Charged for 3.71 Gallons of Fuel? Ouch — That Hertz

Imagine being charged for additional fuel long after your rental of a vehicle had already concluded.

A letter from the Hertz Corporation was reportedly sent to FlyerTalk member trvlnman regarding the return of a rental car at its facility at Los Angeles International Airport recently, and the content reads as follows:

Thank you for selecting Hertz as your rental car provider.

Under the terms of your Rental Agreement, Hertz audited your recent rental charges. When the vehicle was returned, the fuel tank was noted as “full.” However, when the vehicle was serviced for the next rental, 3.71 gallons of gas were needed to refuel the vehicle.

We have corrected your rental charges and applied the appropriate Fuel and Service Charge of $35.76 to the credit or debit card provided as your form of payment.

We regret any inconvenience caused by this delay in billing.

One question I have is who actually noted that the fuel tank was full: trvlnman, who rented the vehicle in question, or an agent of Hertz Car Rental? While it is claimed by trvlnman that the fuel tank was indeed confirmed full by the agent of Hertz Car rental, trvlnman has no proof of that confirmation. If the fuel gauge in the car indicates that the tank is full, does it really matter?

Does a receipt from the gasoline station where the vehicle was fueled prove that the tank was full when the car was returned, or that fuel was simply pumped into the car? Unfortunately — regardless of the answer — trvlnman disposed of the receipt of the fuel purchase after receiving the receipt for the car rental, supposedly indicating that the tank was indeed full upon return of the rental car.

Are we at a point now where we need to record mileage, photograph the fuel gauge, scan receipts and document any other pertinent information with each vehicle we rent from here on in to protect ourselves? Is this happening with car rental companies other than Hertz? As trvlnman asks, what is to prevent car rental companies from “doing this to every customer, and what recourse does a customer have”? Is this attempted recouping of dollars for fuel a result of lost revenue which Hertz is attempting to minimize — or is it a devious way to add revenue at little to no cost for Hertz?

Those are good questions — but let us discuss this in more depth.

What if you fill up the vehicle at a gasoline station that is not close to the rental car facility, either because the fuel is significantly less expensive than at petrol stations near the rental car facility — which is usually located at an airport where fuel prices are usually significantly more expensive — or if gasoline stations are not located in the immediate vicinity of the rental car facility? What if you overfill the tank to compensate for the mileage to the rental car facility from the fuel station so that the tank still indicates as full? Will the rental car facility refund your money for any overage of fuel in the vehicle?

I have rented literally hundreds of cars in my travels. Sometimes the fuel indicator immediately shows less than a full tank of fuel upon driving the vehicle off of the rental car property, which can annoy me as that costs me money. However, there have also been times where I have been able to return the car with a full tank without having to fill up any gasoline in the tank, as the fuel indicator never budged. Is it not a “wash” for all involved at this point?

Also, different vehicles have different ways the fuel indicators show how much fuel is left in the tank due to a number of factors, including but not limited to degrees of accuracy and fuel economy. I have driven cars whose fuel indicators barely budge for many miles and then suddenly drop quickly when getting closer to empty. I have seen the reverse effect as well.

Rare as they may be, I have had problems with several car rental companies in the past regarding disputes over such issues as fuel gauges or damage to the vehicle that did not occur during the time I rented it — but that is usually from car rental companies which I typically am not a regular customer. The main car rental company from which I do regularly rent vehicles virtually never questions me and always gives me the benefit of the doubt whenever there is a potential dispute, allowing me to continue to rent vehicles from them with peace of mind.

I am usually able to successfully prevail in disputes because of reason and proof and — if you do not already do so — I suggest that you compile as much proof as possible that you have indeed returned the vehicle to the car rental facility in the optimum condition in which they expect for it to be returned, free of damage and with a full tank.

I also recommend a walk around the vehicle, fully inspecting it outside and inside before exiting the car rental facility with the vehicle. If there is any damage on the car or of there ls less than a full tank of fuel, alert a representative and have them notate the discrepancy on the rental contract. I have never had anyone refuse to do so, but if they did refuse, I would be prepared to walk off the lot and rent a vehicle from a different company.

Rent your vehicles from the same rental car company as often as possible. While there are no guarantees, a history of loyalty can be significant enough for a dispute to be resolved in your favor, giving you the benefit of the doubt.

These are simply my experiences. Please post your experiences and advice here regarding protecting yourself from potential car rental disputes and how to prevail should they happen.

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