Tesla order, so I was a little nervous that the car wouldn't actually be there when I arrived.
Thankfully, that wasn't the case.
When I arrived in Oklahoma City's Will Rogers World Airport (OKC), I immediately got off my flight, took a bus to the rental car lot and made my way to the Hertz counter. I'm a Hertz Gold Rewards President Circle member, so I went right to the lot and found my name on the Hertz Gold board. There was a parking space listed right next to my name.
I walked to the reserved lot and found parking space 28. Lo and behold, there was a gray Tesla Model 3 sitting there. It was spotlessly clean and sealed with a Hertz "Gold Standard Clean" sticker, a practice the rental car company began during the pandemic. It was a base model Tesla Model 3 Standard Range Plus with rear-wheel drive. The vehicle had just 1,077 miles on the odometer and a 90% charge when I picked it up.
You might be familiar with the fact that Teslas don't have keys. Instead, they have keycards. The car was unlocked and the keycard was in the center console. To lock and unlock the car, you just hold the card over the camera on the car's B pillar.
I only ran into one snafu when I picked up the Tesla.
When exited the lot, the person checking cars out seemed convinced that I wasn't supposed to have rented the Tesla. He told me that I had picked the wrong car, as it wasn't in the Ultimate Choice lot. I told him that I specifically reserved this vehicle and it was in my reserved parking space. He confirmed this when he pulled up my reservation.
This wasn't a big deal, but it was a little concerning nevertheless.
Driving the Tesla Model 3
I spent the next hour or so driving the Tesla around Oklahoma City, eventually making it to my hotel with a smile on my face. If you've never driven an electric car, you might be a little shocked (pun intended) the first time you drive a rental Tesla.
One big benefit of electric cars is that there's no lag when you press the accelerator. In non-technical terms, this instant acceleration is possible because electric motors are much simpler than a standard internal combustion engine. There's no gearbox or other moving parts between the battery and the engine, making it much faster for energy to get right to the wheels and propel you forward.
This results in the base-model Model 3 — which Hertz offers — having a quick 5.3 second, 0 to 60 mph time. This is very noticeable when merging on the highway. It throws you back in your seat and is a lot of fun when you're getting up to the speed limit on the highway.
Electric vehicles also have regenerative braking. When you let off the accelerator, the car slows down and sends energy back into the battery. This makes one-pedal driving possible. However, it takes a bit of getting used to if you're new to electric vehicles. Likewise, the car won't creep forward when you're stopped. I prefer this, but you can switch to different stopping modes if you'd like a more traditional driving experience.
This might sound intimidating, but it's easy enough to get the hang of driving after taking the car for a spin around the block. I personally love the way the car drives. It's more engaging than a gas-powered car and the extra acceleration is exciting. Plus, its tight handling and turning radius makes it great for both city driving and extended road trips.
Charging a Tesla Model 3
Another thing first-time electric vehicle drivers might be curious about is charging. It's not nearly as annoying as it sounds.
Tesla has its own network of chargers, dubbed Superchargers, that are scattered throughout the country. There are over 30,000 Superchargers located throughout the world. You'll find them along highways and in cities. They're even in gas station, grocery store and restaurant parking lots.
These chargers are fast, too. According to InsideEV's testing, a 2021 Tesla Model 3 can charge to 50% in just 16 minutes and 80% in 32 minutes. The Model 3 Standard Range Plus has an EPA-rated 267-mile range, giving you plenty of range for road trips. When it's time to charge, you can get out, stretch your legs and have a snack. Or, you can watch Netflix on the infotainment screen — more on that soon.
Actually charging the car is incredibly easy. Unlike many electric vehicles, there are no apps to fumble with or the need to swipe a credit card. Instead, all you have to do is pull up to the charger, open the charge port cover and plug the car in. Charging begins automatically.
You can monitor the charge status on the car's large infotainment screen and see the time remaining until the next charge. Further, the built-in GPS shows you all available chargers near you. It even factors these chargers into longer trips, as the route planner shows you where to stop and charge en route to your final destination.
Supercharging is free for Hertz rentals through March 1, 2022. After that, all charging expenses will be billed to the credit card you booked the card with. Charging prices fluctuate and vary by the speed of the Supercharger you use. You'll also find Tesla Destination chargers — which charge slower — at many hotels and parking lots. These are ideal for overnight charging.
Hertz asks that customers return Teslas with at least a 10% charge. However, Hertz confirmed to TPG that the company is not charging customers who return cars with low batteries at this time.
Hertz's website states that a J1772 adapter — which you can employ to use standard EV chargers — and a wall charger are included with each Tesla rental. That said, this adapter wasn't in my rental Tesla, and could have been an issue if I had found myself in a place with only J1772 chargers.
