EV Curiosity: How to Rent an Electric Car

Electric vehicles on a public parking on a street stock photo
Tramino / iStock.com

Good news for U.S. motorists — the national average price for regular gasoline has finally dipped below $4 a gallon after months of record-setting cost levels.

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However, gas is still expensive (the U.S. average is $3.956 as of Aug. 15, per AAA), pushing more drivers to consider electric vehicles (EVs) as a cheaper alternative.

Car shortages, including rentals, were rampant during the pandemic but rental companies have managed to restock cars and trucks to meet demand as people start to travel again. Car rental services are also stocking more EVs than ever.

Renting an Electric Car

Most of the bigger rental firms claim to have electric models to rent — but rental EVs might not be easy to find, according to both Tom’s Guide and The Points Guy. 

As Tom’s Guide points out, Hertz has led the way recently with the addition of “tens of thousands of Tesla and Polestar 2 cars,” and others are starting to offer a wider variety of models in their inventories after cutting their stock during the pandemic.

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Currently, Avis is advertising the Toyota Prius Hybrid, the Kia Niro EV and Tesla Model 3 as available options on its site, while National lists the Polestar 2, Nissan LEAF and Ford Fusion and Toyota Prius hybrids. The Hertz-owned Dollar and Thrifty car rental companies came up empty for EV options in a recent search.

But you don’t have to go with a major rental company to rent an EV. Dealerships often have fleets of rental cars and some, like Nissan and Toyota, have electric cars or hybrids for rent.

Further, car sharing companies like Turo are quickly adapting to the times by offering a host of EVs to choose from, depending on where you are picking one up. Turo shows every type of Tesla, plus the Chevy Bolt EV, the Polestar 2, the Ford Mustang Mach-E, the Rivian R1T and Hyundai’s Kona EV as available in various locations.

Calling (or searching online via an aggregator like Kayak, Priceline, AutoRentals, or similar) a dealership, a rental car business, or a car sharing company with any specifics may be a better idea than relying solely on an online booking. An in-person inquiry can also be helpful when possible, but comparison shopping may be more difficult in such a circumstance.

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Charging Your EV Rental Car

Charging infrastructure may be sparse in some locations, and is something to take into consideration when renting an EV.

Apps like Plugshare, Chargehub and Chargeway will locate the nearest charging station and will even let you know what kinds of plugs are available. The government’s Alternative Fueling Station Locator app — also an excellent tool — searches locations by charging stations and fuel type required.   

Any rental agency or dealership you do business with could potentially provide some guidance on what type of charger and station you need, and how to operate your rental car. Many EV brands use the combined charging system (CCS) standard and stations typically adapt to that standard, among others.

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But some do not, so it might pay to do a little research, especially if you have a particular preference of which EV you want to rent. For example, the Nissan LEAF uses the CHAdeMO rapid-charging connection for DC charging, although it also has connectors for standard Level 1 and Level 2 charging at home. Tesla, perhaps the most well-known EV manufacturer in the world, also utilizes proprietary Supercharger stations for their Level 3 (DC) charging, though universal options for Level 1 and Level 2 charging are provided.

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About the Author

David Nadelle is a freelance editor and writer based in Ottawa, Canada. After working in the energy industry for 18 years, he decided to change careers in 2016 and concentrate full-time on all aspects of writing. He recently completed a technical communication diploma and holds previous university degrees in journalism, sociology and criminology. David has covered a wide variety of financial and lifestyle topics for numerous publications and has experience copywriting for the retail industry.
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