Budget Rent a Car’s Fuel Service Option

August 11th, 2021

After selecting a vehicle on budget.com, consumers are presented with a number of add-ons for their rental, including a fuel or gas service option (GSO), a description for which states:

Skip the pump and save time. Pay in advance and bring back the car on empty. Rate comparable to local pump.

Clicking on an information logo (see above) doesn’t offer any additional details regarding the extra and only repeats verbatim what is stated in the main description. Perhaps because if it did provide more details, consumers would be less likely to choose the add-on.

In fact, the only way consumers making a reservation get the whole unvarnished truth about the fuel service option – which is that they may save time paying Budget to fill the tank instead of doing it themselves, but not necessarily money – is if they hover over a terms and conditions box at the end of the checkout process (below fields for credit card and billing information), scroll down to a fuel policy section and read that:

If you accept the fuel service option at the beginning of your rental, you will be charged as shown on the Rental Contract for that purchase and you will not pay us a fuel service charge. If you choose this option, you will not incur an additional fuel service charge, but you will not receive any credit for fuel left in the tank at the time of return. … The cost of refueling the car yourself at a local service station may be lower than the fuel service charge or the fuel service option.

Budget also states in its terms and conditions that, despite advertising that consumers “pay in advance” for the add-on, “The Fuel Service Option price is not included in your reservation total. The prevailing market rate for fuel plus associated tax and fees will be charged when you return your car.” (Emphasis added.)

According to one TINA.org reader who selected the fuel service option, these fees resulted in him paying nearly $10 a gallon for Budget to fill the tank.

“When I called the company to inquire as to why the excessive charge, I was told by the representative of the company that in addition to the gas price, the company charges a service fee per gallon to refuel the vehicle,” the consumer wrote to TINA.org, which contradicts the terms of the fuel service option noted above.

“I expressed my objection stating that an extra fee was not mentioned in their advertisement,” the consumer said. “In fact, I pointed out that the advertisement stated that the refill would be a comparable price.”

When TINA.org reached out to Budget, the company declined to offer official comment without looking into the consumer’s specific case.

The bottom line

The fuel service option is an upsell that most consumers who can take the time to fill the tank themselves probably don’t need. The greater hassle may be figuring out the fees that weren’t adequately disclosed in the advertising of the add-on during the checkout process.

Find more of our coverage on rental cars here.

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