Monday, October 23, 2023

Renting, Driving and Riding in a Tesla Model 3

My wife and I had a family event to attend in Maine earlier this year. It was hard to get a direct flight into Maine to make it easy to avoid getting a car, so I planned for us to fly into Boston and rented a Tesla Model 3 from Hertz. Additionally, we decided to use some additional time to visit Cooperstown, NY and visit the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum (something I had on my personal bucket list for years). This blog is about the experience I using a Tesla Model 3 for a week (along with a little bit about the Hertz rental experience).

First, my wife and I have been PHEV owners for 10 years, so we were already used to having to plug in to charge every night and we almost never had to pump gas. It is a great experience to have avoiding the gas station on a regular basis. Everyone (in my opinion) should try it. The savings is also larger than I thought when I started this journey back in 2013, especially because I was living in Northern California at the time where gas prices are much higher than they are in Texas.

I have been a Hertz customer for decades and they have been a good rental company for me. The rental experience for the Tesla was similar is most ways to prior experiences with rentals of gas cars. Some differences include:

  • There is a post rental charge for using Tesla Superchargers. This makes sense. There is no markup from Hertz which is great. I believe I spent less on charing than the gas would have cost me (especially in the north eastern US where gas is more expensive than Texas). Tesla Superchargers were one of the wonderful things about using the Tesla Model 3. More on this later.
  • Hertz does provide pretty good videos on how to  use a Tesla (but I learned later, not quite as good as I would have liked).
  • The communication about how much charge you need in the car when it is returned was a bit muddy. We charge it up to 100% before we returned it (with more than 80%, which I believe was the requirement)  and that worked out for us, but how much we had to returned in the battery was unclear when we got the car. 
As for driving or riding in the Tesla Model 3, there were many things to like about the experience. Even though we rented a standard range and rear wheel drive, we felt there was plenty of torque and never really had any concern about how the car handled in traffic. We had to lean into single petal driving, but that was pretty easy to do. Personally, the car was a bit low to the ground and getting into and out of the car was harder than it is in my Ford Fusion. I used driver profiles (more on this later) to get around this. My wife who is shorter than me didn't have any such problems. Some people report that not having a display in front of the drive for speed and such is annoying, but my wife and I didn't really find it a bother. That is not to say the center display was perfect (more on this later as well).

Things I knew to do once picked up the car:

  • Use the keycard instead of Tesla's app to get into the car and activate locomotion. I should note that since this rental I am reading that this may have changed when renting from Hertz. If this is the case, please add a comment. I will update my impressions the next time I am renting.
  • Apple Car Play is not supported Tesla, so I will have to figure out how to make use of my iPhone with Tesla's infotainment system. More on this later.
  • Set up a driver profile for me and one for my wife (Hertz automatically allows the spouse to be an additional driver when you rent as a Gold member).
  • Use CCS charging stations when Superchargers were not available. I was able to make use of the ChargePoint network effectively in those places where a Supercharger was not available. My wife and I have had good experiences with ChargePoint. Frankly, this was only really a factor in Cooperstown. The availability of Superchargers along I-95 in New England is very good.  The Tesla adapter for using CCS charging stations worked flawlessly (as did the Superchargers without the adapter).

Things I wish I had figured out before we got into the car:

  • How to put the car into park. This is done by pushing in the button on the right stalk after coming to a stop. This is marked, so I have no real excuse here. I just didn't understand that when I first got into the car.
  • How to engage autopilot. This turned out to be more tricky than both of us would have liked, but once it became clear how to do it, we enjoyed the ride. Just be attentive to the color of the small indicator on the upper left corner of the center display or it will be hard to know when it was successfully engaged. 
  • How to use Easy Entry along with driver profiles. Once I figured this out, it made it so much easier to get my 6 foot 1 inch frame into the Tesla Model 3.

Things I really like that a Tesla does:

  • Sentry Mode is great. I wish more cars made better use of their cameras.
  • Having Phone Charging pads for both the driver and the passenger. I believe more cars do this, but I really like this in the Tesla. The only negative is that it was low power in this car. I believe newer Teslas improve on this.
  • Once engaged,  autopilot is very nice. I hope that other modern cars are providing similar features with their driver assistance systems (e.g. Blue Cruise for Ford).

The one thing I wish the Telsa did:

  • Better phone integration, especially with iPhone would be welcome. I was able to get the music on my phone to play via Bluetooth though the Tesla's sound system (which is very good) and I was able to make and receive calls, but something that allows me exchange information between the navigation system and the iPhone mapping apps (Google or Apple Maps) would be useful. Perhaps this a feature if you use the Tesla app. I don't know. Also, I wanted to listen to some MLB games using the MLB app, but I didn't have any luck with that. That may have been my fault, but this is easy to do in Apple Car Play. 
In summary, it was a good choice for this trip. We'll will use an electric car again the next time we rent. It will likely be another Tesla Model 3. 

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