Beware of This Car Rental Nightmare

I’ve been renting cars for over 20 years. I’ve seen many of the tricks and know how to avoid many of them. I sign up for the car rental programs so I don’t have to go through the pitch for insurance coverage. I always decline the prepaid fuel purchase because that’s for suckers. However with all my knowledge, I was almost caught in a trap when returning a car to the airport.  How’d they get me? Read on…

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My car was in the shop and wouldn’t be done by the weekend. The repair shop didn’t have any loaners but luckily I was able to find a really cheap rental from the airport for the weekend by using Autoslash. Not to slander any company, but I think the name rhymed with Mavis.

I rented my car from the airport kiosk. I didn’t have to speak to anyone; I just had to enter my reservation and was directed to the parking lot to get my car. I picked a car and proceeded to leave the lot. I noticed the car only had 1/2 a tank of gas when I left but didn’t think anything of it. I’ve rented cars from local spots before that have said “You have 1/2 a tank now, just return it with 1/2 a tank.” Besides, I was only taking the car for a short weekend rental, so I figured no problem.

So I used the car for the couple of days and went to return it when I was done. The check in agent printed my receipt with a charge for $40 of fuel. I asked why and she told me that the car only had 1/2 a tank so I’d have to pay for the rest of the fuel at $4.50 a gallon. WHAT?!?!?!?! No, I only rented the car with 1/2 a tank.

She assured me that was impossible as all cars go out with a full tank. If I wanted to dispute this, I’d have to go inside the airport and complain at the counter. UGH! Luckily, I was not leaving for a flight. If I was, there was no way I could have waited in line to straighten this out.

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The airport counter line. The one thing I try to avoid only slightly more than the plague.

After waiting behind people with every type of rental problem imaginable, I got to speak to an agent. I calmly explained that when I rented my car it only had 1/2 of a tank of gas. I returned it with the same amount of gas but the agent in the garage charged me for the difference.

I was again told all their cars leave with a full tank. If my car wasn’t full, I should’ve told them when leaving. I replied that I have rented cars with less than a full tank before and was only responsible for bringing the car back with amount of fuel I received it with.

I asked to speak with the shift manager at this point, since my point was getting me nowhere. Obviously he thought I didn’t want to pay for the fuel. End of story.

The manager showed up and I explained my situation. He again told me that they fill up all the cars before renting them. I said that they must have missed one. I then tried to use the only thing I had left on my side, MATH!

I asked how many miles I drove the car. “50 miles,” he replied.

How large is the fuel tank? “14 gallons,” he replied.

I said, “So 1/2 a tank would be 7 gallons of gas then?” He nodded in agreement.

I then asked, “What’s the average fuel mileage of this car?”

He said he didn’t know, but probably around 20 MPG.

“So 7 gallons at 20 MPG would be how much driving?,” I asked.

“140 miles,” he replied.

“And how far did I drive the car?”

“50 miles.”

So if I received the car with a full tank of gas and drove 50 miles, how does it only have 1/2 a tank left?

At this point he seemed to agree that it was more likely I didn’t get the car with a full tank of gas instead of thinking I siphoned the gas from the tank or sat idling the car for hours on end. He adjusted my rental agreement and removed the $40 charge for the fuel.  I did enjoy where the manager had to explain to the rental agent why it was impossible for me to have used more fuel when I only drove 50 miles.

Final Thoughts

So what’s the moral of the story?

  1. If I ever rent a car and it has less than a full tank, I make sure to have that in writing somewhere before I leave.
  2. Be calm but forceful if you’re right. Don’t get angry. You may eventually be able to convince a manager that you’re correct.
  3. MATH RULES!!!!!!!

Have you ever had a situation like this? How did it turn out? Let us know!

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary

 

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