Rental Cars

Do You Pay In Advance for Fuel For Rental Car – or Would you Decline?

Do You Pay In Advance for Fuel To rent Car – or Would you Decline?

W henever you are renting a vehicle, you will know there will be some expenses included – such as taxes, fees and other assorted charges which were not included in the original rate quoted to you…

…but what do you do once the agent explains to you your fuel options – especially with the recent implementation of an “express fuel option” with a few car rental companies? Would you pay in advance for fuel – or would you decline? After all, those pesky car rentals have to be fed their gasoline or petrol – the nomenclature depending on which part of the world you're based.

You basically have two choices – or perhaps a variation thereof:

Pay for the fuel at the rental car facility prior to your rental

The agent will offer you an interest rate where you have to pay for that full tank of fuel before entering into the car rental.

  • Advantage You return the automobile without having to stop to grow it with fuel before returning it, helping you save time. Having one fewer thing about which to be concerned is convenient.
  • Disadvantage The cost of the fuel is often more than what you would typically pay at a fuel station – partially because if you're renting your vehicle from the location in an airport, you're probably paying taxes and fees you'd otherwise not pay elsewhere; and you'll have paid for any unused fuel left within the tank – translating into pure profit for that rental car company and perhaps causing some agents to pressure you into purchasing this option by having an unwanted sales pitch.

Fill the automobile with fuel before you return it

Typically, the fuel tank is full whenever you rent the automobile, which means that you have to return it full whenever you return it. If the fuel tank of the vehicle you rent is only half full, then you definitely return the vehicle with the tank half full.

  • Advantage You potentially cut costs by buying fuel in the service station of your liking – typically with the lowest price per liter or gallon.
  • Disadvantage You must find a fuel station where to stop and fill up the tank of the car rental, that takes some time and could be inconvenient if you are within an area with congested roads, few fuel stations, or in which the price of fuel is higher than normal – for example near an airport. Orlando one thinks of for me personally as an example.

Protect Yourself – or You Could Be Charged

My preference is typically to fill the vehicle with fuel before I give it back. I am not averse to stopping in a filling station to replenish the gas tank of the vehicle I rented, because it usually only requires a couple of minutes of my time. If there are enough miles or kilometers from the filling station to the rental car facility, I will slightly overfill the fuel tank in order that it it's still full after i give it back. Also, I personally use charge cards where I get a special cash rebate for purchases of fuel – a rebate I would otherwise not earn if the fuel is included within the price of renting a vehicle…

…and notice I wrote “slightly overfill” the gas tank. There has been installments of people pumping sufficient fuel to fill the tank of the rental cars after which drive an excellent enough distance to come back the car using the fuel gauge indicating “full” when the tank was not full, which apparently prompted car rental companies to engage in an exercise where customers who did not drive much during the rental period were charged for fuel even though the gauge established that the tank was full in 2009; For example, FlyerTalk member tomme12 was charged by Avis for fuel after only driving nine miles back in 2012; while FlyerTalk member Diplomatico drove accommodations car less than 75 miles but was charged $10.50 by Avis for fuel back in 2009. Hertz reportedly enforced a similar policy in this instance in 2020, in this case this year and in 2006. They are just a few of many types of FlyerTalk members being charged extra for fuel after returning their rental vehicles using what they believed was a full tank of fuel…

…which prompts me to advise for you – as I did in this article I wrote pertaining to seven times on how to do not be charged for fuel when returning a rental car having a full tank of gasoline: always have a receipt as proof that you indeed refueled the tank from the vehicle you rented whenever you give it back towards the rental car facility – and try to look at your final statement in the rental car company to ensure that you weren't charged additionally for fuel after you returned the car. The last thing you need to see on your statement is a surprise that you simply paid $9.00 or even more per gallon for fuel.

