Sunday, October 28, 2012

Not Understanding Hertz Refueling Policy is a Costly Lesson

We received an excellent deal on a car rental booked thru for our recent trip to California.  Hertz accepted our bid for a full-sized sedan at $30 a day with unlimited mileage.

When we arrived at San Francisco’s SFO airport the Hertz rental counter was crazy busy. After waiting in line for at least 30 minutes, our Hertz representative was courteous and attentive.  She recommended we sign up for the Fuel Purchase Option (FPO) which she felt was the best refueling deal. We would purchase a full tank from Hertz at a price competitive with local fuel stations (currently around $4.49 a gallon) at rental.  When we returned the car the fuel tank should be as close to empty as possible, since we’d already pre-purchased a full tank of gas. Despite Clark Howard's advice to never prepay for fuel, the thought of not having the hassle of refueling before our return flight was appealing. Yes we both agreed, sign us up for that.  We were told our vehicle, which had been upgraded to a Jeep Liberty, would be ready in about an hour and we would be asked if we wanted the FPO option at that time.

After only 10 minutes, our vehicle was ready.  We were handed our Hertz contract along with the keys to the Jeep Liberty and were whisked off to the stall where our rental awaited us.  It was only after we had left the airport that I realized we were not asked about the FPO option.  Perhaps that nice Hertz representative had automatically signed us up for it.  Our rental contract said something about fuel and services at $9.29 a gallon. Something was not right, we would have to call and get clarification the next day.

Unfortunately Consumer Cellular, my cell phone carrier, does not have coverage in northern California.  I thought for sure I had checked into this before we left, but after losing cell phone coverage shortly after leaving San Francisco I realized I had not.  We decided to operate as if we had purchased the FPO option and talk to Hertz about the incorrect fuel price in our contract when we returned the car.

We filled up our Jeep Liberty's fuel tank the day before our vacation ended.  We had one final day of sight-seeing in addition to the two hour drive from our inn in Cloverdale to the airport.  We would attempt to return the vehicle with an empty fuel tank.

Traffic through downtown San Francisco on our return trip to the airport was terrible.  Plus, our GPS did not recognize streets that were closed due to construction or those that did not allow for left turns between 7:00 am and 7:00 pm on weekdays. After many GPS recalculations, we arrived at SFO’s Hertz car return with no time to spare.  My husband did a quick check-in as I grabbed our bags.  We reviewed our final Hertz bill as we ran to our terminal.  We were charged an additional $9.29 a gallon for 9.75 gallons of fuel totaling $104.66.  

We barely made our flight.  If we had stopped to refuel the rental car, we would have surely missed it.

Obviously the exorbitant refueling charge is mostly our fault for not understanding Hertz’s policy, but I feel Hertz should have verbally informed us of the refueling option stated in our contract when they gave it to us.  With each trip we take my husband complains more about the “travel” part of traveling and how he doesn’t want the hassle any more. Hertz you are not helping my case.

How about you?  Have you ever misunderstood a vehicle rental company’s refueling policy? Or do you follow Clark Howard's advice and always return your rental with a full tank of gas?

If you enjoyed this post you may also like:

Ann Taylor Loft's Return Policy Sucks
You need your customers more than they need you
The Stress-Free Zone


  1. Ouch! Gotta admit that i always return wwith a full tank, but somehow that soubs a bit bait and switch.

    Hope the rest of the trip was great fun and made up for this episode.

  2. Hi! I am your newest follower and was hoping that you would stop by and follow me back!


  3. I'm kind of feeling lucky not to have a driver's license right about now.

  4. Swinging by for Sharefest!

    It's rare that I rent a car, but I think I've always returned it with a full tank because I've heard the refueling charges are ridiculous!

  5. Anonymous8:19 AM

    I've never rented a car but I am responsible for travelers at work. Our policy is that you refuel before returning the car. That refueling charge is crazy high!

    Happy Saturday Sharefest!

  6. So far all of our trips have been by car so no rentals for us. Great info to have for the future though. Thanks for sharing.

    Happy Sharefest. I hope you have a great weekend.

