Car rentals are supposed to be about convenience, a way to give you control and ease while you travel. But one of the most confusing things about renting a car is the fuel that goes in it.
When you borrow a car from a friend, it’s polite to refuel it upon return. Is it the same when you rent a car from a rental service? Will you be charged extra if you forget to fill up the tank again? It depends on which car rental company you choose, and which options they offer.
All car rental companies have different rules for how rental car refueling works – and about just how much should be in your tank upon return.
Let’s get this out of the way – fuel isn’t free. There’s no way to get out of paying for it. But there are ways to control just how much you pay.
Sometimes, less reputable car rental companies will charge exorbitant fees to refill tanks on returned cars, and you might not even notice that it happened until you look at your credit card statement later.
Most car rental companies have different refueling tiers, based on when you want to pay and how much you want to pay. Hertz, for example, has a few different rental car refueling options, so the decision is up to you.
At Hertz, you can choose between prepaying for the fuel, refueling the car yourself or having Hertz refuel.
Prepaying the Fuel
When you prepay for fuel, there’s no need to refuel the vehicle before you return. You purchase the gas in the tank at the time of the car rental at local prices, and you can return it at any level you like.
With this option drivers don’t have to worry about getting a receipt to show that they filled their tank, and they don’t need to think about or factor in extra time to get gas on the way back to the airport. This will also help to avoid fuel fees when the rental is returned.
Best of all, AAA members get 10% off prepaid fuel with Hertz.
If you choose this option, Hertz will refuel the rental car for you. You can return the car with the gas at any level you like. You pay for the fuel, as well as a refueling service fee.
This is the most common refueling option across car rental companies. In this case, you refuel the tank of the rental car prior to your return. Make sure your fuel upon return is the same level the fuel was at when you rented the car, or you’ll be charged for the difference. As long as you maintain the fuel level in the tank, this is the most cost-effective option. You pay for the fuel you use, and nothing more.
Basically, it’s a cost-benefit analysis between saving money, or having some convenience. By prepaying for fuel or having Hertz refuel, you don’t have to worry about finding a gas station or taking the time to refuel the car before returning it.
Protecting Your Wallet
Not all car rental companies play fair when it comes to the market pump price of fuel. Some services impose draconian punishments upon renters who don’t return with a full tank. Some car rental companies will charge up to $10 per gallon of fuel that they had to replace.
To avoid getting hit with these wild costs, take some precautionary steps.
- Take a picture of the rental car’s gas gauge before you even drive off the lot. That way, you know exactly how much gas was in the tank, and you have proof.
- Fill up your tank within a 10-mile radius of the car rental service (or even closer). Some car rental services will hit you with extra fees if you don’t fill your tank up close enough to the building.
- After you refuel, keep your receipt. This will not only prove that you have refueled, it will also show the address of the gas station that you have refueled at.
Learn more about the exclusive benefits AAA members receive on Hertz services.