Starting today, Hertz have introduced a new fuel policy for renters who travel less than 75 miles in total during their rental at certain locations in the US (the locations have not been disclosed that I can find).
In an email sent to Hertz Gold Club members, the new policy states:
Beginning on 7/15/2015 there will be a new refueling option for Hertz rentals in the United States. This Express Fuel option applies at select locations to rentals during which the entire distance driven is 75 miles or less. If you drive 75 miles or less and do not purchase gas, or purchase gas 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 made during your rental, the $13.99 charge will not be applied.
This "Express Fuel Option" gives renters the ability to return the car without worrying about refilling the tank for a flat fee of $13.99. For short rentals, this will be a welcome convenience for many travelers.
For others though it will come as an unwelcome surprise. The Express Fuel option is just that, an option, if you have read and clearly understood the fine print. I am waiting for the complaints to pour in about the receipt requirement.
It has never been an official policy of any car rental company to require a receipt to prove that a rental car has been refueled prior to return until now. I have recommended keeping fuel receipts in the past as evidence in case you have to dispute a surprise charge on your credit card for missing fuel after the rental is over. Hertz is now obliging renters to produce receipts to avoid the $13.99 charge. It's no longer a recommendation, it's a requirement.
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I have created an infographic covering 4 easy steps to avoid car rental fuel charges that applies to all rentals but will also help with this new Hertz policy.
Regular renters who are accustomed to refueling just before dropping off the car are likely to be surprised by the new charge if they haven't kept the receipt which few do. This is arguably just the latest in a long list of car rental gotchas designed to increase revenue.
Is the $13.99 charge worth it? I did the math using the national average fuel price today of $2.77 per gallon, a Chevy Impala at 18MPG city driving fuel estimate and the maximum 75-mile limit outlined in the new policy.
Using these assumptions, 4.17 gallons of fuel would be used, a total value of $11.54. Paying Hertz $2.45 for the convenience of not having to refuel seems fair enough in this case.
Important to note however that most rentals subject to the new terms will cover less than 75 miles and be in smaller, more fuel-efficient cars. This will increase Hertz' cut substantially, reducing the value to consumers. If I assume that Hertz makes on average $5 on this policy from each renter, that increases the daily rate of renting a car quite a lot, far from clear to a customer up front when making their booking based on the daily rental rate.
The other thing that people forget about are all the taxes and fees that are added on, particularly at airport locations. These are applied to all charges on a car rental and this $13.99 fee will be no different. At many airports, these can add up to more than 25% so the $14 charge could actually set you back $17.50 or more.
The worst case scenario will be for a customer who refuels the car but doesn't keep the receipt. Not only will they pay for the fuel and return the car full, they'll also have an extra $13.99 plus tax automatically added to their bill per the terms of the contract. Gotcha!
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It begs the question...what happens when a customer puts $1 of fuel in the car just before returning it and produces the receipt. Per the wording in the contract, the charge won't apply. Who's going to be the first to try this I wonder?
It will be interesting to see if Hertz agents make the terms of new policy clear to customers when they pick up the car. If you rent with Hertz from today on, I would love to hear whether or not you were informed that you had to keep your fuel receipts and produce them at the end of the rental. Please let me know in the comments.
The new fuel policy will be good for some, a convenience worth paying a bit extra for to avoid having to take the time to find a gas station and refill the tank just before handing over the car. If you want to save some money, refill the car yourself and make sure that you keep your fuel receipts from now on to avoid the double whammy.