  7. Webb,
    I think in this case Hertz is guilty of lack of communication and poor customer service, not bait and switch, but they better be careful – if they wanted to they could easily pull one over on infrequent travelers like us. The rest of my vacation was great, you’ve motivated me to write about it sometime in the future.

    Happy to see you are feeling better. Left handed typing has to be difficult though.

  8. Hi Sarah,
    Welcome and yes I followed you back at

  9. Classic NYer-
    I can understand why especially now with all of the gas shortages/rationings. I am happy to hear that you are safe. Looking forward to your baby Sandy announcement nine months from now. I know – not funny.

  10. Sorta Southern,
    So true, glad you were informed ahead of time.

  11. Carli Alice,
    Interesting policy - I haven't heard that one before, but then my company’s employees don't rent vehicles very often.

    I told my husband about your comment and he insists we would have never found a gas station near SFO and still made our plane. I am sure he is correct, but if Hertz would have been clearer about what fueling option we had purchased we would have made better choices.

    Thanks for stopping in.

  12. Miss Robin,
    The one nice thing about renting a car is not having to put vacation miles on your own vehicle.

    Thanks for stopping in.

  13. Hi There! Beautiful Blog! I am a new follower of yours from the GFC blog hop. I will be looking forward to your blog!


  14. I travel frequently for business (lately, it's been about 75% of each month), and I always fill up the rental car before dropping it off. The pre-pay option always sounds extremely convenient, but it ultimately never is.

  15. Natalie,
    It is unanimous – fill up the rental car before returning it. Wow - traveling 75% of your month that sounds exhausting and challenging.

  16. It's always a toss up between the convenience of not trying to find a gas station in an unfamiliar place near enough to the airport and not paying ridiculous prices, but I've finally come down on the side of always refueling myself. We never drive enough to empty a tank, so it's just not cost efficient to take the convenient option anymore.

  17. Revanche,
    I think we've learnt our lesson. In the future leave earlier to make sure there is time to fill the tank.

  18. We recently rented a car through an awesome deal. When we got to the rental counter in phoenix, az it was late. We had just come off of a long flight with our 4 year old.

    I have issues with people who mumble and try and rush me especially when I am half awake. So I asked 302 questions about all of the junk this man was trying to charge us for. Dash that with a hint of 'could you please speak up? I'm sorry I just can not understand what you are trying to say to me' and irritated is what you get.

    I finally told the man that we had purchased insurance and everything else we felt that we needed already through hotwire, so I really didn't understand what he was trying to sell us or charge us for.

    He said, 'oh, I see here that you have already paid for this rental' (DUH) Did you know that the price of gas in Phoenix and the surronding areas is $3.80 a gallon, and thats if your lucky? You can go ahead and prepay for your return tank of fuel and be locked in at $3.42 a gallon. I said that I had a hard time believing that and that we would have no problem making sure that the tank was full before returning it. He then told us that we could get this prepay fuel and not be charged until we returned the vehicle and they had to put fuel in it. And as long as they did not put a drop in the tank we would not be charged. But if they put in as much as .50 worth we would be charged for the full tank of gas. Sounds like a great idea right? Then they handed us the receipt for $75.80 estimated of course. I told them no....No No No there was no way that paying them almost $80.00 for a tank of gas was cheaper than filling it up myself.

    They once again assured us that we had not been billed yet and would not be provided we brought the car back with a full tank.

    We did. They did not. FYI They highest price for gasoline we saw anywhere was at hertz for $3.42 a gallon.

  19. Wendy,
    Thanks for sharing your experience. I bet playing on tired, travelers in a hurry is part of their scheme. Glad you didn't fall for it.

  20. Hi, sorry to hear about your experience. The last time I rented we returned it with a full tank. We we were not provided with fuel options but I can see how when pushed for time it might look dangerously attractive.

    Stopping over from #FlashbackFriday.

  21. Gillian,
    Hopefully we don't fall for that again.

  22. Wow! That Sucks! Thanks for linking up for #FlashbackFriday

  23. Chasing Joy,
    Thanks for including my post in your round-up.