Electric Car Rental: Should You Test an EV Before Buying?

Quick Facts About Testing an Electric Vehicle
  • Renting an EV is a low-risk way to try out an alternative fuel vehicle for longer than a dealership test drive.
  • Allow a week to experience different driving conditions, understand charging schedules, and manage range expectations.
  • Companies including Enterprise, Avis, Hertz, National, Alamo, and Sixt offer electric car rentals in major markets. 

Switching to an electric car after years of driving gas-powered vehicles can be a bigger transition than one might expect. Some shoppers rent electric cars before buying one, but is this a good idea? Below, we explore what details to consider before renting an EV.

Should You Rent an Electric Car Before Buying?

It’s a great idea to rent an electric car before you commit to buying one, and many car rental companies now have electric vehicles in their fleets. A short test drive at a dealership or through a private seller will give you a sense of an EV’s peppy acceleration and an introduction to its technology features. However, having an electric car rental for several days can help you experience some of the lifestyle adjustments that many EV owners make.

Take a week to drive in different conditions. Learn how the EV handles heavy stop-and-go traffic, wide-open highways, and everywhere in between. Perhaps most importantly, get a feel for the EV’s charging needs. If you aren’t recharging overnight at home, compare public charging sessions to the convenience and speed of filling up at a gas station.

If you’re feeling uneasy or anxious about the range of an electric vehicle, the time needed to recharge, and how that may disrupt your current routine, renting can help you manage those expectations.

Benefits of Renting an Electric Car Before Buying

  • Trial Run: Renting an EV gives you a glimpse of what owning one is like. Use the trial run to learn how it could impact your typical routes and schedules. Are there any minor inconveniences or major hurdles? Would it be a seamless transition? If you take frequent road trips, will it meet your travel needs? An electric car rental can help clarify these kinds of concerns.
  • Low Risk: Since you’re renting and not leasing or buying, there’s less risk involved. Check out the benefits and downsides of driving electric cars without a substantial financial commitment. If having an EV doesn’t fit your lifestyle, you can return it with no significant consequences.
  • Start the Adjustment Period: Getting behind the wheel of any new car feels different than what you’re used to, and renting lets you get accustomed to the driving experience. With an EV, this includes range, performance, handling, one-pedal driving, battery charging, and more.
  • Test Different Models: Renting also allows you to try different EV models. Some models have longer range and more spacious interiors, while others may have improved safety features and different technologies. If you’re interested in an electric vehicle but have no clue which kind would best suit your needs, rent a few different models to get started.

MORE: Electric Cars 101: What You Need To Know About EVs

What To Know Before Renting an Electric Car

Planning before renting is essential if you’ve not previously driven an electric car. Here are some key factors to consider when renting an EV:

Electric Vehicle Features

Once you’ve chosen the model you want to rent, explore its features and instructions for using them. Learn how to turn it on and off, and use fundamental operations like windshield wipers and turn signals. Understand how the regenerative braking system works and familiarize yourself with features such as adaptive cruise control and lane-keeping assistance.

Vehicle Range

“Range” refers to how far an electric vehicle can drive on a single battery charge. Range varies among EVs, with less expensive models logging the shortest distance between charges. Expect the electric cars at rental companies to have range estimates of about 250 miles on a full charge. The weather, your driving habits, vehicle load, and other factors influence the actual mileage you achieve. You can shop for EVs with longer ranges if you plan to drive longer distances. Still, careful planning makes road trips in cars with lower ranges possible.

Charging Infrastructure

The charging infrastructure for electric cars is still growing nationwide. Typically, fewer charging stations are available in rural areas. Densely populated areas often have shopping centers with charging stations. Plan your charging sessions away from home accordingly.

Charging Times

Whichever EV you rent, research how long it will take to fully charge the battery. More importantly, test your rental vehicle’s charging capability in your typical routine. Many potential EV buyers are more concerned about the time it takes to recharge than the vehicle’s range. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Level 2 chargers typically found in the public spaces mentioned above can take anywhere from four to 10 hours to charge an empty battery to 80%. While Level 3 fast chargers take significantly less time, these charging stations may not be as easily accessible if you don’t live in a big city. However, remember that most owners charge their EVs at home using slower chargers that can still replenish the driver’s daily miles.

Charging Expenses

Charging expenses will vary based on the charging station and location, but the cost will be much lower than filling a tank with gas. Also, some charging networks may require you to download their app to use their chargers or a membership to get lower rates. Talk to the car rental company representative and confirm which charging stations they recommend.

Insurance Coverage

Most rental companies extend supplemental insurance coverage for a fee. Review the terms and decide if their policy is a smart add-on. There may be additional coverage required for an EV.

MORE: Pros and Cons of Electric Cars: A Comprehensive EV Guide

Where To Rent an Electric Car

The following national agencies offer electric car rentals in most major markets:

  • Enterprise
  • Avis
  • Hertz
  • National
  • Alamo
  • Sixt

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