There are as many good reasons to hire a car as there are companies offering excellent car hire deals, but as with everything else in life, keeping an eye on the small print is essential. In particular, you should pay very close attention to the fuel policy your hire car comes with -- a variety of different fuel policies are available, with some car rental companies selling you fuel themselves. Choosing the best fuel policy for your needs and overall mileage can save you a substantial amount of money in the long run, so pay close attention to your prospective car's fuel policy before dropping your hard earned cash.

Free tank policies

The simplest fuel policy is also the most desirable to many hire care owners; the rental company supplies you with a full tank of fuel, and you are under no obligation to refill it yourself or pay for the company to refill it once you return the car. As such, choosing this option can save you a lot of headaches with trying to minimise fuel usage, and is especially suited to longer hire periods where you expect to cover a significant distance. It also means that the vehicle can be returned to the depot quickly and simply, a boon if you have a flight to catch or a tight schedule to keep.

However, free tank policies can be difficult to find, and, when you do find them, the initial cost of hiring the car may be significantly raised by the generous policy. This can make the policy uneconomical for shorter hire periods, especially if you don't expect to use a full tank of gas.

Full-to-full policies

A car hired with a full-to-full policy is supplied to you with a full tank of fuel, but the hire company will expect you to refill the tank before you return the car. Failure to do so may result in losing some of your deposit, or you may be required to buy fuel directly from the hire company to make up the shortfall, often at a significantly higher cost than found at commercial pumping stations.

This doesn't sound like such a great deal on face value, but in certain circumstances it can actually be the most cost-effective option. Unlike full-to-empty policies, you have no obligation to pay for any fuel that you do not use, and as long as the tank is returned full you will not incur any service charges. As such, this option is generally suited to short journeys and hire periods where you do not plan to use much fuel. If you are in a rush, make sure to leave enough time to refill the tank before you return it.

Full-to-empty policies

A policy often found attached to vehicles intended for holiday hire, this policy supplies you will a full tank of fuel when you hire the car. You are under no obligation to refill the tank, and any refills you need can be purchased from commercial pumping stations at ordinary rates. However, most full-to-empty policies will not refund you for any fuel you haven't used when you return the car, and any refunds you do receive will probably only be partial.

This option is best if you need flexibility and convenience, as it does not obligate you to refuel the car before returning it. It can be particularly useful for drivers hiring cars on a tight schedule, and can be a surprisingly cost-effective option if you expect to use more than a full tank of fuel. However, the initial cost of the fuel you buy from the rental company is likely to be significantly higher than standard commercial rates, and even with partial refunds you may find yourself heavily out of pocket if you only use a small amount of fuel.

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