FAQ Orlando

The great Orlando gas scam

Man's hand pumping gas in Orlando

A warning for people who rent cars – Don’t fill up the gas tank near the Orlando Airport.

Car rental agreements generally give drivers two options for returning a car: a) bring it back with a full tank of gas or b) pre-pay a set amount equal to the cost per gallon multiplied by the size of the gas tank. (Also see: Renting a car.)

Note on the pre-pay choice: The per-gallon price a rental agency charges for gas is usually reasonable, but no one brings back a bone-dry car. Even a gauge on empty has at least a few gallons left, so you’re prepaying for gas you won’t use. This option isn’t a bargain, but it does give you some peace of mind on the last day of a hectic vacation.

Now a warning about option A: Visitors returning rental cars with a full tank many times look for gas near the Orlando airport. However, a couple gas stations within a mile of the airport have no sign posted in front listing the cost of gas, which is pretty much unheard of in America. Customers pull in anyway. They don’t know the cost until parked and looking at the pump. If they’re sharp, they might note that it’s $1 or $2 higher per gallon than the local going rate; but, even then, many fill the tank anyway because their flight to Cincinnati takes off in 90 minutes and a $20 gas over-charge is peanuts compared to a missed flight.

These gas station owners know they have tourists right where they want them. In fact, that’s their business model. Residents, burned once, never return to these places, and they warn other locals to steer clear.

This gas scam embarrasses Orlando officials, and they want to make it mandatory for gas stations to advertise the price of their gas. No one wants visitors to leave the City Beautiful with a lingering feeling that the locals ripped them off at the last second – that Orlando took one last shot at separating them from their vacation money. Still, as I write this, the gas scam goes on.

This problem is easy to solve, however: Fill up your gas tank before driving to the airport.

Cars register a full tank for 30 miles or more, and the problem exists only at gas stations close to the Orlando airport. On Disney property, Hess exclusively provides gas stations, and the prices compare favorably to others in the area. Even visitors returning from greater distances – Daytona Beach, for example – should fill up before leaving. It’s better to top off the tank with an overpriced two gallons that fill it up with 20.

Posted in: News, Planning an Orlando trip, Tips: Save money – beat crowds

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