Express Fuel Option Has Spread to Dollar and Thrifty: Charged if You Drive That Rental Car Fewer Than 75 Miles Without Refueling

oth Dollar Rent A Car and Thrifty Car Rental have introduced a new policy at most locations in the United States for your “convenience” known as the Express Fuel option where customers who drive 75 miles or less during a rental of a vehicle will be charged a service and convenience fee of $13.99 — regardless of how much fuel was consumed during the rental of the vehicle — and this policy seems to have been in effect since Monday, August 17, 2015.

“No more having to worry about the amount of fuel in your tank or searching for a gas station: just return and pay a reasonably priced one-time flat fee!” pronounced the exuberant text of the identical announcement from both Dollar Rent A Car and Thrifty Car Rental. “If you drive 75 miles or less and would rather refuel yourself, simply present a receipt from the gas station where you filled up, showing that the vehicle was refilled within a 10 mile radius of the return location.”

What the Announcement Really Said

What the text really said is that if you are the type of person who manages to keep the appearance of the fuel gauge as full despite having driven dozens of miles in the rental car without spending any money to fill up the fuel tank, your glory days are essentially over.

Other Options

For vehicle rentals greater than 75 miles, both Dollar Rent A Car and Thrifty Car Rental provide the following options from which you can choose:

  • Prepay the Fuel — also known as the Fuel Purchase Option
    • No need to refuel the vehicle before you return.
    • Purchase the gas in the tank at time of rental and you can return at any level.
    • Price is competitive with local pump prices.
  • We Refuel — also known as the Fuel and Service Charge
    • The vehicle will be refueled for you by the rental car company.
    • Return the car with the gas at any level.
    • Price is for fuel and refueling service combined.
  • You Refuel
    • You refuel prior to return.
    • Make sure fuel is at least the same level you started with at the beginning of the rental.
    • Produce a refueling receipt from within 10 miles of the return location.

This Policy Really Hertz

After competing with Avis, a press release from Hertz Global Holdings announced back in April of 2010 its intent to acquire Dollar Rent A Car and Thrifty Car Rental. The transaction was completed in November 2012 in a deal worth approximately $2.3 billion…

…so it is no surprise that this policy from both Dollar Rent A Car and Thrifty Car Rental is similar to a revision in the terms and conditions of renting a vehicle from Hertz which applies to rentals in the United States and Canada — also called the Express Fuel Option — which became effective as of Wednesday, July 15, 2015:

Beginning on 7/15/2015 there will be a new refueling option for Hertz rentals in the United States. This Express Fuel option applies at select locations to rentals during which the entire distance driven is 75 miles or less. If you drive 75 miles or less and do not purchase gas, or purchase gas but fail to produce a receipt, a charge of $13.99 will be applied. If you drive 75 miles or less and produce a receipt of a fuel purchase made during your rental, the $13.99 charge will not be applied.

At the time this article was written, there was some poor proofreading on the information for the announcement from Thrifty Car Rental: the first line of the last item of the frequently asked questions mentions Dollar instead of Thrifty.

The announcement from Dollar Rent A Car appears to be correct.

By the Numbers — Loosely, Anyway

Assuming that the car your rented achieved 25 miles per gallon during your rental and you drove 75 miles — meaning that your rental car consumed three gallons of fuel — that means that at $13.99, you will be charged the equivalent of approximately $4.66 per gallon; but if the car your rented achieved 18.75 miles per gallon during your rental and you drove 75 miles — meaning that your rental car consumed four gallons of fuel — that means that at $13.99, you will be charged the equivalent of approximately $3.50 per gallon.

Either way — at a current national average of $2.002 per gallon for regular gasoline, according to the Daily Fuel Gauge Report of the American Automobile Association — both Dollar Rent A Car and Thrifty Car Rental are likely profiting from the new Express Fuel Option…

…but then again, who knows how much money both Dollar Rent A Car and Thrifty Car Rental — or customers of those rental car companies — lost in being short-changed on fuel.

Summary

Express Fuel is an option. You are still able to choose the Fuel Purchase Option where you can pay for fuel in advance at competitive local prices; and return the vehicle with the tank at any level.

I know that when I rent a car, I expect the fuel tank to be full. When I rented a car earlier this year from a different rental car company, the indicator of the fuel gauge was clearly just shy of full. A representative of the rental car company assured me not to worry about it; but when I returned the car with the fuel gauge exactly just shy of full — that was no easy task, by the way — a different representative attempted to point that fact out to me. I prevailed in that exchange, thankfully.

Due to poor business decisions on the part of both Dollar Rent A Car and Thrifty Car Rental when I patronized them in the past, I no longer rent from either of them and refuse to ever do so again; but if you plan on renting a car from either rental car company in the future, you should know about the Express Fuel Option just in case you anticipate any problems or issues.

Photograph ©2007 by Brian Cohen.

One thought on “Express Fuel Option Has Spread to Dollar and Thrifty: Charged if You Drive That Rental Car Fewer Than 75 Miles Without Refueling”

  1. Frequent traveler says:

    Why is the assumption that the company loses money under the old system? They simply rent the car again without refueling and the next customer gets shafted!

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