How to Avoid Paying for Rental Car Gas

Working for a car rental company, I am keenly aware of just about all aspects of renting a vehicle, which helps me make wise decisions that save me a lot of money when traveling outside my home state of Arizona.

I Suppose There Are Perks To Most Jobs

I mean if you have to be employed, you might as well learn the tricks of the trade, right? Take people who work in the hotel business or for the airlines. They know how to get a room upgrade or how to find the cheapest seats on the plane. Well, I can’t tell you how to get the room upgrade, but I can share with you something every person who rents a car, van, or SUV should know: how to avoid the rental car gas hustle, as I like to call it. This is the very lucrative practice of finding ways to charge up to $9.99 for a gallon of gas, or getting the current rental customer to pay for the next rental customer’s gas.

Each company has its own version of the hustle. For example, I’ve been encouraged, sometimes quite enthusiastically, to save myself the time and hassle of filling up the rental before returning it by purchasing the pre-paid gas option. I did this. Once.

Here’s What Happened

The huge sign made it clear that the pre-paid gas was being sold by the rental car company for the same price per gallon as the local stations were charging. This seemed fair. But what happened, while I was visiting my mom in Iowa, was we parked the rental car and mostly drove her car. I used less than ¼ tank of gas, but I had already paid for the whole tank. The company got me to give them almost $45, and it probably cost them all of $9 or $10 to replace the gas I had used.

So if I am just one person returning a car with ¾ of a tank of gas, thereby allowing the car rental company to come out some $35 ahead, effectively paying for the next rental customer’s gas, how many others are there just like me? It’s boggling to consider how much money the car rental companies make, not on renting the car, but just by customer’s paying them for gas.

I’ve Also Made The Other Highly Profitable Error

I’ll bet most of us have. You’ve declined the pre-paid gas option because you realize you aren’t likely to use an entire tank of gas. This seems smart. Why pay for a whole tank when you won’t use it? So off you go on your vacation, but when it’s time to get to the airport rental car facility, you find you are running late. You don’t want to miss your plane, so you figure you will just pay the rental company the for the ¼ or ½ tank of gas you used. What’s that going to be? At a little less than $3 a gallon, maybe $10? Possibly $25?

Nope. I just rented from a national car rental company and read the fine print, shown below. That mistake will cost me $9.99 a gallon. $10 for a gallon of gas? Are you kidding? I could end up paying $40 for the 4 gallons of gas I used? That is so wrong.

I Have Been Fortunate

I work for a company that doesn’t have a conference room full of executives brainstorming ways to make money off its customers by taking advantage of them, whether they are running late for the plane or miscalculated how much gas they would use.

At Phoenix Car Rental there is no “gas option.” No paying $9.99 for a gallon of gas. If, at the beginning of the rental, your van or SUV comes with a half a tank of gas, our policy is that you bring it back with a half a tank, the same amount we gave it to you with, and we’re all good.

Frankly, national car companies, and even some consultants, have shaken their heads at us, thinking we are misguided, misinformed, or simply uneducated in the ways of the rental business. But the thing is this: we’ve been in business for over forty years. We started out with a simple concept and it has worked. No need to complicate it. We rent vehicles. No more. No less.

If you are traveling to the greater Phoenix area and want a cheap, reliable rental car, 15 passenger van, minivan, or SUV, give us a call at 602-904-3490. We won’t sell you gas. But we will rent you a vehicle.