Finances & Money

Just 7 gallons please

While driving through New Jersey last weekend on our trip to NY for a wedding, we stopped for gas. As you may know, in New Jersey, all stations are full service. (However, on the way up, I pumped my own gas since I thought I was still in Delaware, but no one complained).

Anywho, we also had a rental car, and I wanted to return it with the same gas as we started (a half tank). On the drive down the NJ Turnpike, I calculated in my head how many gallons we would need to break even and then make it home. I came up with 7 gallons.

When we pulled up to the pump, here is the exchange we went through:

Older attendant: “How much?”
Clever Dude: “7 gallons please”
Older attendant: (surprised) “7 gallons? Why 7 gallons?”
Clever Dude: “Because we only need 7 gallons”

The older attendant walks away and yells over to the young attendant that we only need 7 gallons. The attendant is probably only 18-20 years old.

Younger Attendant: “How much did you say?”
Clever Dude: “7 gallons”
Younger Attendant: “Why would you ask for that?”
Clever Dude: “Because we only need 7 gallons”
Younger Attendant: “So then why do you only need 7 gallons?”
Clever Dude: “Because this is a rental car and we don’t want to return it with more than we should since we would be wasting our money”
Younger Attendant: “Man, if I rented a car, I would just give it back with no gas”
Clever Dude: “And then you would pay out your behind for them to refill your tank. Obviously you’ve never rented a car” (Ok, maybe I just thought that one to myself)

Why was it such a big deal to ask for 7 gallons? Generally, I suppose people only say “20 bucks” or “fill it up”, so I really threw off their rhythm.

Oh, and I miscalculated by 1 gallon. I was going quite a bit faster on the way home than on the way up to NY, so I burned through a bit more gas. I just got the extra gallon at the station near our home, but it did cost 40 cents more per gallon than at the NJ station.

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Clever Dude


  • That was funny (and a bit confusing for the attendant I guess!). I hate buying gas for more a bit down the road when I could have gotten it for less somewhere else.

  • It’s surprising that they gave you a rental car with “half tank” of gas. That’s not a “recordable” proof of how much gallons of fuel was there in the tank. Probably, I am unaware of how things are taken care of in other parts of the country, but I have rented a number of times around my town and have ALWAYS received a car with full tank.

    Anyways, a gallon here or there around “half-tank” won’t make a “measurable” or “recordable” difference with the needle position (I think). It’s not like the fuel gauge is calibrated to show every gallon. 🙂

    Your rental guy just cannot tell you – “hey the needle was 0.5 degree of rotation to the right of where it is now – you owe us 1 gallon for that”. 🙂 It’s to avoid such ambiguities that they always give you a car with full tank. Next time look out for it. 🙂

  • We have full-service in Oregon too. I hate it. My car needs premium, but I have to watch the attendant because about 25% of the time they try putting regular in.

    Anyway, it’s not hard to understand why they wouldn’t want to put in 7 gallons. The machines are setup to stop when you hit a dollar amount, or fill the tank. If they can’t program it to stop, they have to sit there and watch your tank fill, neglecting other customers.

  • First off, I also use self-serve

    Second, I always fill the tank up to full

    Third, I hate it when my husband tries to overtop it to compensate for our having to drive down the couple of blocks to return it 😛 It isn’t THAT exact of a science!

  • poor attendant. i don’t see why they were so bewildered by it, though. this is why i like self-serve better, even though i almost always fuel up in new jersey since it’s cheaper there.

  • Yeah,.. you probably would have been better off estimating how much that 7 gallons would have cost, rounded it up or down to the nearest dollar, and just asked for that amount. So what,.. that’s about $18?

    I think that full service attendants understand that a bit more because I’m sure they get people that just have a certain dollar amount in their wallet or account.

    Besides,.. even if you miscalculated slightly low, like Golbguru said,.. it’s not very likely that the rental place is going to give you a hard time over 1/8th (about 2 gals) or 1/16th (about 1 gal) of a tank low.

  • Rateladder: My wife and I wonder the same thing!

    All: Regarding the full tank/partial tank thing, maybe an airport rental would always have a full tank, but our local Enterprise offices merely clean up the cars and send them out as soon as possible for another customer. I rarely get a car with a full tank. However, when it’s a quarter tank or less, they say “don’t even bother bringing it back with gas”.

  • It drives me crazy when you get questioned like this as a customer.
    I can understand if the attendant is trying to make sure you get the best value (e.g. “You know, if you get 8 gallons, you get a free car wash,” or “If you get $20 worth of gas, you get a free air freshener for your rear-view mirror”.)
    In this case, my response to the attendant would have been, “Why 7 gallons? Because, I asked for 7 gallons… that’s why. Because, I’m the customer, and I’m telling you how much gas I want.”

  • New Jersey, my fine state, has the among the lowest gasoline prices in the nation for two big reasons:
    1. Among the lowest gas-tax prices
    2. We’re very close to a fair amount of refining capacity

    Also, while full-service is required of all gas stations, I’ve only seen one or two complain if you try to fill yourself. The full-service requirement, I think, is mainly a job-creation device.

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