Hertz Is Selling EV Rentals All Wrong

Hertz got huge publicity announcing an order two years ago for 100,000 Teslas. Since then they’ve taken on other electric vehicles as well. The problem, though, is that people aren’t reserving them.

I regularly search car rentals and find that Hertz electric vehicles are often my cheapest option among the big rental companies. Hertz also has a special deal on EVs currently going on:

The reason that Hertz so frequently discounts EV rentals is because nobody wants them. And it isn’t because the EVs themselves aren’t great. It’s because of Hertz’s charging policies.

There’s too much of a learning curve, and forcing the customer to spend their time charging prior to vehicle return is a cost that makes consumers less willing to pay as much for the car itself. Hertz charges customers in their time, effort, and confusion and so has to lower rates as a result.

  • Most people haven’t driven an EV yet. They haven’t figured out EV charging yet. And it’s not worth the learning curve for a one-off. That’s true whether renting from Hertz or not.

  • However EV charging takes time. People are usually in a rush on the way to the airport. Who wants to seek out a charging station near the airport and then spend 20 or more minutes there? It’s annoying enough to have to get guess, but this takes longer!

And so even EV regulars may not want to rent an EV. The regulars might be used to home charging, and not want the hassle of charging before returning it. Sure, their hotel might have a charger but then after driving half an hour to the rental return lot the car isn’t on a full charge. Hertz allows returning cars with 75% charge, though many vehicles aren’t recommended to be charged over 80%.

Rental car companies need a different model. They may make a mint on refueling fees, but thinking of EVs the same way is a mistake. The need to return a car fully charged may be keeping people from wanting to rent those vehicles. Hertz is regularly discounting these cars because people don’t want to rent them under the company’s current rules.

No fee, or a very nominal fee, to allow customers to return EVs without having to charge them would go a long way to making them rentable. That would mean renting out the fleet, and not having to discount. Hertz would likely earn more through higher rental rates than they do pushing EVs on customers that don’t want them (either as a blind assignment, or inducing them to opt-in through lower rates).

Electric vehicles are increasingly common, but they aren’t yet 10% of new car sales and most people don’t drive new cars. Until EVs are ubiquitous there will be a learning curve renting them. And charging simply takes longer and is less convenient than a gas fill up the way it’s currently structured. Sure, an EV owner who does home charging gets a convenience compared to ever having to fill up at a gas station. But this flips when a non-regular has to figure out charging for the first time at a charging station and wait when all they want to do is make their flight.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. GARY YOU HAVE READ MY MIND. I am a business traveler and see the same thing. I want to rent EV’s but twice I had to decide between missing my flight (flat tire rule) or not return the car charged. I don’t have the luxury of 30 minutes on the way to the airport to charge. You are right they need a different model for charging. I don’t mind paying a fee to have them charge it instead of me spending money to charge.

  2. The problem the rental car companies have is they don’t have the infrastructure to charge the cars. If you return it empty that’s hours it has to sit on a charger, assuming they even have enough level 2 chargers. (Level one chargers take over a day.)

    But the real issue is that in the vast majority of circumstances electric cars make horrible rentals. If you own one you have a home charger. If you rent one, does your hotel have a charger? Is it even open when you need it? Do you have to wake up at 2 AM to unplug it to avoid idle fees? Are there chargers where you’re going during the day? And most of the chargers you do find are Level 2 chargers, that take hours to charge. The L3 chargers that take 30 minutes might be a 20-minute drive out of the way, if they exist in the area at all.

    And the learning curve if you don’t already own one is ROUGH…. and when only maybe 2% of drivers own one, that means you’re already not appealing to 98% of people.

    So while having to return over 70% is a mild annoyance, it’s definitely not THE annoyance and fixing that little annoyance won’t make a difference.

  3. Been there, done that, needed to download 4 different charging apps and create accounts, tried 6 difference charging locations of which 3 were not functioning at all. Also had a functioning charger stop functioning while we went for lunch…opened 2 service tickets (which were never addressed) with station operators…put in 2 chargeback claim for purchasing credits that we were unable to use…and lost countless hours of a very short vacation!

