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may 06 2011

Renting a car? Beware of being gouged with gas prices

Driving in Hana, Maui, Hawaii (Courtesy kabell4/myBudgetTravel)

Gas costs more for everybody nowadays. But travelers with rental cars might have to pay $5, $6, even $9 a gallon.

The Los Angeles Times reports that gas stations in certain remote tourist hot spots are seriously sticking it to tourists. While the average cost of a gallon in California was $4.26, a station in Death Valley was charging $5.75 earlier this week. Hawaii always has the nation's most expensive gasoline, currently averaging $4.57 a gallon. That's a bargain compared to a gas station at the end of the Road to Hana in Maui, which was recently asking $6.03 a gallon.

Meanwhile, a USA Today survey shows that airport-location rental agencies all over the country are charging over $9 a gallon to customers who don't opt for pre-paid gas and don't return their vehicles with full tanks. Hertz was charging $9.29 per gallon at 13 different rental locations, meaning that a poor soul who brought his car back on empty could be hit with a gas bill over $300.

The obvious solution to avoid such fees is to fill up the tank before bringing the rental car back. One potential problem: Gas stations near the airport (and therefore, near the rental car lots) may be gouging travelers as well. An Orlando-area TV station recently did a report on a gas station charging $5.69 a gallon. Even worse, the station, right near Orlando International Airport, didn't post a sign advertising its jacked-up prices.

MORE FROM BUDGET TRAVEL:

Wheel Deals: Alternatives to Renting a Car at the Airport

Video: How to Rent a Hybrid

Rental car battle heats up, consumers hurting

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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