Fuel policies of car rental companies

A variety of (mainly large international) car rental companies offer different fuel policies, which are often not very clear. The golden rule is that before you make a booking, look after the possibilities. At least you should know their obligations..


Option 1: full to full

This is the most common fuel policy worldwide, in addition this is the simplest and most understandable. It’s very simple: when you pick up the car, the tank is full and it is your responsibility to give back it with a full tank.


  • If you don’t drop off the rental car with full tank, you have to pay for the missing fuel plus often there is a service cost.
  • We all know that the car still shows full tanks after a few kilometers. The car rental companies know it as well. It’s not worth trying to deceive them with a few thousand forints worth of fuel – they will be monitored the tank, they don’t rely on the dashboard’s fuel status indicator.


  • When you refuel the car, do it as close as to the time of delivery, best to do it before delivery.
  • Save the receipt until 1-2 months.


Option 2: full to empty

It’s becoming more and more popular.
You take the car fully fueled plus you must to pay the value of a full tank in advance at pick up time. Then you drop off the car with empty (or nearly so) tank.


  • The unused fuel won’t be refunded. What you left in the tank, it is actually donated to the car rental company, even if you unwittingly refueled it before drop off.
  • Some companies calculate the costs of premium or high-octane fuel, while it’s unlikely what the car need anything other than standard unleaded fuel.
  • It isn’t uncommon what this policy is hidden or not quite clear during the reservation.


  • It is very important to know if this policy applies to your rent. If you will only use the rental car within a limited period of time or run few kilometers and don’t have a chance to use up an entire tank, the actual cost of the car rental increases significantly as a result.
  • You have to pay for fuel when you arrive, so when you pick up the car. Even you paid the rental in advance, the price usually doesn’t include the cost of a tank of fuel, which must be paid before you go.
  • This policy apply the lower-cost car rental companies, particularly in Spain, but it’s becoming more common – always check the fuel policy, if one of the companies offer their car much cheaper than the others. This is often a telltale sign.

empty fuel


Option 3: full to empty with refund

Many car rental companies modified option 2 to suit better suit to the customers.
The essence of this fuel policy is that you have to pay for a tank of fuel when pick up the car. The difference is that the remaining fuel, if it’s at least 1/8 part of the tank, the company will refund.


  • Companies who use this policy often charge a mandatory service or convenience fee, which can change depending on the location, the season and the rented vehicle.
  • It can be found that the price of fuel are at premium (option 2) or at the average prices in the region, so you don’t have to pay a huge premium, but is likely to be more than just in a petrol station.


  • Make a research before booking. Know how much is the service charge depending on the rental car and the rental period and add this sum to rental fee so you get the actual car rental cost.
  • If you find that liter of fuel, what the car rental company ask from you, is much higher than on petrol stations, you refuel the car before drop off time, take the receipt and show the rental staff. This means that they have to pay a full tank for you, but the service charge is not refundable.


Option 4: Full to empty as an option on pick up

Many car rental companies across the world offers this option on pick up. This usually applies if a full-full of variation (Option 1) is the default option for every customer.
Thus, you can choose that you pre-pay a fuel tank and give the car back with empty tank, but you have to pay for this opportunity, it isn’t automatic.


  • As mentioned in Section 2 if you choose the empty tank drop off, there is no refund for fuel, so make sure you make the most out of your money.


  • Many companies under this option offers fuel at lower prices (5-10%), because they know there will stay at least a little fuel in the car, which is already paid for. So if you know that you can drop off the car much empty, then with this option you can save some money.
  • It may be convenient that you haven’t to worry about refueling before drop off. Depending on where and when to drop off your car, it’s hard to find a gas station, and then it can be difficult to get to the drop off place.
  • If you involuntarily refuel the car before drop off, make sure to have the receipt. Some companies may pay the amount, if you can prove that refuel the car, but of course there is no guarantee.

full tank



Fuel policies are complex, and not always clear. Make a thorough research, let’s examine all the factors, service costs and non-refundable fuel policy so you can calculate the actual rental cost.

Option 2 and 3 (which is really not an option, because if the company will continue that policy, you can’t choose another one) are a good way for car rental companies to show a lower entry price for you before booking – seems like a good offer, much cheaper than other options – while the other inevitable and mandatory fees won’t arise.

To find the best and cheapest deals, compare companies offer, ask the following questions to yourself:

  • What is the default policy at the company?
  • What kind of car do I need (the service costs are higher in the case of large cars, minibuses than the refueling costs)?
  • I need a second driver and how much it will cost for the entire rental period?
  • How many kilometer will I drive?
  • Are there any mandatory service charges at the type of car you need?
  • The unused fuel will be refunded?
  • What is the calculated fuel cost in the company?
  • Convenient if you don’t have to refuel the car before drop off?

Many people fall victim to the illusion of low prices. After the arrival the options are very limited, if you didn’t book in advance – there may be that all rental car booked, or you must pay the full rent in advance or the deposit is not refundable. The customers who walk into the office of the car rental company often receive higher prices than those who booked in advance.


Good advice: read the fine print before you click on the reservation. Regardless of what price you see by the reservation button, even there are a number of factors that can influence the final price.


Source: rentalcarreviews.com