How to Rent an Electric Car and What You Need to Know

a summit white 2023 chevrolet bolt ev and a gray ghost metallic 2023 chevrolet bolt euv parked in front of a hertz rental location in michigan hertz will begin taking deliveries of the chevrolet bolt ev and bolt euv in the first quarter of 2023
What to Know When Renting an Electric CarGeneral Motors

"Hearst Magazines and Yahoo may earn commission or revenue on some items through these links."

So you've rented an electric vehicle. Maybe this was your original intent, maybe you spontaneously picked it out of the lineup instead of a boring econocar, or maybe this was simply what you were assigned. No matter how you arrived in the driver's seat of this EV, there are some things you should know about its operation in general and specifically about rental electric vehicles.

[table-of-contents] stripped

Will My EV Rental Come Fully Charged?

If you have plans to hop in your rental and immediately cover a lot of ground, an EV may not be the right choice—not because of the car's overall range, but because there is no guarantee of how much range will be at your disposal as you set off. Rental companies require only that EVs be returned with the same state of charge as they left the lot with. Some smaller rental offices don't have equipment to fast-charge them, and some larger ones that do simply don't bother. Bake in some time—say a couple hours—to top off the battery at a DC fast-charger before you have to get anywhere far from the rental pickup point. Hertz, in its EV rental FAQ, offers to let you bring it back at any state of charge, even zero, for a $35 fee.

What Is One-Pedal Driving?

Regenerative braking is a favorite feature of many seasoned EV drivers. It uses the motors to slow the vehicle, recapturing energy that would otherwise be wasted as heat cast off by friction brakes. If you've never driven an electric vehicle before, however, this behavior can be surprising. Consider yourself warned.


One-pedal driving is bringing the vehicle to a complete stop by only lifting off the accelerator and never touching the brake pedal. How aggressive the regen is that is triggered by lifting off the accelerator depends both on the specific EV and the mode it's set to. Some allow one-pedal driving in their default mode, while others—Chevy's Bolts, for example—require you to opt in with the push of a button.

We recognize that the start-of-trip frenzy you're likely to be in the midst of doesn't usually lend itself to careful learning. Keep this feature in mind as you creep through the rental lot toward the scary tire-eating gate. And watch your rearview during the first few stops out on the road.

Location Matters

EVs, especially in your first experience, are best suited to around-town use in an area where you know you'll have access to charging. They're not the choice for a cross-country road trip. Consider where you'll be driving, and where and how long you'll be stopping, before opting for an electric rental. If you only plan to drive short distances, cool. But if your itinerary is complicated or not well-defined, maybe opt for a gas car for this trip.

Charging Can Be a Hassle

Most EVs include an in-dash navigation system that's capable of guiding you to nearby charging stations and can build recharge stops into your journey as needed. For a second opinion, or to do some route scouting before you set off, download the smartphone app A Better Route Planner. It lets you choose the vehicle and set the initial state of charge, as well as your minimum desired charge on arrival, and then plots potential routes that work—if there are any. You may be sensing a theme here: Plan ahead.

Some hotels offer EV charging, so consider that when booking a room. But don't count on it. Electric vehicle charging stations break, or they can be occupied, so it's good to have a few charging options near where you and the car will be staying overnight. If staying with friends or family, or at a vacation rental home, you can use the Level 1 charge cable that comes with the rental. While slow, it should be good enough to replenish a good amount of range while you sleep.

Teslas rented from Hertz can use the Supercharger network, but you'll be billed for it later, similar to how rental companies handle post-paid tolls. Hertz points out that the renter is also responsible for idle fees charged when a car overstays its welcome at a charger. Charging at stations operated by third-party networks such as ChargePoint, Electrify America, and EVgo may require downloading their respective apps and setting up an account. You're on the hook for that cost as well, and regardless of how you charge, you'll need to plan the final recharge before returning your rental.

Are You Ready for the EV Lifestyle? Find Out

For the EV-curious, renting an electric car to use at home can be a great way to dip a toe in these proverbial waters. Think of it as an extended test drive that allows you to see how an electric car fits into your routine. A home trial also has the benefit of lowering the stakes; it removes some of the potential stresses of using an EV on a trip in unfamiliar environments where you may not have a backup plan.

Will the Rental Company Let Me Switch to a Gas Car?

With EVs becoming more common in rental fleets, you may be worried about getting handed the keys to one when you don't want it. While the likelihood is low—especially with Hertz, the largest EV adopter, which is now reducing its fleet of Tesla Model 3s and Polestar 2s—there are some steps you can take to avoid this undesired outcome.

First, always read the fine print when booking a car. All of Hertz's vehicle class descriptions contain the line "Includes electric vehicles." This seems to be the company's way of saying, "We warned you." Hertz has both a Manager's Special rate, which may end up being an electric car, and an EV Manager's Special, which will be an EV as long as they have one.

Say you book a "compact car—Nissan Versa or similar" that turns out to be a Chevrolet Bolt EV when you get assigned a vehicle. You can request something else, but as with a lot of the rental experience, your mileage may vary; get a nice rep, and they'll give you other options or let you choose for yourself from a row or zone. Find one who's having a bad day, however, and you might not be so lucky. The converse is also true: If you select an EV when booking, you aren't guaranteed to get an EV when you show up at the counter. But that's part of the fun of rental cars, right?

What if the only car left is electric and you absolutely don't want it? Ask to have your reservation canceled and try again with another rental company. If you're renting from a company that offers free cancellation anytime (Enterprise, for example) then you at least won't get stuck paying to get out of your reservation, but you'd still be left with no car. Hertz's terms and conditions say that vehicle availability in the class you booked isn't guaranteed for rentals that aren't prepaid, which is a confusing double negative that tells us you're safer to pay in advance if an EV switcheroo is a real worry.

Renting an electric car does require a little more research and attention than a gas car, but the support network is growing. More public charging stations keep popping up, while better in-car and in-phone apps continue to make it easier to plan your drive.

You Might Also Like