Thought I'd take the time to warn travelers coming to America about a ripoff scheme being used by one of the major American car rental companies (Advantage). Got conned on this one myself when I finished my trip (with my wife) to visit Austin and San Antonio (Texas).
Turns out that the company offers various fuel options, and two of these fall into the "ripoff" category.
Option 1 is to offer to let you prepay for a full tank of gas at the time of picking up the car--and at a slightly discounted fee (for example, in Austin, Texas, the offer is to let you buy the fuel for $3.05 per gallon, instead of the going rate of $3.22 per gallon). However, what they don't tell you is that you receive no refund if you return the car with any gas at all in this case--so if you have a trip for only a few days and travel a short distance, you may be paying for a 15 gallon fill-up ($45) and then returning the car with 8 gallons or so--thus rewarding Advantage with the equivalent of $26 in gas that they don't have to pay for (but you do).
Option 2 is to let you take the car out yourself with a full tank, and then tell you that they will just charge you for the gas you use upon its return--but not mention (as they didn't when I got my car in Austin) that the charge for them filling up the car at this point is $8.99 per gallon. If you are short on time, (and who isn't when they are trying to catch a plane?) you may think--oh, I'll just pay them for the 3 gallons I used when I return the car, not realizing that this will be a $27 charge, not a $12 charge added to your bill.
Worst even that this is that you will also get charged the local taxes on the extra fuel charges in both cases listed above. I found this out the hard way just today, as I returned my rental car at the Austin airport at the end of my 3-day trip and got hit with a $27 fuel charge (when I returned it 3/4th full, as well as an additional charge for city tax, state tax, and other fees that totaled over $16 more. Thus, for not taking 5 minutes and putting in $9 in gas, I ended up paying $43 instead. Glad I didn't return is only 1/4 full--as they would have been an additional $129 charge above the original total.
The only way to beat their two schemes above is to refuse their fuel options, and to refill the car with gas just prior to going to the airport to return the car. Also, don't be even one minute over the scheduled time of return--as they then charge $9.34 per hour extra (and that will incur additional taxes also).
P.S. This is how my discounted three day car rental originally quoted at $28 per day ($84), and which would have actually come to $134 after all the taxes and fees ended up costing me $177. Also, I should let you know that similar schemes may also be taking place by other car rental companies--but I'm just not aware of them. Bottom line, read the contract carefully and ask questions at the time that you pick the cars up--because the guy/gal behind the counter is not your friend. Their job is to bump up the total bill as much as possible.
Three other common schemes they always try to pull at the rental counter (at all car rental firms) are:
(1) having you pay for multiple drivers on the same car--usually at about a $10 per extra person per day (avoid this by having one person do all of the driving),
(2) asking you to take out liability on the car at $12 to $15 per day (almost all car insurance offered in the US covers damage to cars you rent while in the US)--but not to Mexico--in that case you do need to take the insurance they offer (also people coming from overseas should check their own insurance policies before arriving to know whether they are covered or not, and
(3) trying to get you to rent a larger car than what you originally booked. (for example,a full-sized car will be $15 per day more than a compact car, and a mid-sized car may be $11 more per day). And once again, all of the extra charges will incur the extra (exorbitant) tax charges.
Notice how they quote everything at the lower per-day rates ($10, $12 to $15, $15 or $11) to make it sound cheap and entice you into taking the extras offered.
However, let me show you how these add up: If I were to go to Austin expecting to pay only $134 for three days, but instead returned my car with no gas, took out the option to let my wife also drive, took the liability insurance at $15 and decided to get the full-sized car, my new final bill for the three days would have come to approximately $497.
Enjoy--but be careful out there.
[ Edit: Edited on 12-Jun-2013, at 03:31 by Calcruzer ]