Renting a Tesla Model 3 for a week to drive with Uber allowed me to drive a wonderful car, but the rental experience itself left a lot to be desired.
Does it make sense for you to do this? Possibly so, but there are a few major caveats you need to keep in mind.
My Experience with the Tesla Rental Process
Here’s how my experience went renting a Tesla through Hertz to drive for Uber:
Scheduled an Appointment
I made an appointment for 11 a.m. the following day and used the provided Uber credit to pay for most of my ride to the rental location, which happens to be about 40 miles from my house at the San Diego airport.
Once you go inside, you must scan the QR code to check in, which is what actually puts you in the queue.
And the Waiting Began
I saw a chair inside that I was surprised was available, given the fact that there were at least 20 other drivers there waiting to rent vehicles. I took a seat in the open chair, and that’s when I experienced my first taste of the customer experience I would have for the next few hours.
Suddenly one of the Hertz employees yelled “Outside!” like I was a dog that sat on the couch. It wasn’t just me; this is the way these employees spoke to their customers all day long.
I went outside and noticed there were no chairs – or at least none available. Given the weather that day, I had a choice of standing in the shade and being very cold or standing in the sun and being somewhat comfortable. I stood in the sun but would regret that decision later after I got a sunburn.
Time seemed to stand still as they would call a new driver every 15 to 20 minutes. Minutes became hours, during which I had no idea where I was in the queue.
It’s easy enough to provide such information if you care about customer service, but they clearly do not. Once, I waited in a three-hour queue to get a table for a Mother’s Day dinner, but we did so relaxing at my house watching Netflix – because we had an app telling us where we were in line – it’s really not that hard.
Finally Got My Tesla Rental
4 1/2 hours later I was given my rental Tesla. The Hertz representatives spent a few minutes with me familiarizing me with the various controls and explaining where the charging port and charging cable were.
The State of My Tesla Model 3 Rental
1. The Rental was Filthy
Now that I FINALLY had my Tesla Model 3, I could see the outside of the car was filthy, but it was not until I drove off that I realized it was more than just dirty,
2. No Charging Cable Adapter
I had no windshield washer fluid, the charging cable had only a 110 V plug on it, and no adapter to allow me to charge anywhere other than a Tesla charging station.
3. Cruise Control was Broken
Likely worst of all the cruise control is broken. Attempting to initiate cruise control gave me an error that “all convenience features were disabled due to a camera alignment problem.”
My Experience Contacting Hertz Support for Help
I tried three different times to call Hertz roadside support to see if they can remedy the issue. My fantasy was that it would activate Tesla roadside maintenance and someone would come to fix my car while I wasn’t using it and then I could use this feature.
That was never going to happen, because Tesla wouldn’t talk to me because I was not the owner, and the Hertz representative could not authorize me to talk to Tesla without the Hertz email address associated with the car.
After three phone calls and three hours on tech support, I was told that cruise control was actually disabled on all rental Teslas – in which I later learned, it’s not.
After complaining, I was then chided that I never should have called them in the first place, because this was roadside assistance and I don’t have a flat tire. Never mind the fact they have a button to press for “the features in your car doesn’t work as expected.”
They told me that my best choice was to take it back to the rental location, great.
My Experience Going Back to the Rental Location for Help
I found myself near the airport the next day and decided to stop and just ask a question.
He did verify that cruise control is not disabled on all Teslas but was a bit surprised at what he said next.
“We can’t be responsible for everything working on the car. You should call Uber or watch YouTube videos.”
I explained that this wasn’t a matter of understanding how the feature works, but that it was giving a specific error message. He said that if I wanted to swap cars I needed to turn in this car, which would take a few hours, wait 48 hours, and then rent another vehicle, which would take a few more hours.
But there was no guarantee that cruise control would work in that rental either.
Once again it was his tone that was the worst. I wasn’t a customer with a problem that needed solving; I was just an annoyance that needed to be gotten rid of. He knew there was no way I was going to swap out the vehicle like that.
My Experience Returning the Tesla Rental
At the end of the rental period, I returned the car with an 80% charge, which is what it had when they gave it to me.
I had to wait three hours before someone came to examine my vehicle and allow me to return it.
He pointed out that there was sand on the floor in the back seat and that I was therefore going to be subject to a cleaning fee of $75
At this point, I was so over this place that I muttered something under my breath and took the receipt, and left.
- No Cleaning Fee Mentioned in Contract: The only cleaning fee mentioned in the full rental contract is if I smoke in the vehicle. I travel a lot for my day job, and I have rented hundreds of rental vehicles and left them in all sorts of disarray, including fast food bags all over the passenger area or back seat. As long as all it needs is a quick trash take out and a vacuum, I’ve never seen a rental company try to charge me a cleaning fee.
- Completely Unjustified: The second thing is that I called Hertz and they said that he put the cleaning fee in but with no reason, so they would waive the fee. He is so used to ripping people off that he didn’t even stop to justify it.
My Experience Driving a Tesla Model 3 for Uber & Lyft
The whole point of this experiment was for me to see what it would be like to drive a Tesla Model 3 for Uber or Lyft.
