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U-Haul fuel policy is running on fumes

CONSUMING INTERESTS

October 26, 2008|By DAN THANH DANG | DAN THANH DANG,dan.thanh.dang@baltsun.com

When I asked U-Haul spokesman Joanne Fried why tanks aren't filled to "full" so that customers don't have to guess at how much more gas they need to pump, Fried said, "We don't have fuel stations at all of our centers. It gets more costly and expensive to keep the tanks full, too."

Especially for customers who are put in the position of having to give U-Haul free gas.

U-Haul says this isn't a problem, but there are hundreds of consumer complaints found online and a court case that are all based on this issue.

An appeals court in California ruled that a U-Haul customer seeking class action status for a lawsuit that accused the truck rental firm with deceiving customers about fees charged for fuel had enough of a case to move forward. In that case, the customer argued that U-Haul falsely advertised its fueling practice as giving the customer a means of avoiding a fuel charge that is, in fact, unavoidable.

Finally, Abrams says there is a more scientific method of gauging fuel use. Many rental companies, he said, use a computer system that records the manufacturer's estimated standard for fuel efficiency and the number of miles that a customer puts on a vehicle.

"Using those figures, they'll do a calculation based on the per-gallon fuel charge based on the miles they use," Abrams said. "It's a more objective measurable indicator."

Using that basic math, let's go back to Klemm's documents. She logged 46.2 miles on the U-Haul van, according to the final receipt. She filled the tank with 2.883 gallons of gas, according to an Oct. 4 gas receipt she sent me. And finally, if the cargo van that Klemm rented does get the 15 miles per gallon that U-Haul's Web site says it does, it seems Klemm paid for almost exactly the amount of gas she used.

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