Last Updated on March 30, 2023 by Elizabeth
Most travelers know the importance of returning a rental car with a full tank of gas. But even if you follow the rules, you can still sometimes get burned by an onerous car rental fee. That’s because Avis, Budget and other rental car companies now have connected-car fleets.
Connected cars allow you to manage your entire rental through the car rental company app. That includes nifty tricks, like locking and unlocking car doors via smartphone. They also tell the rental company exactly how much gas remains in the tank, down to the tenth of a gallon. Armed with this information, rental car companies have become stricter in requiring you to fill up close to your return. If you return the car with the gas tank a smidge less than full, you may be charged a gas refueling fee. It’s the very definition of getting nickeled and dimed by your rental car company.
How to Avoid the Gas Refueling Fee
In many cases, the only way to avoid this car rental fee is to provide a copy of the receipt from your last gas fill up. The receipt must show the gas station address, which must be within five miles of the rental car return location. It also must show the number of gallons purchased, as well as the cost.
If you return the vehicle during business hours, you will be told whether you get credit for a full tank. If not, you might be able to visit a nearby gas station to top it off.
After-hours returns leave you open to finding a nasty surprise on your bill. If you discover you were charged the gas refueling fee in error, you can appeal the charge by providing a receipt for your last gas purchase before returning the car. It’s a really simple way to avoid this car rental fee.
Do Not Prepay for Gas
The agent at the rental car counter will likely try to sell you on their prepaid gas program, where you get charged for a tank of gas at a cheaper-than-average per-gallon price. Sounds like a good deal, right? Of course, there’s a catch.
When you prepay for the gas, you’re paying for the full tank. If you bring it back a quarter full or even 90 percent full, there’s no refund for the gas you left in the tank. If you don’t use every last drop, you’re paying for gas you didn’t use. Anything more than bringing it back on fumes is free money for them and a higher average price per gallon for you.