Rental car firms OK refueling agreement

Fees to be cut for vehicles returned with partly-filled tanks

June 12, 2008|By Laura McCandlish | Laura McCandlish,Sun reporter

Major rental car companies have reached agreement with state officials to reduce refueling fees by about 40 percent on vehicles returned in Maryland with partially full gas tanks.

Attorney General Douglas F. Gansler will detail the new rate agreements, which go into effect July 4, at a briefing today at the rental car facility at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. The measure comes as the average price of regular gasoline has crossed the $4-a-gallon mark.

Hertz, the dominant rental car company at BWI and one of the three largest in the state, had been imposing the highest refueling rates, said Raquel Guillory, spokeswoman for the attorney general's office. Hertz charged BWI customers $7.99 per gallon to refuel on June 4 - nearly double the $4 per gallon charged for regular gasoline at a nearby station, she said. When regular gas was just under $3 a gallon in December, Hertz was charging WI customers $7.19 per gallon for on-site refueling of returned cars, Guillory said.

"There is no justification for charging double," Guillory said. "Refueling prices are going to be significantly lower going forward."

The attorney general's office declined to disclose specifics of the agreements in advance of today's news conference.

Guillory said Enterprise Rent-A-Car, which also owns National and Alamo rental car companies, served as a model in setting refueling rates for other companies. Enterprise, for example, was charging BWI customers $5.20 per gallon to refuel on June 4, the same day Hertz was charging $7.99 and most other major companies charged in the $7-range.

"Our practices were fine, so we didn't have to change anything, as we were doing the right thing all along," Enterprise spokeswoman Christy Conrad said. "We're in line with the new practice."

Enterprise never charges customers more than 33 percent of local market rates, per gallon, to refuel its rental cars upon return, Conrad said.

Guillory said the new refueling rates will be more in line with those Enterprise charges.

Enterprise is the fourth-biggest rental car company at BWI and among the dominant three in the state.

After Gansler's office reached agreement with Hertz, the company announced on Tuesday a nationwide program to lower its refueling rates.

Starting July 1, Hertz will charge customers the market rate for gasoline plus a $6.99 fee. Hertz customers who choose to purchase a tank of gas at the outset of the rental will be charged the market rate minus a discount of about 15 cents per gallon.

Hertz spokeswoman Paula Rivera didn't return calls yesterday but wrote in an e-mail that the company's announcement Tuesday wasn't prompted by the pending agreement with Maryland. Hertz said the new rates would make it easier for customers to return their rental cars quickly without the hassle of having to fill up first.

"What Hertz is offering is better than what the governor is proposing," Rivera wrote of the state's new refueling rates.

Thrifty and Dollar Rent A Car, which are jointly owned, signed the agreement with Maryland yesterday, company spokesman Chris Payne said. Thrifty and Dollar were charging customers $7.19 per gallon to refuel at BWI June 4.

Originally, Thrifty thought Maryland was forcing uncomfortably low rates but then an agreement was reached, Payne said.

"We have always priced competitively," he said.

laura.mccandlish@baltsun.com

What they charge

Regular gas price at Exxon station near BWI

(June 4, 2008)...$3.99/gallon

Rental car refueling prices at BWI on same day:

Hertz...$7.99/gallon

AVIS...$7.89/gallon

Budget...$7.69/gallon

Thrifty/Dollar Rent A Car...$7.19/gallon

Enterprise/National/

Alamo...$5.20

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