I recently got the chance to experience renting a Tesla from Hertz for a week-long road trip across California with my parents.
For context, Hertz announced late last year that they ordered 100,000 Teslas that will gradually be introduced into their US and European markets over the coming months. As of writing, you can currently rent a Tesla Model 3 from these airport locations, with more (including select neighborhood locations) coming in the near future!
Here's my experience and how you can utilize credit card benefits to save even more!
I initially planned to book a traditional gas vehicle through National as I've always had a good experience with them. In addition, cards like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Amex Platinum provide National Emerald Club Executive status, providing many benefits such as faster "free rental days" and upgrades.
One day, targeted advertising hit me with a Hertz Tesla ad, and I decided to check the pricing to see if I could make it work. Although they did not have any one-way Tesla rentals, I did find availability at their SFO location near where I'm based (where based on a recent report already have more than 100+ Model 3s available). What is crazier is that the price was CHEAPER than my National gas car rental! As a result I ended up cancelling my SFO-SAN United award tickets, and decided to do a return trip all on the Tesla.
Here is the approximate routing:
San Francisco - Los Angeles - San Diego - Yosemite - Cupertino - San Francisco
We ended up driving over 1200 miles during our 8-day rental. What a great way to experience what owning a Tesla may feel like, even better when we paid $0 in fueling costs!
How I Booked
First, I enrolled in my credit card benefits to make sure I have the highest Hertz status. My Amex Platinum card already provided me Hertz Gold, but the new Venture X provided me with the ability to one-up that with Hertz' top-tier President's Circle status. Although not the most useful for a Tesla rental, the status does come with benefits such as guaranteed upgrades, free additional driver, and also higher point earnings.
Next, I utilized Amex Platinum's Corporate Discount Code (CDP) and rate code to save on my rental, getting a discounted rate. The actual rate could have also been lower had I chosen the pre-paid option, but that came with a less flexible cancellation policy I did not want to risk, since I was flying in from the West Coast the day before. Even then, the post-paid Hertz rate were still cheaper than my National quote for the traditional gas vehicle:
Note that rental car prices can vary a lot depending on your status and discount code (such as corporate codes from work, school, etc.). If you are lucky enough to work for a large company that gives you rental discounts for leisure use, definitely take advantage of it!
Additionally, I saved even more by waiving the Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) by putting it on a credit card that provides such coverage free of charge. This is common for many premium cards such as Chase Sapphire Reserve, Chase Sapphire Preferred, Amex Platinum, and Venture X.
Hertz charges $25/day for LDW, so that means my 8-day rental worked out to be a $200 savings just for this benefit, more than double the annual fee of the Chase Sapphire Preferred. This is why I LOVE credit cards so much, and why there are lots of scenarios where paying an annual fee makes sense. Be sure to check specific terms and exclusions before booking!
Finally, Hertz was running a limited time promotion where they were giving out unlimited supercharging! This was already a great deal when I rented in February 2022, but with the recent spikes in oil prices ($6+/gallon at some pumps in California!), renting an EV makes even more sense.
With the logistical details out of the way, here's my actual experience renting a Tesla Model 3 from Hertz!
Before My Rental
A few days before my rental started, I got a series of emails from Hertz, each with a mini tutorial on specific Tesla functionalities as well as what to expect. They covered topics such as locking/unlocking the car, how to entire/exit the Tesla, shifting gears, regenerative braking, AutoPilot and more. These short tutorials were very helpful for first-time Tesla drivers like me.
Retrieving the Car
The journey started at SFO's consolidated rental car facility, which is connected to all terminals via the free AirTrain system. As a Gold/President's circle member, I was able to bypass the standard counters and go straight to the area below:
Just like in the ads, there was a row of Tesla Model 3s. At this point I couldn't contain my excitement, and I could tell the staff at the location were excited too!
Traffic was light and they actually allowed me to pick the color! I originally wanted to go for the blue, but was told the only available one was a standard range.
I ended up going with a brand new red 2022 AWD Model 3 (at the time priced at $55k)! I was told the vehicle was just delivered last month and the odometer only had about 600 miles on it!
I also noticed that the vehicle featured the more expensive 19" Sport Wheels, interesting that Hertz didn't just go for the basic configurations.
My guess is the car probably rolled out from the nearby Fremont factory and hasn't really left the Bay Area yet!
The Hertz employee then asked if it was my first time driving a Tesla (yes) and gave me a quick walkthrough. He was very friendly and even provided his number in case I ran into any issues on the road!
One minor note: He mentioned there is no AutoPilot, but that is incorrect. All Hertz Teslas are equipped with basic AutoPilot features such as Traffic-Aware Cruise Control (TACC) and Autosteer, but does not have the more advanced Full Self Driving (FSD) available. In addition, I noticed that the front glovebox compartment was locked with a PIN code. I didn't get a chance to ask them if they plan to unlock this functionality in the future.
