Yet Another Car Rental Scam

Published by patrick honner on

As a car-less person in a car-driven world, I occasionally need to rent a car to move sofas, bring home large plants, or just get away from all my car-less neighbors for the weekend.  A long history of distrust of car-related business people (sales, repair) makes me approach my car-rental interactions with cynicism.  Here’s yet another reason that cynicism is justified.

Car rental agencies offer a Pre-Pay for Gas option when you pick up your vehicle.  “Pay now, and you won’t have to worry about filling the tank when you return the car.  It’s less hassle for you! ” says the salesperson.  “You even get a discounted rate on gas!”  It’s not emphasized initially, but you won’t be charged what it costs to fill the tank when you return the car; you will be charged for a full tank of gas, regardless of how much gas is in the tank.

This is actually a good deal for you if you can arrange your travel in such a way as to roll into the lot on an empty tank of gas.  But if you pre-pay and then return the car with half a tank of fuel?  You just gave the rental agency 8 gallons X $4 per gallon = $32 worth of gas.  That’s a nice little bonus for them!

And for the record, the sort of meticulous, obsessive planning required to return a rental car on empty tends to detract from the fun of your road-trip.  Not for me, necessarily, but potentially for your passengers.

patrick honner

Math teacher in Brooklyn, New York


Dan · July 19, 2011 at 8:20 pm

Not to mention the $9.34 they were charging per gallon at Hertz in Denver if you forgot to fill the car up. I thankfully remembered to fill up before returning the car.

MrHonner · July 20, 2011 at 7:31 am

$9.34 a gallon?! In this post I confess that my default attitude is these people are always trying to scam me and I still find that hard to believe.

Alan · July 24, 2011 at 11:37 pm

If it’s Hertz we’re talking about, if you forget to fill up the car before returning it, a good portion of your wallet is going to get sliced.

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