With Tesla slashing the price of its cars by up to 20% last week, you’d think the cost of renting an electric vehicle would be decreasing. Not quite.
The EV premium is very much alive and well. In my random price sampling, electric car rentals continue to be more expensive than gas-powered vehicles. However, there is a hidden cost to renting an EV that has surprised some travellers. It includes bonuses for charging the car or staying too long at a charging station.
The extras add up, making renting an EV a luxury for many travellers. In fact, savvy drivers are passing up the chance to rent an electric vehicle.
What are the EV rental fees?
When Budget Car Rental recently sent him updated terms, Joshua Folb did a double take. A requirement that EVs be returned more than 70% charged or face a $35 fee was buried deep in the fine print. It’s $70 if it’s less than 10%.
“I’m curious what the other car rental companies are doing,” Folb, who works for a nonprofit in Arlington, Virginia, said.
Now you can stop wondering. Avis, which owns Budget, follows a similar policy. Hertz charges a complex set of EV fees, including charging, the contentious “idle” fee, and the cost of any damaged charging cable. Enterprise has no EV charging fees, and Sixt actually rewards you with a voucher for charging your car.
“When renting an EV, renters should be aware of any additional charging fees that may be required after the rental,” Erin Kemp, a consumer advocate for the car site Bumper, said.
Kemp has seen rental companies charge fees ranging from $15 to $50 or more, depending on the battery. He advised car rental customers to consider it a surcharged refuelling fee.
Charging more for an EV and including hidden fees is an odd business practise given that car rental companies are attempting to encourage more people to rent an EV.
These EV fees infuriate drivers.
On a recent trip to California, Callum Russell rented a Nissan Ariya. He thought the daily rate of $50 was fair, but that didn’t include the fees.
The company charged him $35 for EV charging and $20 for an additional driver, and a representative told him he’d have to pay another fee if he didn’t return the EV clean.
“The charging fee was significantly higher than if I had used a public charging port,” said Russell, who runs an EV charging website.
When Daniel Carr was pricing cars for a one-week rental, he had a similar experience.
“The electric car options were overpriced,” said Carr, who runs an automotive blog. “I believe they are exploiting the fact that it is a new technology, knowing that if you choose an EV over a gas-powered car, they can take advantage of your moral preference for using an EV.”
He chose a gasoline-powered vehicle.
During the holidays, Richard Wong, a government employee from Washington, D.C., attempted to rent an EV in San Francisco. After all the surcharges, the daily rate was more than $100.
“I’m not sure how they can justify the higher cost if we’re paying for the electricity, and they’re probably getting government incentives like tax breaks or outright subsidies for purchasing electric vehicles,” he said.
Wong also chose a conventional vehicle.
How do you avoid paying exorbitant fees?
Experts advise you to reconsider your assumptions about EVs before renting one. You know, they’re affordable, there are no hidden fees, and all fees are clearly disclosed. The opposite is frequently true.
“Ask,” advised Andrew Krulewitz, CEO of Zevvy, an electric vehicle leasing company.
Every rental company appears to have a different charging policy. Some will let you return the vehicle without charging you anything extra. Others will charge you a fee if you return the car with less than 70% charge on the battery, and they will punish you even more if you go below 10%. “You may pay significantly more than the cost of charging the car,” Krulewitz warned.
They are increasing hidden fees and expenses when they should be decreasing them.
So I’m not surprised to hear that hundreds of Teslas are sitting idle in a Hertz parking lot. Some car rental companies see EVs as a profit opportunity, and they hope that our conscience will force us to pay more and tolerate these extra fees in order to save the environment.