Here's a couple more pics (including a free Hertz water bottle):
Adapting to EVs
As a first-time Tesla driver, it did take some getting used to, especially regarding the regenerative braking. After 1-2 days though, I was able to fully adapt and it became a non-issue. There are also minor differences such as using your key-card to unlock/lock the vehicle, and having virtually on controls via the 15-inch touchscreen panel.
Charging & Range Anxiety
I have to be honest, switching from traditional gasoline car to an EV takes some adjustment, especially when it comes to range anxiety. EVs are incredibly efficient running at lower-speeds, so are great for city driving. However, for longer road-trips, definitely get the long range version (I cannot stress this enough!). My model has an estimated range of 334mi (537km), but in reality you often can only get to 20% until you should find the closest charger to top up. One good thing though about a rental is you don't have to really worry about charging it to 100% every time.
It was definitely scary at first when I wasn't familiar with the vehicle's range capabilities. My first supercharger turned out to also be one of the older (hence slower) stations, and made worse since adjacent stalls were all fully occupied. However, I quickly learned within a day or two, and figured out how to spot the 250kW (replenishing 1000+ mi/hr) chargers and not to park adjacent to other charging vehicles.
We stayed at the AutoCamp Yosemite near Mariposa, about a 45 min drive from Yosemite Valley. We spent a whole day at the park and used less than 20% for the round-trip! It dipped less than 3% for the entire time we were in the valley, and even recharged itself back up a little due to regenerative braking on the way back to our campsite!
Additionally, I found that many of the hotels we stayed at provided complimentary EV charging, which was helpful since it saved us a trip to the gas station and was ready with a full charge the next day!
Overall, I can even go as far as saying that long distance roadtrips are arguably more enjoyable with a Tesla. The main takeaway is to adjust your lifestyle to get accustomed to the EV era. Within a few days, I was already naturally adapting my itinerary to time supercharging stops with tasks we were going to do anyways, such as going to the restroom, getting food, grocery shopping and stopping by certain destinations. So in fact - EVs can actually save you both time AND money!
In short, it was AMAZING, but that is something you have to experience for yourself. Teslas may not have the best build quality (e.g. our front license plate was not perfectly centered) and most premium finishes, but it is a very solid car and pleasure to drive. It was also great to have an AWD for going into Yosemite, and made driving the mountainous roads into the park a real breeze (I did the same drive with a Nissan last year so was very easy to see the difference). Whether you are renting this vehicle for city driving or for long roadtrips, you will not be disappointed!
An added benefit is that without any engine idling issues, we can keep the car hot or cool even when stationary or away from the vehicle. Here is us using camp-mode at Yosemite:
Tesla's AutoPilot includes two features, as described by Hertz:
- Traffic-Aware Cruise Control (TACC) matches the speed of your car to that of the surrounding traffic.
- Autosteer assists with steering within a clearly marked lane while TACC is engaged.
I found this feature extremely reliable and useful, especially driving through bumper-to-bumper low-speed freeway traffic for extended amounts of time. It also was really good at driving into Yosemite, rounding the curves better than most humans could.
All of Hertz's Teslas come equipped with cellular connectivity, so you have access to Tesla's navigation/satellite imagery service, Spotify, YouTube, Netflix, etc. We did lose connection inside some parts of Yosemite, but that is completely expected and the car can still function with cached map data. Additionally, you can also choose to have the Tesla connect to a local Wi-Fi network or your phone's hotspot.
I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of storage the Tesla Model 3 offers.
Not only is the back trunk incredibly spacious for a vehicle of this size, the frunk (front trunk) can be used for additional storage.
We were able to fit all our bags and suitcases for the trip!
The Return Experience
The return experience was what you would expect from any rental return. We drove into the return area at SFO's rental facility, and after a quick inspection, we were free to go.
I did ask regarding Hertz's official return charge % policy. I was told that as of now (the rep did say policy is yet to be determined), they simply as renters to bring the vehicle back with 10% of more battery remaining. This makes it another advantage compared to traditional gas cars, as you can avoid the extra gas station trip before returning the vehicle.
Overall, I had such a fun time with this rental. You can call me a Tesla fan-boy, a tech geek, or early-adopter, but EVs are the future and here to stay. I'm so happy to be part of the shift to sustainable transportation - even better when I get to have fun and save money while doing it!
That being said, Hertz definitely has room for improvement. Here are a few suggestions I have for Hertz:
- Enable Tesla App functionality (such as using Guest Mode), so renters can control various vehicle features and monitor charging progress. This is the single biggest request I would like to see, as it would make the overall experience much better if I could monitor the charging % while not be physically by the vehicle.
- Supercharger network is nice, but for times when a conventional EV charger is needed, Hertz could provide a network of EV partners where renters can charge up for free or have it billed directly to their rental invoice for more streamlined experience. This avoids having to download and sign up for various services just for a short rental trip.
- Enable access to the glovebox compartment.
- Allow one-way rentals as availability improves.
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