Rental car gas: I never “prepay the gas tank” when renting a car, since with most rental agencies you’re prepaying the entire tank and you aren’t going to come out well unless you return the car almost empty.
But that doesn’t mean it always makes sense to bother refueling the vehicle yourself. It depends on what the rental company’s penalty rate is.
While they may post a per-gallon price, usually you’re going to be charged a per-mile price … if you don’t fill the tank up at all they will multiply miles driven by the per mile gas cost which is based on an average fuel economy and their current price for gas.
Here’s the pricing at the gas station next to the rental car return at Miami:
Wow. $4.79 per gallon. The default rate at National Car Rental was $5.63. So you pay an extra 84 cents a gallon to have them fill it up.
I wouldn’t want to pay the premium for them to do so on an empty tank or even a half empty tank. And really, you ought to fill up before your each the last gas station near the rental return.
But I find myself there, I hadn’t filled up earlier. I had tons to do, I had been offline all day and had work to catch up on. I had only used probably four gallons of gas, and so having National hit me with a gas charge came to less than $3.50 more than filling it up at the station by the rental return. I just returned the car unfilled.
The employee checking me in was incredulous when he saw I hadn’t filled up the tank, “Do you think you might still have time to do that?” he asked. I didn’t. And it was worth the $3+ to me not to worry about it.
Next time I’ll remember to fill up farther from the airport.
Do you ever return your rental car without filling up the tank?