Rental Car Gas Refill Options Could Cost You

If you rent a car and fill the gas tank yourself, save the receipt or it could cost you.

Many travelers choose to refill the tank on their own rather than prepay the rental company for a tank of gas, figuring it's a cheaper alternative. But we found a couple of surprising things that could change how you do business on your next trip.

For starters, some companies now have what they're calling a new fuel option. It's a flat fee. Travel less than 75 miles and you'll be charged $13.99. Avis and Budget have the flat fee. Hertz will roll it out next month.

"If there's less than 75 miles on the car and the gas gauge even looks full they're going to require you to give the gas receipt to them to prove you filled up the car," said ravel expert Catherine Banks.

The charge is automatically added, but to take it off, you'll need to hang on to that receipt.

Alternatively, Banks said, the fee may make sense if you're traveling close to but less than 75 miles and gas prices are high in the location where you are visiting.

Plus, you're getting the convenience of not having to stop at the last minute.

Consumers should expect to see more fees like this one, Banks said. She points to the airline industry, which now charges for bags, special seat assignments and snacks.

But traveler Kelsey Page thinks it stinks. She and her family were gassing up their rental car before dropping it off at the airport.

Page said she had no idea if her rental company charged the flat fee but is against the idea in general.

"I kinda think it's messed up," she said. "I think it's a ripoff in a way because I don't think it's fair."

Page and her family were in a rush when they rented the car and didn't check every detail on their rental agreement. Banks said that's common. She encourages people to find out the details of their agreements before they sign on the dotted line.

"When the car rental agent is going 90 miles an hour, blowing through it because he says it 75 times a day, slow him down and say, 'Hey, wait a minute. What is that?' Don't be afraid to assert yourself and clarify," Banks said.

Read through the policies carefully and research. If you're planning to drive a lot, the pre-pay option might actually be a better deal. For example, one rental car company we saw offered a pre-pay price of $2.55 a gallon. At the station where Page was filling up, the price was sixty cents a gallon more.

Banks said that while she was on a recent trip to Orlando, a gas station near the rental car return at the airport was charging double what she expected.

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