EVs are the “It” girl of the transportation industry, and last year Hertz hopped onto the bandwagon big time, ordering 100,000 Tesla Model 3s. Hertz is making half of those available to Uber drivers through their Uber-Hertz-Tesla partnership, renting them out across the country where Uber and Hertz have a rental partnership.
We already posted new contributor Mario’s account of his Model 3 rental, but Senior Contributor Gabe Ets-Hokin not only also rented a Model 3 with Hertz, he’s also seen a few other driver’s reports of their rentals and had plenty to add. Read on.
So why did Hertz buy all those Teslas, anyway? This sentence from the Hertz blog tells me all I need to know: “[W]e now offer the largest electric vehicle (EV) rental fleet in North America.” Just like that, Hertz suddenly is the leader in EV rentals. And the Hertz/Uber rental partnership seems like a good way to keep paying customers on the books.
But is it good for drivers? We’ve already shared Mario’s story about renting his car, and Chris on our Youtube channel has talked a little about another driver’s experience, but we haven’t really done a deep dive into the numbers of using a rented $50,000 car for what is a fairly low-paying job. What are the facts? A path to ruin or a sustainable way to make a buck?
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What is the Hertz Tesla/Uber Rental Program?
Hertz is quite proud of its giant investment ($4.5 billion-ish, depending on where the cars are registered—Tesla has stated it treated Hertz like any other customer. We don’t know when the order was placed, so it’s possible Hertz could have paid more than $50,000 out the door for each car, pushing the total over five billion bucks), but if the cars are popular, they could be a moneymaker as well. Maintenance and other costs are reduced and they can be rented for a premium.
Non-rideshare renters go through the regular Hertz site, find a location that has the Teslas and then call to arrange the rental. Uber drivers also rent through the website (more on that below) and then go pick up their car.
After a standard checkout procedure and some extra information about driving the Teslas, you’re on your way. Drivers must call or go back to the Hertz office every week if they want to keep it long term, which is inconvenient if you live a long way from the Hertz office.
For Uber drivers, the price is $334 per week but taxes and other fees vary. That’s a big jump up from the $214-$260 a week Hertz charges for gas or hybrid rental cars, but most drivers probably use almost all that savings buying gas—that’s probably how Hertz sees it.
Drivers can also select a “loss-damage waiver” for $8.99 a day that completely frees renters from any loss or damage during the rental period, so long as they don’t violate the rental agreement.
Not sure if it’s worth it to drive for Uber with a Tesla? Check out how much Uber drivers make here!
How Do I Sign Up to Drive a Tesla for Uber?
The first step to renting a Tesla is to be an eligible driver—you need more than 150 trips and must have a 4.7 rating (surprisingly low, since it’s just a whisker from the deactivation threshold). There’s a portal to the correct Hertz signup page in the Uber app, but I think the best way to make it happen is to call Uber’s customer “service” through the app. Select the proper option (and language) for assistance with rentals and tell them you want a Tesla. You’ll get put on a waiting list.
I don’t know how long it will be before you get the call—it was a few weeks for me. When you do, there’s no waffling—they’ll want you to come and pick that car up ASAP, or they’ll rent it to the next driver. Show up at the office and after a bit of paperwork and orientation, you’ll soon be on your way in your own Model 3.
Read more about the signup process and experience here: What It’s Like Driving a Tesla for Uber Through Hertz
What is it Like Driving a Tesla for Uber?
I’ve written before about using a Tesla (and other EVs) for rideshare work, as have other RSG contributors, so it shouldn’t surprise you that I think driving an EV in general, and a luxury EV like the Model 3 in particular, is a really great experience (in general) for drivers and passengers.
EVs are smooth, quiet, quick off the line, and easy to drive. Passengers, especially the eco-conscious sorts that like living in the dense cities where the bulk of Uber rides happen, appreciate the green nature of your ride and ask lots of questions.
And then there are the fuel savings, which can depend on a few factors. The best-case scenario is charging your car every night at home during off-peak hours, but you’ll need a level-two (240-volt) charger, which most EV renters won’t have.
That means you’ll have to charge at a Tesla supercharger station, and in that case, rates are variable, depending on local utility rates, charge speed and time of day—it can range from as low as 13 cents a kilowatt-hour to 48 cents or more. Pick your charge times carefully and you’ll save 50 or even 75 percent over buying gas.
The experience of driving the rented Tesla is almost as good as owning one. I say almost because even though Hertz says it’s working on a solution, the cars aren’t registered to the individual renters, which means they can’t use the Tesla app to enjoy features that make the Tesla driving experience so high-tech and pleasant.
For instance, you can’t use your phone as a key, which means you have to use a key card (encased in a huge clear-plastic wallet thing and attached to another plastic tag by a small cable) to lock or unlock the car or, if you get out of the car to help a passenger with luggage, use it again to start the car. You also can’t use the remote Sentry mode, can’t enable the car for a valet, control charging or climate remotely, find the car’s location or open the trunks (I refuse to type the “front trunk” portmanteau!).
Charging the car is easy. The huge screen will show you the nearest charge station, along with stall availability and pricing. Select a station and use the navigation to get to it and the car will automatically precondition the battery to get it ready for charging, so it will charge as fast as possible. Back into the stall (the cord is too short, plus you’ll look like a noob if you head in) and the charge door opens automatically.
