Does It Make Sense to Rent an Electric Car?


Enterprise thinks you want to drive an electric car. Already a pretty big backer of the electric car, they recently expanded the size of their fleet and the locations you can rent from: San Francisco, Seattle and Portland will soon offer a Nissan Leaf for $55 to $70 a day (and for many, that doesn’t include the added-on car insurance costs). But is Enterprise being enterprising…or misunderstanding consumer demand?

Most people don’t go nearly as far as they think they do on any given outing, and the range of a Leaf or Chevy Volt is usually sufficient for most day-to-day needs. The appeal of an electric car is pretty obvious (especially if you’ve ever been required to gas up a rental car). But if you need to rent a car, will an EV be the right one for you?

When an Electric Car Is Right

If you’re just doing a short trip within the city, such as running an errand that requires a few friends to come along, or going somewhere such as a concert or other event, then an EV makes sense, especially if the event is far enough out of the city that public transportation won’t get you there, or will be closed by the time it wraps up. Again, it’s pricey as rental cars go, but once you factor in gas costs, it becomes a whole lot cheaper, especially if you’re dividing the cost up among several people.

Similarly, if you’re on vacation in one of these cities and don’t feel like figuring out the public transit system, the EV is an ideal car for you: low gas consumption and ideal for urban stop-and-go traffic.

You may even want to consider an electric car if your current car is out of commission; if it’s possible to charge an EV at your house, it’s a worthy temporary replacement that you don’t have to sink a few tanks of gas into. This situation also allows you to test drive an EV for yourself and decide whether or not it’s for you.

When an Electric Car Is Wrong
There are other situations in which an EV is just not going to be the car for you. For example, if you’re definitely going to be on the road for more than seventy or eighty miles a day, an EV probably won’t be able to keep up with you. Similarly, if you know you’re going to be driving long distances, it’s better to err on the side of caution and get a car with better range.

That said, it’s only a matter of time before EV ranges improve. Already, work is being done to reduce the size of the batteries and allow them to hold more charge, which translates out to less power spent and more time on the road. But, until then, look closely at your driving habits before renting any car, to make sure you rent the right one.

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