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Five Reasons Not to Rent a Tesla Model 3

If you are headed out on a vacation or business trip and will rent a car as an experiment, here are five reasons why you may wish to skip the Tesla Model 3 battery-electric vehicle.

A new study asking car renters about difficulties they have experienced when renting reveals that the top two reasons renters ran into trouble were flat tires and difficulty understanding the vehicle’s unfamiliar controls. Given that one in five of renters reported each of these problems have had happened to them when renting, perhaps a Tesla electric vehicle rental may not be your best bet?

Image of car rental problem chart courtesy of Finance Buzz.

Before we go much further, if your reason for renting a Tesla is to experience a Tesla and not to get you to your vacation or business destination, we say go for it. Tesla vehicles are a blast to drive, unique in many ways, and well worth experiencing. Since Tesla has had almost no inventory over the past few years, renting is one way to try before you buy. Do it. A rental is also a great way to see how a Tesla feels after it has some miles on it, as opposed to what a brand-new one looks like. Our story here refers to a person unfamiliar with Tesla vehicles trying one on a vacation or business trip.

Related Story: Tesla Renters Beware: Reports Say Hertz Is Falsely Accusing Customers of Theft

Reason Number One Not To Rent a Tesla Model 3 - No Spare Tire
21% of renters surveyed said they have had a flat tire when renting a vehicle. Perhaps this number seems high because renters unfamiliar with the vehicle they were driving stuck curbs? Or maybe it is just the law of averages. AAA and other roadside assistance groups assist millions of drivers per year with flat tires.

Related Story: Ten Electric Vehicle Models That Come With a Spare Tire

So what does this have to do with the Tesla Model 3, in particular? Simply that Tesla has never built any vehicle that had a spare tire. Unlike many other electric vehicle brands, Tesla does not equip its vehicles with run-flat tires (Lexus NX PHEV) or self-sealing tires (Bolt BEV). If you get a flat in a Tesla, that vehicle is very likely being towed. Nearly every top-selling vehicle model in America has a compact space tire standard (F-150, Silverado, Ram 1500, Camry, Accord, Civic, Corolla, Cr-V, RAV4, Rogue, Equinox etc). A spare of this type gives you 50 miles of driving distance to carry on with your journey until the rental agency can meet you with a replacement car.

Image of Tesla Model 3 interior by John Goreham. Reason Number Two Not To Rent a Tesla Model 3 - Unfamiliar Controls
Perhaps the biggest difference between Tesla vehicles like the Model 3 and other brands’ vehicles is the controls. Tesla relies on one main screen for nearly everything. Check out our image to see what we mean. Looking for wipers, high beams, adaptive cruise control, heat, air conditioning, or pretty much anything most cars offer you on a button panel you are familiar with? You are out of luck with a Tesla Model 3.

One in five renters say that they had a bad experience with a rental car due to unfamiliar controls. No vehicle in America has less familiar controls than does a Tesla.

Does this mean we don’t like Tesla’s design philosophy? Not all. Many Tesla owners like having to use the main screen in conjunction with steering wheel controls and voice for pretty much everything. But if you are hauling kids and luggage and just want to get to the hotel, learning an entirely new way to operate a rental car is not going to make you happy.

Reason 3 Not to Rent a Tesla Model 3 - No Apple Car Play or Android Auto
Do you use Android Auto, Apple Car Play or Google Maps in your own vehicle? If you do, you know just how valuable the ability to project your phone’s apps and information onto the car’s infotainment screen can be. And who can live without Google Maps’ industry-leading real-time traffic updates? Tesla Model 3 cars don’t have Android Auto, don’t have Apple Car Play, and although Tesla does use Google to help it with its maps, it does not use the Google Maps traffic routing data your phone has.

Image of Tesla Model 3 trunk by John GorehamReason Four Not to Rent a Tesla Model 3 - It's a Smallish Sedan
The fourth reason not to rent a Tesla Model 3 if you are traveling with your family is that the Model 3 is a smallish sedan with very limited cargo capacity. Why rent a smallish sedan when a crossover like a Nissan Rogue is available with dramatically more cargo capacity? If you are going solo and have time to burn learning new controls, a Tesla may be a fun experience. But anyone renting a small sedan on a family vacation is just inflicting unnecessary punishment on themselves. A Model 3 has a trunk with less than 20 cubic feet of space. A Nissan Rogue rental vehicle has a cargo volume of 36.5 cubic feet.

Bonus Reason Number 5 Not To Rent a Tesla Model 3 - Charging Hassles
Stopping to add fuel or electricity is always a hassle when renting. Most renters can either use the Tesla Model 3’s 200-mile to 260-mile range during their trip and then let the rental car agency refill the battery. If more range is needed, they can use a Tesla Supercharger or public Level 2 charger to add more range if one is available on your route. If you are renting a Tesla, just be sure you know where those locations are, that you have the special app (ChargePoint, EVgo, Electrify America, ChargeLab, etc.) if it is a public charger, and maybe read a bit about how the Supercharger network operates before you begin your journey. Remember, Tesla vehicles don’t use the same connector as all other EVs, so if you plan to charge at a hotel, make certain you can actually use the charger. If it has the industry-standard J-plug, you will need a special Tesla adapter to charge your rental Tesla. There are two kinds. And it can take many hours to refill the battery from empty to full, depending on the charger's output.

