Monday, May 14, 2007

Rental Car Gas Scam

Yesterday I picked up a good friend at the airport. He will be here for the week on business, so he rented a car. At the rental car facility I noticed a big sign promoting a cheap gas deal: buy your gas in advance at $3.72 per gallon and return the car without filling the tank. The price per gallon at a regular gas station outside the airport is about $3.60 per gallon, so the price of $3.72 doesn't seem that high, right? Wrong. That's the scam.

What the rental car companies don't tell you is that if you buy their gas option they charge you not only for the gas missing from your tank upon return, but for a full tank of gas. Thus, if your rental car has a 15 gallon tank and you return the car with the gas tank 2/3 full, you will still be charged for a full tank: 15 * $3.72 = $55.8, i.e. $11.16 for each of the five gallons of gas you actually used!

Now, $11 per gallon. That's what I call expensive gas.

Of course, you wouldn't know that would be the case unless you specifically asked the car rental agent. In fact, the rental car companies do their best to lead you to believe that you are only paying the "low" $3.72 per gallon. If they really wanted to be fair, they would simply ask you if you wanted to return the car without fueling it for a flat charge of $55 (for example). The language of the offer is carefully chosen to be accurate, but misleading. It has to be, otherwise no one would take this horrible deal.

I am sorry to say that I learned this the hard way several years ago. I returned a rental vehicle only to find an outrageous gas charge was placed on my bill, even though I had returned the car with a virtually full tank of gas. It was a good lesson and I never made the same mistake again.


Anonymous said...

I learned that lesson the hard way, too. I was in Dallas a few weeks ago on business, and bought into this option. Sheesh, what a ripoff. I'll never do it again.

Traciatim said...

I wonder what they would say if you bring along a large enough container and some hose and ask them to remove your gas from their vehicle.

KMull said...

Which rental car agency? I used to work for ERAC and we always did just the amount that was used.

Complaining will get you very far in the rental car industry. It isn't worth their customer service scores to 'scam' you out of $55. At least not at Enterprise.

Shadox said...

The company this happened to me personally with was Alamo. However, I heard from friends about other companies that use this tactic. I have not heard a similar story about Enterprise.

In fact, Enterprise has an excellent reputation and whenever I rented from them I had no complaints. As a side issue, I also hear that their management training program is excellent.

KMull said...

The MT program is dependent on what region you work in, who you work under, etc. Just like any other job.

I was in the program and making good headway, but the pay is pathetically low.

Scott said...

here is another gas 'scam'.
They tell you to return the tank full or they will charge you for the gas at an ridiculous amount. So you fill the tank before you return. The scam is that the tank was not full when you rented it. They only make a few dollars but if they do that alot then they make a lot. This happened to me. I rented a truck and was told the tank was full, it appeared full from the meter but it was showing full not really full. I purchased 8 gallons and only drove 8 miles. I called the company and after some heated debate I was given back 2/3 of my money. be careful

Anonymous said...

Re the "full but not really full" scam: It isn't a scam, at least not by the rental car company. (They don't siphon out a "really full" tank down to "full" and keep it for profit...) Whoever returned the vehicle last, simply didn't fill the tank up to "really full". They turned it in, it was close enough, and the rental car company turned around and rented that vehicle to you. The "scammer", which is kind of a strong word for it, was the previous renter who didn't fill up to "really full" - or maybe they did, and then drove from the land of reasonable prices back to the airport.

Anonymous said...

I experienced this gas scam for the first time in Vancouver Canada's airport this summer. They quite nearly convinced me it was a "good" deal but at the last second my sixth sense told me to question it further just to be sure, and you know what, it was even hard to decipher from THEIR WORDS what was going on -- that unless I used the entire tank I was going to pay lots of extra cash! I didn't tell them but that is a serious deception of the consumer. The better companies I use do not use this scam; it seems to be only the province of the less-ethical ones.

Shadox said...

You may be right - but I have run into it a number of time with a number of different companies.