The car was amazing to drive with the most pickup of any vehicle I have ever driven.
It’s quiet and the sound system is really nice. I also love the fact that it had separate air conditioning controls for the backseat, allowing me to keep passengers cooler or warmer than me.
One Pedal Driving
One-pedal driving was great. This is driving by simply pressing your foot on or pulling it off of the accelerator, which immediately causes the car to slow to a stop as it applies regenerative braking
I only used the brake pedal when I was almost at a full stop at a stop sign and it was just slightly quicker to tap on the brake pedal for a full stop.
You can then take your foot off the brake pedal, as the car will not move if you take your foot off the accelerator. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but it is wonderful.
I typically drive more than a full charge, which is 260 miles, when I’m doing a full shift, so how would that work out? It was wonderful!
The charging was almost a nonissue, although it’s definitely different than gassing up your car. The rates vary throughout the day and from charger to charger, so a little bit of planning can save you a lot of money.
A top-off from roughly 20% to 80% costs from $10-$20 where I live, depending on location and time of day.
I do not have 240 V charging at home, so I exclusively charged at Tesla charging stations. I would start out the day with an 80% charge, which would last me until the cost of the charge dropped to the lower costs.
A charging station was always within about 10 minutes, and an 80% charge takes only 20 minutes. It was my chance to take a break and perhaps eat a meal that I brought with me, while I watch Netflix on the big screen.
I would then charge up at 80% again at the very end of my shift because rates were cheap late at night. Waiting until the next day to top off would double the cost of my charge.
I was really good at the start of the rental but got a little lazy towards the end, and ended up spending $173.41 for charging to go just over 1,600 miles, which is pretty high. If I only charged once the rates dropped to $.27/kW-hr I could have kept that under $100.
Charging Cost vs Fuel Cost
For comparison, to go 1,600 miles in my Prius would be four tank-fulls. 40 gallons at $4.50 a gallon is $180, meaning the Tesla actually cost me about the same as fueling my Prius. But again, that’s partially because I got lazy.
I also kind of drove it like a sports car, really enjoying the power it provides, that didn’t help. That would probably smooth out after driving it for a while.
Planning Charges will Save You Money
Saving money does require some planning, though. While there was always a charging station nearby, it was often at rates higher than I wanted to charge.
If I was doing this long-term, I would always charge to 100% the night before, even if that cost me another 20 minutes. That would give me enough range to wait until rates drop again for my mid-shift charge.
Passengers Loved the Tesla
Passengers loved the car as well. In my area, there are enough Teslas that I didn’t have to do too much explaining to people how to open the door.
If I did need to do that, I would simply say “Put your right thumb on the big area and push it in,” and they figured out the rest.
It's much easier to open the right side doors if you use your right hand and the left side doors if you use your left hand.
How Much I Made Driving a Tesla Model 3 Rental
I grossed just over $1,200 driving the Tesla for 31 hours.
- $103 was from the EV Promotion of $1 per ride
- $150 was from Quest Promotions
I only got a few Comfort rides, and they didn’t really add much to the bottom line.
My expenses were $375 on the rental and $190 on fuel, so my net profit was $635 for 31 hours of driving someone else’s car.
Did My Experience Renting a Tesla for Uber Make Sense?
I will likely buy a Tesla as my next car. It’s incredibly reliable, charging on the road is easy and less expensive than gas, if you plan, and I could save even more by upgrading my solar and doing a 100% charge at home before driving.
Buying a Tesla Model 3
The Tesla Model 3 is $626 a month for 72 months, after a $4,500 down payment. I could easily make that payment with a typical weekend of driving.
In 72 mos I will have paid $50K for a car and will own it. Yes, it will likely have about 200,000 miles on it, based on my typical Uber/Lyft driving pattern, but I will own it.
Renting a Tesla Model 3
However, renting that same Model 3 for Uber in San Diego cost $1,460/mo including taxes, so $375/week. One interesting financial note about the Hertz Uber rental program is that it lowers the typical Uber insurance deductible from $2,500 to $1,000.
Six years later, assuming the program remains and costs stay the same, an Uber/Hertz renter will have paid $117,000 and will own nothing.
I, therefore, think it’s a horrible deal to rent – if you have a choice, buying is the way to go.
However, if you have no car, and no way to get a car anytime soon, this is a great option if you are a full-time driver.
I think it makes no sense if you drive part-time like I do. You will be likely driving for 1 to 2 days simply to pay for the car. That’s okay if you’re driving 5 to 7 days a week, but not if you’re driving only two as I do. The no long-term commitment aspect is also very nice.
If you have a car that works for Uber and Lyft, I can’t imagine why you would choose this program.
Yes, the car is nicer, and yes it’s nice to drive a new car, but you will be spending almost $400 a week for something you already have. I just don’t see how that makes sense.
You should also take into account that the process of picking up and dropping off the car – and exchanging it every one or two months – might take a really long time.
I did not do that and lost several hours of prime driving time because I thought it might take 30 minutes – not 4 1/2 hours
If the price is fine and you plan a very long pickup and dropoff time, things will be much better.