Do Not Let This Mistake Happen to You When Filling a Vehicle With Fuel

“Y up, I spent $6/gallon to fill up the tank. It may not have been cheaper to return it to the rental company  but I still felt like I got taken for a bit of a ride. I noticed this before the tank was full but after I started filling up. I debated going to another station but didn’t know if pricing would be the same.”

Do Not Let This Mistake Happen to You When Filling a Vehicle With Fuel

Six dollars per gallon?!? With the relatively low price of oil over the past year, I did not even know the price of a gallon of gasoline could be that high — even in states such as California, Alaska and Hawaii, where fuel is usually the most expensive.

Anyway, Edward Pizzarello of Pizza in Motion imparted his experience of what he calls The Stupid Mistake I Made On Our Disney Trip — and I will use his words to advise some ways to avoid that mistake.

How to Fill Up the Fuel Tank and Still Save Money

“The last time we rented a car for a Disney World was a similar situation. I filled up the rental car with gas near our hotel on the grounds of Disney World. The airport is about 20 miles from Disney World”, Ed recalled. “When I returned the rental car the agent asked me if I had filled up. I answered yes and she asked me for the receipt. No receipt, she’d need to charge me a refill charge. By dumb luck I had the receipt in my backpack. She pointed out that the gas station was too far from the airport and proceeded to charge me a small fortune for a gallon of gas. I honestly don’t remember the amount but I was determined not to make that mistake again.”

Ed basically did the right thing that last time in terms of filling up the tank of the rental car with gasoline. What Ed should have done was top off the tank near the rental car facility — even if filling only one gallon of gasoline in the car. This way, the cost per gallon of gas can be astronomical and yet not make much of a difference; and he would have had a receipt to furnish to the employee of the rental car facility from a fuel station which would have been acceptably closer to the rental car facility upon returning the vehicle with a full tank of gasoline — upon which the employee of the rental car facility would have a difficult time disputing with Ed.

Remember that some rental car companies — such as Avis and Hertz, for example — offer an “express fuel” refueling option for vehicles rented in the United States. If you drive 75 miles or less and do not purchase fuel — or purchase fuel 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 which occurred during your vehicle rental, the $13.99 charge will not be applied.

While the “express fuel” option is not an exorbitantly usurious amount of money, it is still significantly more expensive than if you filled the tank yourself, as I illustrated using a couple of examples of calculations in this article.

Allot Time in Advance to Fill Up the Tank

“We had a very early flight home so I didn’t build in a ton of extra time to get gas.” That was a significant contributor to what led to Ed committing his mistake. Unless there is a significant shortage of fuel — prompting long lines, as had happened recently in the greater Atlanta metropolitan area — or unless the pump itself is excruciatingly slow, filling the tank of a car with gasoline should not take more than ten minutes of your time.

If at all possible, give yourself up to an extra 30 minutes prior to your flight to fill the gasoline tank of your rental car in advance; or — better yet — fill the fuel tank the night before your very early flight the next morning and allot yourself up to ten minutes in the morning in case you need to top off your tank near the rental car facility where you will drop off the vehicle on your way to the airport.

Convenience Usually Means Higher Cost

“I pulled off the highway and drive about half a mile to the closest station.” The convenience factor typically dictates that fuel stations located closest to a highway charge more money per gallon of gasoline than those which are located further from the highway — and sometimes further away for a significant difference in price could be as little as another half mile away.

Check the Price Per Gallon Before Pumping

“I pulled in, swiped my credit card at the pump and selected regular unleaded gas. As I was starting to pump gas I noticed the pricing for the first time.” Always check the price per gallon of gasoline before starting to pump it into the vehicle — whether or not it is a rental car — because as Ed found out to his chagrin, he could have saved $1.50 per gallon of gasoline: “After filling up and pulling a u-turn to get back to the airport I noticed that the station across the street was much more reasonably priced at $4.50 a gallon. Hah!”

Use Technology to Your Advantage

Ed admitted that he “hadn’t heard of Gasbuddy but I’ll be using it in the future.”

GasBuddy is a crowdsourcing Internet web site which displays the price per gallon of gasoline at fuel stations in a given area — whether in a list or on a map — anywhere in the United States or Canada as submitted by the sightings of fellow motorists. You can also download its mobile application software program free of charge to use on your portable electronic device.

There are other potentially useful tools which you can use to help save you money on fuel — such as this trip calculator, for example. You can also chat with other users of GasBuddy in forums specific to states — such as this forum for the state of Virginia as an example.

Gasoline prices near Orlando International Airport

Source: GasBuddy.

Although there are other Internet web sites which perform a similar purpose, I use GasBuddy regularly. Had Ed allowed literally 30 seconds to check GasBuddy, he would have seen that the fuel station he used — which is closest to Orlando International Airport — charged $5.96 per gallon; while the fuel station directly across the street charged $4.59 per gallon…

…and another fuel station — not even a quarter of a mile north of the usurious prices charged by the aforementioned two fuel stations — was charging only $1.96 per gallon of gasoline, which is more in line with the typical price per gallon of gasoline in the greater Orlando metropolitan area.

In fact — according to GasBuddy — Ed could have filled up the fuel tank of his rental car with gasoline selling as low as $1.92 per gallon on his way from Walt Disney World to the airport. Assuming that he filled the fuel tank with 15 gallons of gasoline, he overpaid for fuel by $60.60 — which is a very costly mistake. Even only ten gallons of gasoline would have resulted in an overpayment of $40.40.

7 Tips on How to Avoid Being Charged for Fuel When Returning a Rental Car With a Full Tank of Gasoline

Ed might have benefited from reading this article written by me pertaining to the 7 Tips on How to Avoid Being Charged for Fuel When Returning a Rental Car With a Full Tank of Gasoline. Additional detailed information is included in the article; but the seven tips are as follows:

  1. Get a Receipt From the Gasoline Station
  2. Keep the Receipt
  3. Take Photographs and Videos
  4. Attempt to Resolve the Issue at the Rental Car Counter
  5. Contact Customer Service if You Have a Problem
  6. Rent Vehicles From the Same Company as Often as Possible
  7. Dispute the Charge on Your Credit Card, If Necessary


We all commit “bonehead” — Ed’s word, not mine — mistakes at some point in our lives. I give Ed a lot of credit for admitting this one publicly, as doing so is not easy — but knowing him, he did so to help you and others; and I applaud him for that.

This article is meant to help you avoid the mistake Edward Pizzarello committed; and doing so does not have to take up much time and effort if you plan in advance using the advice and tools imparted in this article to fill the fuel tank of a rental car prior to returning it to the rental car facility — and you will most likely save money as a result.

Photograph ©2015 by Brian Cohen.

3 thoughts on “Do Not Let This Mistake Happen to You When Filling a Vehicle With Fuel”

  1. rxgeek says:

    Asked by God to describe his most selfless act, Emo Phillips thinks for a moment, then answers, ”I once filled a rental car with premium.” There was a loud hosanna, Mr. Phillips goes on, ”and God said, ‘We have a winner!’ ”

  2. Steve Case says:

    When you return a car, take photos of all sides and top of the car so they don’t come after you when the rental car jockey hits the car you just returned. I’ve heard of horror stories of customers getting charged later for something they didn’t do.

  3. Steve says:

    Hertz in Honolulu wants a gas receipt within 10 miles of the airport…the island is 15 miles wide. so… from anywhere I guess.

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