There are no controls on the supercharger unit—just stick the thingee into the open port and walk away. Get a snack or cup of coffee, use the restroom and by the time you get back to the car, it’s added 150 miles or more in around 15 or 20 minutes—plenty for the average driver to finish a shift.
At the end of the rental period, Hertz will charge the card on file for the electricity. At this time Hertz isn’t charging a fee or markup for the service (but there is a fee for tolls). If someone is using an AmEx gold card to pay the charging bill to Telsa, they’re getting a lot of bonus miles.
How about Uber Comfort (which the Model 3 is eligible for, unlike Select) and tips—will you make more? I found my tips spiked when I first had my Tesla, but it was also the holiday season, and very busy, which boosts tips a lot.
I don’t have a scientific analysis of this, but my suspicion is tips will remain low as usual—so far this year, in my personal Tesla, tips are the same as they were with my last car.
As for Comfort, I found that the rides are few and far between, maybe just a few every week. Counting on tips or Comfort rides to make a noticeable difference will lead to disappointment, though this could vary by geography or if you have success with Surge-io’s shameless tip-pandering technique.
My experience was okay, but other drivers report a sub-optimal experience. Corey, a member of our EV Drivers Facebook group, is unhappy.
“I will never again rent a Tesla through Uber/Hertz.”-Corey
Corey reports being charged late fees, was disappointed he couldn’t also register the car on his Lyft account (missing an $800 promotion), and found the car’s range in cold weather to be much less than he expected. As Corey continues, “It is not a wise decision to continue this rental for more than 1 week… financing the car…will be four times less expensive.”
Corey’s experience really highlights how important it is to do a bit of research to make sure this program fits your needs as a driver!
Is it Worth it to Rent a Tesla to Drive for Uber?
Is it worth it to rent a Tesla Model 3 from Hertz? Well, if you want to experience rideshare work in an electric vehicle—a really nice electric vehicle, the Hertz/Tesla/Uber program may be the only game in town, really. (See our EV Rental Options story for more info.) So on that level, yes, go for it, but keep in mind the experience of many renters is it takes working about 20 hours a week just to break even.
If the question you’re asking is “is it cost-effective to rent a Tesla for gig work?” that depends on some factors, like:
- Where do you drive?
- How long are you planning to do this work—is it a side hustle or a full-time profession?
- Are you renting a Tesla because you want to see what it’s like?
If you just want to check out a Tesla, then I’d say $334 a week is a pretty good deal—it’s less than renting most other cars, after all, and if you drive enough the fuel savings will probably make it about the same as one of the other Uber rental cars Hertz or Avis has available.
But what about long-term? You can keep a Hertz Tesla as long as you’d like, and all maintenance is included as well as insurance. I’d assume a long-term renter will have a way to charge the car at home (the average cost of installing a level-two charger is in the $1,000 range, and there’s a federal tax credit to help pay for it), which will bring costs to a nationwide average of 13 cents per kWh.
To help readers figure this out, I built one of my world-famous* spreadsheets, but I’d better explain my assumptions.
In addition to electricity prices, I also figured the cost of gas at the nationwide average of $3.31 a gallon, insurance at about $2,264 a year (Bankrate.com’s average for full coverage plus about $50 a month for rideshare coverage; I added about 20% for the Tesla because it’s more to insure). I also figured full-time drivers average about 40,000 miles a year
Maintenance numbers came from Your Mechanic.com‘s database, and since EVs require little maintenance I cut that in half for those vehicles.
For vehicle costs I used rental fees (with the average US sales tax), MSRP or an estimated used-car price based on a quick Craigslist/Autotrader rabbit-hole dive (and watching a Youtube video about buying a 2005 Prius for $1,250 and replacing the battery for another $1,000).
Want to test out this spreadsheet yourself? You can access it here – click “File” and then “Make a Copy” to make your own edits!
Takeaways for Drivers
My first thought after finishing my spreadsheet was wow! You could buy two Tesla Model 3s for what you’d spend on rental fees for five years, so of course, buying one would be more cost-effective. Buying a hoopty hybrid is obviously the most cost-effective way to do rideshare, but this isn’t a rent-vs.-own story; it’s more a rent vs. rent story, and my calculations show that you can rent a Tesla for not that much more than renting something like a Camry through Hertz, Avis or Lyft Express Drive.
If the typical long-term renter is just doing it for a few months, I think a full-time driver would have a pretty good experience renting a Tesla compared to a gasoline vehicle. In addition to massively reducing your carbon footprint (if you think that’s important), the Model 3 is a really nice car to spend eight or 10 hours a day in compared to a Prius or Camry, well worth the extra five cents a mile, if you ask me.
The more you drive the more sense it makes; drive 250 miles a day (60,000 a year) and the Tesla is cheaper than an ICE rental (and buying a used Chevy Bolt will be as cheap as driving a hoopty hybrid).
So is it worth it? Maybe? If you’re in a state with higher than average gas prices, or if you have another job (like realty or outside sales) that you need an efficient, high-status car for a while, or if you drive 40 or more hours per week it could be a good deal.
It all depends on your situation and your needs; I hope I gave you enough information to make an informed decision. Good luck and don’t drive yourself crazy.
Have something to add? Rented an EV yourself? Post your feedback below or head over to the RSG Uber/Lyft EV group on Facebook!
*Maybe in my own world.
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-Gabe @ RSG