Read an Opposing Viewpoint - The perfect rental car? My experience renting a Tesla Model 3 from Hertz

If you have rented a Tesla Model 3 while on vacation or a business trip, tell us how it went in the comments section below. Be sure to tell us if you were familiar with the Model 3 before you rented it.

Do you still want to rent a Model 3? Here is how to get started.

John Goreham is an experienced New England Motor Press Association member and expert vehicle tester. John completed an engineering program with a focus on electric vehicles, followed by two decades of work in high-tech, biopharma, and the automotive supply chain before becoming a news contributor. In addition to his ten years of work at Torque News, John has published thousands of articles and reviews at American news outlets. He is known for offering unfiltered opinions on vehicle topics. You can follow John on Twitter, and TikTok @ToknCars, and view his credentials at Linkedin

Image of Tesla Model 3 rental cars courtesy of the Hertz Media Support Page.
Image of car rental problem chart courtesy of Finance Buzz.
Image of Tesla Model 3 interior by John Goreham.


Timothy Boyer    January 26, 2023 - 11:24AM

Good article: I have to say that reason number two is the best one to follow: departing an airport lot onto an interstate with a rental is the worst time to learn how to drive an unfamiliar car or for that matter, not knowing the rules of the road and understand the highway signage used. People I know in New Zeland told me that tourists driving on the wrong side of the road with their rentals coming out of the airport were an amusing---if not scary---thing to watch.

Lori Miller (not verified)    March 23, 2023 - 1:36PM

I rented a car from hertz At Jacksonville airport. When I arrived they were out of the car I planned on getting. They offered me a Tesla model 3. I never drove an electric car. No instructions or anything to get me started. It was a trip from hell and so much confusion. Someone needs to explain more before they send you off in this thing!

Steve Elder (not verified)    March 24, 2023 - 9:18AM

Another issue is “filling the tank” just before returning a rental Tesla vehicle. We picked up a rental model Y from Hertz. It was supposed to be full of juice but display indicated 70%. Drove about 160 km down to 22% . Used a supercharger about 10 km away from home and 50 km from airport. Car charged up to only 90%. Drove back home the 10 km and now at 85%. Leave for the airport soon which is 50 km away and estimate the energy will be back at about 70% which will engender a discussion With Hertz on why I can’t bring back a “full” vehicle. Tried to read the manual in the glove compartment to lean that there is no manual, or glove compartment. So all in all, an interesting experiment with the conclusion that if you need to be efficient with your time and energy, and I do, dont t rent a Tesla. On the other hand peppy, modern, great safety systems but controls unfamiliar even with the three passengers shouting out helpful suggestions.. cheers Steve from halifax

TonyOnFood (not verified)    April 1, 2023 - 6:07PM

There are a lot of tricks a Tesla owner knows, that they don't tell you when you rent. For example, I would never "fully charge" at a supercharger. A 70 or 80% charge is quick and that is all you will need until the next charge, unless you are at a destination charge, for example, where you can leave it charging overnight. The policy here was to return 70% charged, So I just went to 80% before driving back to the rental place btw. Also Hertz wont let you use the phone app with the rental, but that is half the convenience; especially the bluetooth to unlock and start the car, and to lock and roll up the windows when you walk away from the car; but using the keycard is very cumbersome to pull this out every time to lock or unlock and to activate the drive. (There's really no such thing as "starting" or "stopping" the engine in a Tesla btw.) So without bluetooth, its a really a step down from an ICE, and not worth the hassle IMHO. It would be nice if it can load my on-line Tesla profile (tied to my email address) from my own car (mirrors, seats and wheel, drive settings, GPS Navigation memory, Favorites, Spotify, etc.) and it should be I don't think they offer this yet either.

Tony Marchese (not verified)    April 1, 2023 - 6:10PM

The trunk is bigger than in the picture, since there is a big compartment below the panel in the floor of the trunk, and also there is another trunk in the front of the car however it is smaller than the back trunk.

Aaron Kjenstad (not verified)    May 14, 2023 - 9:46PM

I drove 372 miles, had to charge it twice (sat at the charging stations for more than an hour), and still got penalized $35 at the airport because i returned it with lass than 70% charge.

One of the charge stations only allowed up to 80% charge?

A normal rental car that gets 30 mph would have saved me money, and i would avoided all the hassles.

I'll try again when the range is better, the charging stations are faster, and there is more infrastructure, especially around the airport (or Hertz waives the "gotcha $35 fee)

Rent a gas car and save yourself all the hassles.