    Also, important to note that unless you have a US billing address, don’t even try. Sorry foreigners!

    We would have gladly paid a reasonable fee to have Hertz charge the car for us. It was not listed in our contract how much they would charge us if we brought the car back below 75%…and no one we asked seemed to know!

    No thanks!

  4. It’s frustrating, but typical of the rental industry. For the Tesla’s, it’s not difficult to charge while you’re renting it (the navigation system will literally tell you when and where, and pre-condition the battery). Other manufacturers are reliant on CCS charging, which for now is far less reliable.

    As someone that’s owned 8 EV’s so far (7 Tesla’s and a Rivian), I’d only rent a Tesla, for access to the Supercharger network. That’ll change over the next couple of years as many manufacturers adopt the NACS charging.

    Of course Hertz should install L2 chargers and just charge $20 if returned below 70%. The charging ‘infrastructure’ isn’t that expensive to install, especially at airport locations that have plenty of 240V running around.

    Rental companies need the convenience of wireless (induction) charging, but that’s not coming anytime soon, so the progressive ones really need to add the L2 charging and be done with it. And they should all just create a short, 5 minute video, explaining how to find a charger and plug in; it’s not difficult anymore.

  5. Short sighted of Tesla to fulfill such a large order knowing the experience would be so challenging for newbies. Lots of people will get their first impression based on this, perhaps Tesla should subsidize or pay for the L2 infrastructure at Hertz.

  6. I have heard these EV’s are expensive to buy compared to a gasoline car. The charger at home sounds ok but the learning I don’t know. It would be liķe teaching this old dog new tricks.

  7. When I rented an EV from Hertz last November, they let me return it as long as it had 10% battery left. This made it preferable to other options because I was able to drive it around for a couple days and return it to the airport without buying any gas, and without waiting at an EV charger. If they had required that I charge it over 80%, I never would have reserved an EV. I think that’s the only way they solve this problem… get rid of the mandatory charging before you return it.

  8. Totally agree. If they offered free returns at 80+% and $10 from 20% up, I’d rent them every time. I drive an EV and love it, but won’t rent them for the reasons you described.

  9. As a side note: There is currently an inventory surplus of EV’s at nearly every car dealership. The reality is that most people just don’t want an EV.

    You can count me in this camp. I rented 3 cars in Europe in the past month, and just did two for the U.S in the following month, all through Hertz.l I avoided EV’s in every instance, despite the lower price. A “fast” charger still takes 30+ minutes. I can pump gasoline in 2 minutes. Charging at home or hotel (assuming it’s equipped) is at least a 12+ hour ordeal, or longer. Range is also greatly dependent on weather conditions. Extremely cold or hot? Knock off 15% of average range.

    There are just lots of drawbacks and issues with EV’s, that I wouldn’t want to deal with at home. Much less, in a strange location/city/country that I’m traveling to. With gas, I know I can just pull into thousands of places, and in a couple minutes – I’m good to go.

  10. I rented a Tesla from Hertz in June and didn’t use a Supercharger at all. Last week I got an email saying that I would be billed an extra $17 because I used a Supercharger in a county I’ve never been to. The charger usage date was IN THE FUTURE (namely October), which hasn’t even happened yet.

    I’ve exchanged five emails with customer service, which each paste a cookie-cutter response and don’t answer the questions that I’ve asked them, namely how I can be charged for future Supercharger usage that’s ahead of the current date and the rental return date.

    I don’t see the charge on my credit card so I just gave up on the email thread and will resume if I get charged. But this is incredibly frustrating considering that my local Hertz has great customer service.

  11. I’m from the Federal Government. Our solution to this reluctance is quite simple–we will ban the rental of planet destroying gas powered vehicles. And you will love it, it’s for your own good.

  12. This is the back-end concern, but the last 2 times that I reserved an EV at Hertz, when I went to select my vehicle, out of over a dozen to select from, only one had a charge above 70%!

    Only 3 of them were even plugged in to trickle chargers; the rest were just sitting there (most of them parked next to a charger!)

    The rep at the Gold Desk said to tell the exit gate attendant and they’d make a note to waive the returned <70% fee, but I didn’t want that hassle.

