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Since I’ve been introduced to Autoslash (SEE: Using Autoslash to save a ton on your next rental car), I’ve gotten car rentals down to an algorithm:

  1. Request quotes through Autoslash
  2. Book the best rate for an intermediate car or larger (SEE: Why you’re foolish to rent a “standard” car)
  3. Use the Autoslash results to see if I should shop for other deals (such as prepaying a Hertz rental if I’m sure of my dates)
  4. If Autoslash sends me an update, check it out (or simply let them re-book me)

Easy peasy. Lately, I’ve gotten some really good deals, including a $100 rental for 5 days in Alberta for our recent trip to Banff (SEE: We’re going to Banff!!). I consider $20 per day pretty much a steal in most markets.

It was a major Autoslash win. Recently, using Autoslash didn’t actually pan out as well for Dan, however (SEE: Autoslash actually let me down).

toyota camry rental car

The one rental card mistake I often make

I’ve probably rented a car 12-15 times over the past 3 years. I would guess 60-70% of the time it has been for work, with the occasional personal rental.

Usually I decline all coverage, trusting my own liability insurance and collision insurance via the Chase Sapphire Preferred to cover me. It keeps the costs down when we don’t have any “extras”.

I also typically decline the fuel purchase option. If I know I am going to drive enough to empty the tank, I’ll take it. Otherwise no. Stopping at the gas station for a few minutes is something I can afford to do.

An oversight that can cost you

Until I forget. I just returned a rental at Orlando airport on a long weekend away for the Family Travel for Real Life conference. On my way back I *completely* forgot to fuel up. This is now the FOURTH time I can recall doing this. Today it cost me a whopping $50. So much for a deal on Autoslash. The fuel charge was more than the rental itself.

A couple times, I’ve been saved by the operations of the rental car lot. Locally, when I forget and the attendant remarks about the gas level, I give him the hard stop while I run it 4 blocks to the gas station and come back. The rental car agents never mind.

At airports locations, I’m not so lucky. Once I get the car in the line of returned cars, I’m pretty much trapped. Today I remembered just as I was handing the key to the attendant. All I got out was “Oh crap, the gas!” He didn’t even respond and just printed me a receipt.

Ways to remedy this issue

I hate pre-paying for fuel, but at this point, it may well be the best option for me. I’ve now eclipsed over $150 in fuel charges over my history in rentals (luckily work covered one bill after I apologized to my manager about it).

The other option is to set a reminder on my phone to tell me to fuel up an hour before I plan on returning. But if I keep forgetting to fuel up, I’ll probably forget about to remind myself as well.

How about you…have you ever made this unfortunate mistake?

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