The Tesla Model 3 is the perfect rental car
I really enjoyed my Tesla rental experience. I walked away from it with one thought: the Tesla Model 3 is the perfect rental car.
With a plethora of in-car storage, an incredible infotainment system and a great driving experience, it solves a lot of issues I have with standard sedans. These are the highlights.
There's plenty of storage for luggage and passengers
The Model 3 is packed with storage. Its trunk is standard for a sedan, and can easily fit two medium suitcases and a backpack. Even cooler, there's a second trunk — dubbed a "frunk" — where the hood of a normal car is. It's big enough for a backpack and another small bag. It comes in handy if you have things you need easy access to.
Inside the car, you'll find plenty of center console storage, too.
Oddly, the glove box was locked during my rental. It requires a four-digit code to open, and that code wasn't provided when I picked up the car.
The front and back seats are very spacious and feel similar to most other sedans I've driven. All Teslas have vegan "leather" interiors that are comfortable and feel very high quality — so much so that you might forget it isn't real leather when you're driving the car.
Plenty of ways to charge your phone
Teslas are hands-down some of the most tech-forward cars on the planet — and this shows in the sheer number of options you have to charge your phone.
Underneath the infotainment screen is a wireless phone charger. This works with all phones that charge wirelessly, including modern iPhones. This is very convenient as you don't need to fumble around with cables or power adapters — just drop your phone on the pad.
There are also four USB-C ports located throughout the vehicle: two in the center console and two in the back seat. Because of this, all passengers can charge their phones as long as they have a power cable with them.
The infotainment and navigation system is second to none
One of the coolest parts of the Tesla Model 3 is its infotainment system.
Everything lives on the 15-inch touchscreen at the front of the car — navigation, the speedometer and climate control settings. It's just as responsive as an iPad. Also, the interface is more intuitive than just about any other infotainment system I've tried over the years. It's jam-packed with features, too.
Starting with the basics, the built-in GPS is excellent. It's powered by Google Maps, , which are detailed and packed with information like store operating hours and live traffic. The car tells you how much battery you'll have at the end of your drive and, as discussed, lets you know where you'll find Superchargers along your route.
You can connect your smartphone to the Tesla for music, or connect a TuneIn, Spotify or Tidal account and stream music over the car's cellular connection. Of course, you can also listen to regular old FM radio, if you wish.
There are a ton of other interesting features, too — a web browser, games and even streaming services like Netflix and Hulu that you can use when the car is parked. This can come in handy if you're charging on a road trip and need something to pass the time.
Unfortunately, I found that the games weren't installed on the rental car, but you may be able to install them if you connect the vehicle to Wi-Fi.
Even with these quirky features aside, the Tesla infotainment screen is, to me, the best in the market. It works exactly as you'd expect it to work, and the responsiveness is unmatched. I found myself dreading going back to my BMW i3 and using Apple CarPlay, which is nice, but nowhere near the same interactive experience as the iPad-like experience offered by the Tesla Model 3.
Autopilot is amazing for road trips, but there's no full self-driving
These days, all new Teslas come with Tesla Autopilot included — and Hertz Teslas are no different.
When you press down twice on the shifter, the car engages Autopilot and begins driving itself... to an extent.
Standard Tesla Autopilot will keep the Model 3 in its lane and adjust cruise control to adapt to the car in front of it. You can set a maximum speed and how closely you'd like to follow. You do have to keep your hands on the wheel when using Autopilot. The car will also notify you if it doesn't sense your hands on the steering wheel for an extended period of time.
That said, Hertz rentals do not include full self-driving, so the car cannot follow GPS and fully drive itself from point A to point B.
While it would be nice to have full self-driving, standard Autopilot is great for road trips and long jaunts on the highway. I used the feature a handful of times on the highway in Oklahoma City and didn't have any issues. It makes highway driving a lot less stressful, as you do not need to adjust your position in a lane or adjust for curves.
Related: The ultimate guide to road tripping with an electric car
Overall, my experience renting a Tesla from Hertz was great. The pick-up process was similar to renting any other reserved car from Hertz, and I really enjoyed my time with the Model 3. It's zippy and fun to drive, and the technology is second to none. Beyond that, the car is comfortable and has plenty of storage. In other words, I think it might just be the perfect rental car.
If you've wanted to drive a Tesla but haven't had the chance, consider renting one on your next trip. Hertz is rolling them out across most major metro areas in the U.S. I've personally seen them for rent in Atlanta, Orlando, Miami and other cities when searching for a rental car. Sure, it costs a bit more than your standard sedan rental. However, it's worth it to drive what is, in my mind, the future.
Feature photo by Andrew Kunesh/The Points Guy.