    My first EV experience with an EV was a Hertz rental, and I really liked it, but you can tell it’s a challenge for them.

  13. Cripe, it took 60 seconds on the Hertz site to find that they charge $35 if you bring back an EV with between 10 and 70% charge.

  14. Over the last year I have rented Tesla’s out of SFO roughly 10 times. And the biggest issue I had was that often the car provided was not charged when I picked it up. 50-75% charge happened several times. A full charge would get me thru a three day rental and I didn’t mind paying the charging fee. But with a partial charge I had to go find a charging station and wait. No thanks.

  15. At one time, I travelled a lot on business and would frequently drive 60 miles or less. If the recharging costs are too high, I don’t want it. I also returned the car in the late afternoon after meetings so there would be little time to re-charge. It would be ok if they rented the car at 50% and required 50% on return then I would charge it at night. However, those wanting a long time on day 1 would find 50% charge too little.

  16. Thanks for posting this – I had this question and had planned on calling Hertz to ask them what they required for re-charging. Seems like it’s not a big deal to plug it in when it’s returned and call it a day, but clearly that’s not how they operate. I had one reserved for my trip to SF next month, which I have now cancelled and will get a small gas fueled car & drive through the costco near the rent-a-car facility and refuel with cheap gas.

  17. What am i missing about the fallacy of “zero emissions”?

    Whom decided its better to have tons of pollution at one central location, i.g. a power plant rather than having cars generate tiny amounts of pollution scattered over great distances.

    Did someone knowledgeable & trustworthy actually do the math?

  18. Yup, ran into this last weekend. Rented a Tesla, which of course was missing the J1772 adapter that’s supposed to come with the car.

    So despite a hotel charger that I could have charged overnight, I ended up having to wake up an extra hour early for my 7 AM flight in order to supercharge.

  19. So, pay the $35 and return it empty. It’s not that much different than returning an empty ICE car in that respect. Yes, it sucks for what they charge compared to the equivalent amount of gasoline it would be, but they make the rules, and we play by them. That’s why you can rent one in San Francisco for a little over 200 a week, lol.

  20. This paradigm really only works if you get the Tesla. The rest of the charging networks suck by comparison.

  21. Rented a Tesla at SFO, but hotel did not have Tesla charger nor did the car come with an adapter. All controls are on the touch screen so navigation was easy but never did find the AC. (Found the heated steering wheel and seats but since the car had been in sun and temp was in 80s I did not want heat!) renting another car on Sunday. This time I want anything But a Tesla – free charger at my hotel is not for Tesla

  22. @TravelerMSY and I can rent an ICE vehicle for less. I wanted to drive the EV, but for the hassle I’ll just stick with the gas powered vehicle.

  23. Does not work for me. Most of my work trips I am finishing meeting in early afternoon and rushing to the airport to catch a late afternoon flight. No time to go looking for chargers and waiting. I am not opposed to the idea of EV’s but there is just way too much inconvenience associated with them.

    Hertz must be loosing money hand over fist if they are only able to get $200 a week for Teslas. Thats $10k a year which does not even cover the depreciation

  24. Car rental costs have been high in the last two years. I have to get home from LAX in November but renting a car is probably too expensive, EV or not. I checked Hertz after reading this post and they are high. I’ll probably take a bus then a taxi or an Uber like I did last time. Sometimes taxis or Ubers are hybrids but I haven’t seen an EV used that way.

  25. When I rented an EV from Hertz at MIA, I asked when picking up the car what the charging fee was. I was told either return the car with 70%+ for no fee or return it with 10%+ for a nominal fee. The fee seemed very reasonable to me, no more than I often spend to fill an ICE car tank. I drove ~400 over the course of the rental, charged once at a level 3 charger mid rental, and returned the car with ~20% remaining, paying the charging fee I had been quoted. I also own an EV at home so understood my charging options.

  26. Hertz in Porto, Portugal only required that you return the car with at least 20% charge. There was no fee.

  27. The EVs are usually class C or better. With President’s circle you rent class C or higher and pick from the Presidents selection. So chose the cheap EV deal and pick a regular car.