States Where Self-Service isn't Permitted

Interestingly, the self-service choice is not permitted in a few jurisdictions such as Nj and Oregon, where an attendant must fill the fuel tank. Although you will never need to depart your automobile – which can especially be convenient during inclement weather; and also in which you don't have to guess on which side the cap to the fuel tank is located despite the fact that there is a simple indication that can be used without guessing – you're subject to the attendant. I remember one time where filling the tank of the rental vehicle in Nj consumed a minimum of Half an hour of my time because of a line to hold back for the next pump; the slowness and poor service from the attendants; as well as an error where one of these handed me the wrong charge card and receipt after waiting for these to finally take it in my experience.

When I'm in New Jersey or Oregon, I'm diligent about ensuring that the attendant pumps the standard of fuel the cheapest, as I usually do not need premium fuel in the vehicles I rent; and that i watch the pump closely to make sure that no “games” are now being played where I possibly could be overcharged for fuel. Quick math which ensures that all is well is when the pump displays ten gallons – meaning that if the fuel is $3.99.9 per gallon, the pump should register $39.99 at ten gallons. I suppose I am overdoing it after i even look into the fuel pumps after i fill the tank from the rental vehicle myself – but it is reassurance for me that I am getting the fuel for which I paid.

Convenience Versus Savings

FlyerTalk member arollins recently asked if paying for fuel in advance makes it worth while – especially when you never know if you are going to operate late or encounter heavy traffic. FlyerTalk member goosegreen asked the same question in 2004.

My response is: it depends in your situation and personal preferences.

If I am on the business travel where time is important and cost is not an issue, paying for the fuel in advance turns into a more attractive option. However, there are some people who choose this option simply because their employer or client is paying their expenses and also the cash is not coming out of his very own pocket. I treat the cash of other people as if it were my own should i be not given instructions to otherwise use it differently. I intend to discuss paying your personal way versus while using money of other people inside a future article, when i have experienced that up for debate numerous times on FlyerTalk…

…its keep is also the argument of getting one fewer receipt to connect for your expense report. Corporate expense policies could be bizarre and illogical, in order to appreciate this line of thinking when i have experienced my share of expense report “horror stories” which were no fault of my very own.

Although prices for spending money on fuel in advance are often greater than what you would pay at a filling station, FlyerTalk member Coastercameron advises when pertaining to National Rental car they “give you a discount around the prepaid option to entice you because they are prone to emerge ahead. You (usually) purchase the whole tank, no refunds for unused fuel at return. Really the only way to come out ahead (with respect to the value you set on convenience) would be to time that it out so the car generally is stalling out as you coast over the tire shredders into returns. Then chances are you will return the car with at least several gallons of fuel (that you taken care of) in it to allow them to re-use. This, combined with fact that National buys gas wholesale mean that the prepaid fuel is a huge money maker for National.”

In other words: don't let yourself be fooled into believing that if they provide you with a lower price for fuel than available at an average service station that you will automatically emerge ahead. Let's say you paid $2.00 per gallon with five gallons of fuel residing in the tank of your rental vehicle whenever you return it, and the typical price at a gasoline station is $2.10 per gallon. You might have initially “saved” ten cents per gallon at the start of your rental; however, you really paid $10.00 to “save” that 50 cents instead of simply filling your tank to replace the fuel you used had you chosen to come back the rental vehicle with the tank full…

…so if so, you have to think about: may be the extra $10.00 well worth the convenience? Perhaps – or maybe not. It depends on your personal threshold; situations at that time; and the way good you are at returning an automobile nearly empty, as posted by FlyerTalk member IsleOfMan: “If you are in a position where you are going to use more than an entire tank and may plan with some amount of accuracy how much to set up the final time you fill before return which means you arrive with very little (just one gallon) within the tank, you've bought the benefit of one less fuel stop (mainly the one close to the airport).”

You can also use GasBuddy or similar application software on either your computer or personal electronic device to quickly look for fuel with the lowest price – hopefully in a gasoline station that is conveniently moving toward the facility where you stand to return your rental vehicle.


The final point here is when saving cash is the primary objective, returning the rental vehicle full will usually become your best choice. If convenience may be the primary objective, paying for the fuel in the counter of the rental car facility when you pick up the vehicle will likely be your chosen option.

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