One of the biggest travel-related stories of 2021 is the shortage and high prices of car rentals. In many destinations, you can’t even get a car and some people have gotten really creative and desperate by renting U-Hauls. Here are 15 tips for renting a car in 2021.

But charging high rates is not the only way car rental agencies make money. There are all kinds of ways, or tricks, should we say, that they employ. One is by charging daily fees to use their toll tag, even if you only use it just once (I learned my lesson to flip the switch).

But I’m hearing from readers that they’re getting charged a gas refueling fee and according to the CEO of Autoslash (one of the sites I use to find the cheapest car rental rates), you should do these two things.

Fill up your gas tank within five miles of the rental car return location and keep your receipt (I would take a photo of it right away so the ink doesn’t smudge, which often seems to happen).

Here’s the direct tip from Autoslash: “If you return the car with the gas tank a smidge less than full, you may be charged a gas refueling fee. It’s the very definition of getting nickeled and dimed by your rental car company. But there’s a way to protect yourself: Simply save your last gas receipt. The receipt must show the gas station address, which must be within five miles of the rental car return location. It also must show the number of gallons purchased, as well as the cost.”

I should note that I’ve rented countless cars and I can’t recall ever being charged a refueling fee and most of the time, I don’t refuel five miles within the return location for a number of reasons:
-Convenience (I like to refuel the night before just in case I’m scrambling to the airport)
-Gas is usually a lot cheaper farther away from airports
-Airports are usually in sketchy areas, so it’s safer to do it somewhere else

But if you want to insure a car rental company doesn’t rip you off, follow the advice above.


7 Comments On "How To Prevent Car Rental Companies From Ripping You Off"
  1. Carolyn Fisher|

    What is a “toll tag”? And where/how do you flip the switch. (As you suggest)
    Thank you.

    A daily reader for many years

    1. Johnny Jet|

      Hi! A toll tag is like an EZ pass. It’s on the windshield so if you drive through tolls you don’t have to have cash. If your car has one there’s instructions on how to flip the switch.

  2. Momma Traveler|

    I enjoy your blog! Applied for CSP via your link today & was approved. Thanks for all the useful tips.

  3. R Johnson|

    It’s not a nickel and dime proposition – they charge you the amount required for a full tank – down to the 2nd decimal point – 17.25 gallons, etc. This can add up quickly. Got hit with one of these in Atlanta a few years ago.

  4. Mike|

    Another refueling strategy: I select the pre-paid gas option each time I rent. You essentially pay for a tank of gas up-front and try to return it empty. They charge a bit more than local pump prices but WAY less than if you pay them to refill it. They make money since most people don’t return it empty. No hassle when returning the car either.

    1. Johnny Jet|

      I used to do it too and I do when a company is paying my bill. But the problem is drivers risk running out of gas since they try to go as low as possible.

  5. Arthur Moe|

    Thanks for your rental car tips. I’d like to offer my own tip when renting in Costs Rica. I found a great company and he’s on Facebook.
    I just booked a 7 day midsize SUV for $332. What I like about his company is he’s straight up front about all costs and fees. He will send you a PDF showing your rental details with the price. The price is what’s on the form and nothing more. I found him on Youtube. Also he will communicate with you if you have any questions before you rent. The best thing is you don’t pay till you pick the car up and the deposit is only $500 which is refunded within 3-5 days. I think your readers going to Costa Rica would be interested in him.

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