  28. I drove a rental Tesla from Hertz for 6 weeks while my car was being repaired (the other person’s insurance paid for it!). While the car itself wasn’t bad and I received a briefing on how to work the 2023 car, it had the small battery and only one motor. Hertz provided me with an adapter for use outside of the Tesla network. I wanted to take it on a trip up to the mountains in the NE corner of my state BUT…I would have had to make 4 “fueling” stops to make the 250 mile round trip “with reserves”. I drove my Acura SUV instead. I did check out the reported charging stations in the town where I was going. Two of the charging stations were inoperable! Had they been working, maybe I could have charged it while having a LONNNNG lunch but…the nearest Supercharger was 40 miles out of the way for the 35 minute charge. I also regularly travel to a college town in the SE corner of my state. It’s a 235 mile one way. I would have to stop 90 miles out of my home town (Supercharger only a mile away!) to top it off. Then, about 30 miles from my destination, top it off again in order to get back to that same Supercharger. Even though the town is a HUGE college town, there are only 3 charging stations. One is at the large state power company’s office in the town. That was working. The other two..not so much! Maybe if the rental car had the big battery pack, I would have felt better and not had “range anxiety”. I’m in the airline business and I use Hertz all the time. They were super. Luckily, the Supercharger near me and the Hertz rental office were only about 8 miles apart!

  29. There are a lot of valid concerns on EV rental on this thread, first and foremost being the U.S.’s complicated charging network. This is an area where Tesla excels and Hertz should have done a better job encouraging Supercharger use, especially considering how unreliable some large charge stations (ChargePoint) are. This also seems to be a mistake on Tesla’s end, not integrating some sort of solution that you could pull into a supercharger, plug in, and have it show up on your Hertz bill. (Although we are well aware on Hertz’s challenges with their backend billing IT and their habit of arresting customers)

    Very funny to read comments questioning the efficiency of EV’s. Even a coal power plant powering a charging EV is still more efficient than the energy usage of a gas powered car, for every $5 of gas you buy, only 20% of it goes to moving the gas power car. EV’s are closer to 90% thanks to technology like regenerative braking. The “climate impacting the range” argument is not a problem unique to EV’s either, what do you think is powering the AC in your car when it’s 100+ degrees outside?

  30. Once you go EV, you’ll never go back! But with the current infrastructure, renting and long road trips are too challenging. But we’ll get there soon.

  31. Last January, while staying at a friend’s place in Tampa, I planned on renting a Tesla from Hertz. After all, I could charge it overnight. Hertz told me they did not supply a cable for this.

  32. For Presidents Club or Five Star members (or even Gold members) if the airport offers Ultimate Choice (i.e., allows you to choose your car), you can reserve the lowest price car, even EV, and then although they will have placed your reserved car in a stall you are not required to take it. When you arrive the airport you can pick any car you like off the line. While status doesn’t get you much at Hertz, this one perk can save hundreds due to the lower EV rental rates in some markets. You can choose the lowest price rental option midsize or higher. EVs are considered a higher class even if the rate is lower.

  33. At first I really enjoyed seeing EV’s in the President’s Circle in Florida and took them a few times. I really liked them *except* for the charging part. In one instance, I was driving across Alligator Alley, checked *3* apps, and decided to use the fast-charging station in South Naples – showed 4 ‘super chargers’, with at least 1 always open (I checked on it regularly to make sure at least 1 was available). I get off 75 and head south, ChargePoint (or the other one) showed *3* spots open – thought I was good to go. Until I get there to see they are “open”, except lame-o people parked non-EVs in those spots. I waited for *45 minutes* for one of those inconsiderate drivers to move, started to take their spot when another person slid in (NON-EV) as well.

    I was far from happy.

    And we won’t go into the words I shared with the driver, who completely ignored me and left their vehicle in the spot.

    What should have been a 35-40 minute “stop” was over 3 hours. No more.

    So yeah, no more for me.

  34. Look at this from Hertz perspective. If you return the car with a dead battery they can’t rent it again until at least the next day. So they would have to at least bill the customer a recharge fee equivalent to one day of rental.

