Picture of Car with Text: Travel Tip Tuesday Never Prepay your Gas with a Rental Car

Travel Tip Tuesday #11: Never Prepay your Gas with a Rental Car

In our first Travel Tip Tuesday Post this month we are talking about rental cars. Specifically how to deal with fuel options when returning the car. Our advice? Never prepay your gas when renting a car.

It’s April and we are switching our focus to rental cars this month. In addition to a few articles we are publishing our Travel Tip Tuesday posts will also highlight various tips and tricks for getting the most out of car rentals.

And you can read all of the preceding Travel Tip Tuesday’s here.

Travel Tip Tuesday: Don’t prepay gas when renting a car

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Rental car companies are sneaky little devils willing to milk unsuspecting renters out of every dime they can. One such racket relates to the fuel options renters have when renting your car.

By way of background, when you rent a car you are expected to bring it back with a full tank of gas (or at least whatever it had in it when you rented it which is almost always “full”).

However, in what I can only imagine is some scheme cooked up by some rental executive on a golf course, rental car companies offer a few different options in how to deal with this.

One option is to simply bring it back full. Meaning, on your back to the airport you need to stop somewhere (relatively close to the airport) and fill it back up.

Other options include doing nothing and bringing the car back in as-is. The rental car company will then charge you to fill it back up – at a significant premium (I’ve seen it as high as $14.00 a gallon before) – usually somewhere’s around $9.00/gal-ish. Clearly this is the least economical method to use as you could get hosed big-time.

Another option which is a little devilish is to pre-pay your fuel when you are renting the car. For a “discount” off the current average fuel rate in that area, you can buy a full-tank of gas ahead of time and then simply return the car as is.

Sounds like a good deal? A discount? Sweet.

You might be interested in Travel Tip Tuesday #7: Get an AC Mounted Magnetic Cell Phone Holder for your Rental Car

But wait…what if you don’t actually use all of the gas in your car? You see, when you pre-pay for gas you are paying for a FULL tank of gas – regardless of whether you actually need a full-tank of gas.

So unless you bring the car back on empty it’s likely not going to make much sense. And many times business travelers like myself may only use a quarter of a tank or a half a tank. But then prepay for a full tank. Not ideal.

(you didn’t think the rental car companies would offer this service if they couldn’t make money, did you!?! Of course not. They are playing the arbitrage that most customers will not use all of their gas and make money on that free money you are giving them with no cost behind it).

This is why many company travel policies prohibit their travelers from prepaying for gas. And why today’s Travel Tip Tuesday is important: never prepay for your gas.

Plan accordingly, find a gas station and fill your car up. It’s worth it to save money regardless whether you are traveling for work – or pleasure.

Are there any reasons to prepay for gas – ever?

In my opinion there are really no good reasons to prepay for gas. That said, one possible scenario is that you know will be pressed for time after say a customer meeting. The convenience of having the rental car company take care of this for you could be the difference between making your flight or not.

I would still argue that you should plan better.

Another scenario is that some airports (like Boston Logan and other big cities) can be challenging to find a gas station near the airport.

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Photo by Lukas Kloeppel on Pexels.com

But then again, plan better (or as is often the case in a big city, take an Uber and ditch the rental car).

Thanks for tuning into this week’s Travel Tip Tuesday

As mentioned during the intro we are focusing on rental cars this month so check back in each week to learn a new rental car related tip.

If you can’t wait, check out our 9 Secret Rental Car Hacks You Need to Know

Stay tuned (hopefully each week) for a new travel tip each Tuesday and don’t forget to follow us on social media including Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. Join the conversation and leave us a comment below, too. We love comments.

For readers interested in more travel tips and travel advice, you might be like these great articles:

Text with iconography of car saying Travel Tip Tuesday Never Prepay your Gas with a Rental Car - ever!

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13 comments on “Travel Tip Tuesday #11: Never Prepay your Gas with a Rental Car

  1. Dustin Evans

    My partner got pressured into prepaying I had not arrived yet. I pushed the car into the drop off area because I ran it completely out of petrol. They didn’t like me.

  2. Adam

    Uh, isn’t there a gas station on Boston Logan airport property near Terminal E? Did it close in the last year or two?

    1. The C Boarding Group Post author

      Yeah, I think there is, now that you mention it. But if I recall it’s kinda hard to get to. I could be getting my airports confused…haven’t been to Logan in a few years.

  3. Timothy Archer

    When I’m in new territory and unsure of where to find a station (having had Siri take me to vacant lots where stations used to be!), I don’t mind prepaying. If I know that I’m going to use more than half a tank, it’s usually worth it to me to spend the extra $10-15 and not have the stress. I’ve had times where there was an accident on the freeway and prepaying saved me from turning my car in late.

    1. The C Boarding Group Post author

      That’s a good point. In some cities, the gas stations near the hotels can be pretty sketchy and depending on what time of day you are returning, I can see the value in the that. I still won’t do it, but your argument is definitely valid.

  4. SubwayNut

    The time we definitely saved pre-paying was on a one way rental from Phoneix to San Diego, because California gas prices are so high like a $1 more, and we paid for a full tank of much cheaper Airizona gas.

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