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Rental Cars: When the Tank is Half Full

Posted by: Diane Brady on August 12, 2007

I’ve noticed a distinct shift in customer service at rental car agencies lately, and I wonder if anyone else has, too. My own experience is with Avis; but several other friends share similar stories about Hertz.

Take the simple practice of filling the gas tank. The last few times that I’ve rented from Avis, the gas tank has not been full. Last week, I drove out with the tank three-quarters full and returned it full. Avis credited me $5—less than I had paid to fill the extra quarter tank. Today, the woman at the front desk reminded us that the tank was only half full and we returned it half full - only to be charged an extra $21. The reason: they insisted that it was actually 5/8 full, even though it was not. Isn’t it much easier to just give customers a full tank? There’s a gas station across the road.

Add to this the extra expenses that are piling up: from shorter grace periods for returning cars to fewer staff at front desks. But the most bizarre incident took place again last week. I returned a car on Monday night when it was due back first thing Tuesday morning, at which point I was charged about 50% more than the rate I had signed on taking the car. This time, the woman compared it to hotel policies that require a Saturday night stay.

I don’t get it. Why am I charged more for returning a car 10 hours early? I didn’t expect a discount but I certainly didn’t expect to get charged a higher fee. After much negotiating and half an hour of my time, she defaulted to the original rate. But it left me with a distinct sense that my loyalty isn’t enough any more. I have to be on guard for extra charges as well. On Thursday, I’ll rent for two weeks with Enterprise and see what happens then.

Reader Comments

Kevin Eikenberry

August 14, 2007 4:54 AM

The Customer Service horror story. Unfortunately, we all have them. And as you so accurately state Diane, rental car companies are often major culprits (much to my personal chagrin as a frequent traveller).

As I read this post I was thinking about it from a leadership perspective, i.e. how would it be fixed?

Rather than posting all of those thoughts here, I've posted them on my blog at:

Thanks for the thought provoking post!

Kevin Eikenberry
Chief Potential Officer, The Kevin EIkenberry Group
author, Remarkaable Leadership - Unleashing Your Leadership Potential One Skill at a Time (


August 17, 2007 6:43 AM

I noticed this problem too so I stopped using the big guns, (Avis, Hertz, Enterprise, et al) I now rent from Dollar, so far so good they don't charge me for early returns, nor if I return it @ the same gas level I rented it at. So far they always have good clean cars in-stock along with online ease of booking. At least at the site I use in Newport Mall Jersey City!


August 19, 2007 2:59 PM

Of all the companies I have rented with, Avis was by far the worst and I have rented in cities on both coasts. They always seem to find a way to bill over what you agreed to and I even had a rep tell me "you shouldn't have signed the contract if you hadn't read everything on it...". I stopped renting with them. Enterprise is slower, but they are much better people.


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