  35. Gary,

    Hertz might be less crazy than you think. Their charging policy makes electric cars more attractive for people who are actually driving perhaps 30 to 50 miles (or some distance within the “free” allotment) on the entire rental, yielding less wear and tear, and higher resale value, on the vehicles.

  36. As a leisure traveler with high status, I would never rent an electrical vehicle. No charger at my secret fishing hole. City driving easier with Uber driver. An expensive taxpayer subsidized lifestyle choice, not for me. Let the market decide.

  37. I drive a Tesla as my primary vehicle. But I would NEVER rent an EV under Hertz’s current rules. The problem is the percentage they are requiring, if it were 50%+ it would allay peoples apprehension and negative perception of renting one.

  38. @ Christopher Riehl — The problem lies in having to charge your car at all. Because of this, I have zero interest in driving one of these overpriced things. When they make them so that they recharge from sunlight, wake me up.

  39. I rented a Model Y from Hertz this December, honestly as I had a level 2 charger installed in my house and wanted to test it. Plus get a better idea of what diving an EV was like. I received the Car with less than a full charge and when driving it in the cold snap we were having, it became very apparent how that affected the range, but the biggest issue was that one of the side cameras was inoperable, which meant no cruise control and a number of any other functions.

    When I tried to contact Hertz about the issue they first said they’d swap the car… but when I mentioned it was an EV they balked… long story short the best they offered was some points for my trouble. JD Power just released a study about the build quality and the number of issues electric cars have. I personally just bought a new Y and had issues from day 1. Including being 3 software versions behind and not have full functionality of a lot of features.

    All of which means a heck of a lot of unhappy customers. I honestly think Hertz is regretting the whole foray into electric vehicles as I’m sure the reliability and issues that come with “beta” vehicles can’t easy to manage

  40. Bingo, you hit the mail on the head. In fact this week I cancelled a Hertz ev rental and rebooked a regular gas powered car for exactly the reason you state. I have an early morning flight out and can’t be spending a half hour looking for a charging station at 5 am

  41. Rented a Chevy Bolt EV at LAX. Never again. Unable to find a charging station and Hertz “instructions” were simply links to pages and pages of useless information. Steve Jobs called this kind is consumer a “chain of pain.” That fits my experience.

  42. Not sure where folks got the impression that you *cannot* return a Hertz rental with less than a 75% charge. Here are the *actual* rules, although, admittedly, Hertz does a very poor job with transparency here:

    – If you receive the car with 75% or more charge, return with at least 70% (otherwise, there is a $35 recharging fee)

    – If you receive the car with 74% or less charge, return with at least 10%

    – In all cases, return the car with at least 10%, otherwise, there is an additional $25 undercharged battery fee (on top of the $35 recharging fee, if applicable)

  43. EV’s can be cool for a personal vehicle because it is convenient to charge at home rather than having to visit gas stations. In some areas, gas stations are a magnet for sketchy drifter types, and there is no reason to visit one if you don’t have to. EV’s are especially practical for couples who can have one EV for home commute convenience and one gas vehicle for long trips. An electric motor has less wear and tear than a combustion engine and if you buy a brand with better build quality than Tesla, it could last a long time. But EV’s for a rental where you have no home charging and have to figure out local charging options is a disaster. Its like renting a diaphragm. The best thing to do would be if authorities allowed Hertz to make tax-free car swaps with local dealers or CarMax to swap most of the EV’s for gas vehicles at whatever price the EV’s would fly off the lot for. Even if used EV’s are not selling at one price, drop that $5,000 or whatever and they will fly off the lot. Then the EV’s can get driven as intended by people with home charging for whom they will add convenience not renters for whom they will be a disaster. Really the difference between an EV and a Gas car is much like the difference between gas and battery law mowers, leaf blowers, chain saws, etc, except you can’t give someone else a level 2 charger to take home. So would I be willing to own a battery chain saw? Sure. Would I be willing to rent a battery chain saw from Home Depot if they couldn’t give me a fast charger but charged by the hour and demanded the battery be returned full? Nope. I would take the gas chain saw then. Not because electricity is a bad scam, but because that rental scenario can’t work.

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