Prepay gas, worth it?

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Old Mar 20, 14, 9:01 pm
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Prepay gas, worth it?

I'm posting on the National forum as I'm a EE, but I see this is also applicable to other rental agencies. Typically I never use the prepay option, but I always check their current pricing to compare with the local gas cost on the area I'm visiting. Prepaying is always expensive, and I do understand as you are paying for convenience.

However, my last rentals, SAN, SEA, SFO, ATL, the prepay rate was substantially cheaper than the local gas station of the area I was visiting. How does that work? Do rental agencies have a better contract gas rate? Would it be better for prepaying? Aside from the convenience factor, when does it really pay to use the prepay option? I'm not using any corporate rate code, this is just the generic NTL code.

I had one time when I was running late, got caught in traffic, and on top of that I was nowhere near a gas station and I opted to return the car with less than a quarter full and got charged around $25 extra. Just curious on others opinion on this matter.

Last edited by arollins; Mar 20, 14 at 9:08 pm
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Old Mar 20, 14, 9:12 pm
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The give you a discount on the prepaid option to entice you because they are likely to come out ahead. You (usually) pay for the whole tank, no refunds for unused fuel at return. The only real way to come out ahead (depending on the value you place on convenience) is to time it out so the car is literally stalling out as you coast across the tire shredders into returns. Chances are you will return the car with at least a few gallons of fuel (that you paid for) in it for them to re-use. This, combined with the fact that National buys gas wholesale mean that the prepaid fuel is a huge money maker for National.
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Old Mar 20, 14, 9:13 pm
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Originally Posted by arollins View Post
However, my last rentals, SAN, SEA, SFO, ATL, the prepay rate was substantially cheaper than the local gas station of the area I was visiting. How does that work? Do rental agencies gave a better contract gas rate? Would it be better for prepaying?

Did you check the gas pre pay price the day you rented or the day you made the reservation ?

I make reservations well in advance and the pre pay gas price is listed but always says this.

The total upfront fuel charge reflected is an estimate based on
the current prices and average tank size for the car class reserved.
This charge may change at time of rental.
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Old Mar 20, 14, 9:22 pm
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I'm always surprised when people select the prepay option. Maybe some are price-insensitive because their employer is paying, or don't think they will have time to refill the tank on the way to the airport.
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Old Mar 20, 14, 10:25 pm
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Prepay gas is ok when there is no gas station near the airport.

But i think it's a better deal to pay for the 1/2 tank. When you factor in that they charge you for the entire capacity of the tank, plus they charge all their bs taxes and fee's as a percentage of that amount, it's not a good deal. There is a reason that the agents get commission for selling it. I've probably prepaid the gas 10 times in the past year, and I want to avoid doing it again.
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Old Mar 20, 14, 10:56 pm
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The last time I forgot to fill up (I use National as well), they charged me about $12 total. The tank was 3/4 full. I didn't think that was such a bad deal. It was at MCO (Orlando).
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Old Mar 21, 14, 5:41 am
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Did a one way from TUL - PHL over Christmas and prepaid the fuel, as gas was about 40 cents cheaper in Tulsa, so I still made ok with leaving a few gallons in the tank.
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Old Mar 21, 14, 9:43 am
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If you're in a position where you're going to use more than an entire tank and can plan with some degree of accuracy how much to put in the last time you fill up before return so you arrive with very little (less than a gallon) in the tank, you've bought the convenience of one less fuel stop (mainly the one near the airport).
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Old Mar 21, 14, 7:01 pm
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I never prepay because airport and local taxes are added on top of the gas price by National. At LGA, that works out to over 25% tax.
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Old Mar 21, 14, 7:50 pm
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Originally Posted by xienon View Post
I never prepay because airport and local taxes are added on top of the gas price by National. At LGA, that works out to over 25% tax.
They got me with that out of PDX. I was driving down to SFO and thought it would be a reasonable bet that gas would cost more there. In fact it wouldn't have even without the surcharges.
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Old Mar 21, 14, 10:31 pm
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Originally Posted by Nitehawk View Post
Prepay gas is ok when there is no gas station near the airport.
Of course the really close gas stations to the airport are often total rip-offs. I see a classic example of this every time I go to Chicago's Midway. You'd usually ext the interstate at Cicero to get to Midway. But (if coming from the south/west), it's equally valid to get off the interstate 1 mile earlier at Central Ave. The gas at stations on Cicero is seriously 40cents/gallon more expensive than at the stations on the slightly less direct route of Central.
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Old Mar 21, 14, 11:39 pm
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I remember back in the day when Hertz was offsite south of MCO, the Shell across the street was usually at least $1/gal above market rate! Boy did I feel sorry for the suckers who ended up filling up there!
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Old Mar 22, 14, 7:44 pm
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Funny, that station near MCO is still there (but not a shell, I think) - they even hide their price signs so you don't notice until at the pump. Takes advantage of foreign tourists no doubt. Luckily, some new stations have been built on that road lately - my last rentals there have been Sixt, which is no more than a mile from the main drag.
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Old Mar 22, 14, 9:29 pm
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I lived in Orlando briefly and the whole city is notorious for that, main tourist drags will often be $.50+ more expensive than "off the beaten path" stations even though they may be separated by literally a couple of blocks. I tried to stick to Hess or 7-11 when I was there as they were the most consistent and fairly priced.
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Old Mar 24, 14, 11:38 am
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The only reason to pre-pay is if you don’t want to be bothered with filling it up or if it is easier for you to make an expense report (i.e. one less receipt to deal with).

Yes, it is cheaper per gallon, but you buy the whole tank and no refund on unused gas. Also, and this is the most important and sneaky part, so excuse the all caps…

YOU PAY THE OUTRAGOUS AIRPORT TAX ON TOP OF IT!

So you might be shaving 50 cents per gallon, but that %20, 25%, 40%, whatever the tax % is is put on top of the cost of the tank, wiping away most savings.

Also, it doesn’t matter what the counter says, it is all based on what car you take. Which means if you got the free upgrade to an SUV, you are now paying for a SUVs worth of gas instead of a midsize car’s worth of gas.

As for the OP only getting charged $25 for ¼ tank, you probably got lucky. All the return agent does is enter 0 through 8 on the fuel left section on the hand held (0 meaning empty, 4 meaning ½, 8 meaning full), and then the car goes off, gets cleaned, refueled, and re-rented before anyone knows what happened. I usually gave customers who forgot to fill up or were running late a break.

-zoneguy
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