“There are no polite words to describe what I feel has just been done to me”

No industry piles on the fees and surcharges like the car rental industry. Yes, they have their reasons. And yes, they have competition from airlines, which haven’t met an ancillary fee they don’t like.

But sometimes it’s useful to watch the rubber hits the road, so to speak. I’m talking about a postmortem on a real car rental bill.

Like Paul Irvine’s. He recently rented a car from National at Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, which is one of the most notorious places for car rental fees.

Here’s the damage:

5 days @ 38.50 per day = 192.50
FSO = 32.32
Customer facility charge = 15.00
National busing recovery fee = 4.49
Concession recoup fee = 26.78
Sports venue tax 5% = 12.43
Veh lic recov 2.34 per day = 11.70
Veh rental tax 10% = 25.05

Total = 320.27

That’s some bill!

Irvine can hardly believe it.

I can’t fathom which of the above constitutes sales tax, analogous to what one would expect to pay when buying a meal or a shirt but the difference between the rental charge itself and the grand total, composed of additional taxes and charges ripped out of an unsuspecting consumer, is $127.77. This represents approximately 40 percent of the overall cost. There are no polite words to describe what I feel has just been done to me.

It is simply unbelievable that a company can get away with the kind of charges they willingly tack on to a customer’s bill to fatten their own bottom line and that, in addition, they can be coerced by a local, state or federal government entity to extract even more blood to pay for their own programs which have not survived a simple cost-benefit analysis to the extent that they could be funded out of general tax revenues.

There is something seriously wrong with the financial machinery of this country and the inter-relationships between private wealth and the public purse. I’m wondering what can be done to lift the veil on this kind of robbery so the public can be better protected.

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

This is one of those rare cases when I feel that the victims aren’t just renters like Irvine, but the car rental companies, too. When 40 percent of the money you take from your customers goes to taxes and other fees, you aren’t a car rental company anymore. You’re a quasi-government agency that collects taxes from unsuspecting travelers.

This madness has to end.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on the new forum.

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  • tynab40

    if you think that is bad, try renting a car from enterprise at the kansas city airport. They have the second highest surcharge rate in the entire continent. the surcharges are more than the car rental. it take a simple 142.0 car rental to over 300+. I only know becauce I work there and I am the one that gets all the complaints.

  • tynab40

    fso- is the refueling charge, customer facitly is a surcharge for them to help pay for their building, busing, pays for shuttles all those others are surcharges. the only thing on their extra that you had no choice over is the fso. that is something you have to agree to.

  • JB

    Please don’t make excuses for the FSO fraud. Someone needs to please initiate a major class action suit against the car rental companies because of the way this fraud is perpetrated. The counter employee states that it is “$X” dollars per gallon, but NEVER states that you are being instead charged for a full tank, not by the gallon, and hence the price per gallon is almost always WELL above the stated price fraudulently being pitched to the consumer. Say that it was quoted at $3.00 (which they’ll point out is about the same as the local service station). You turn in the car needing a quarter of a tank (of a 16 gallon tank) to fill the car back to full. You don’t pay $12.00, you pay $48.00, the cost of a full tank. That’s not $3.00/gallon, that’s $12.00/gallon! This fraud has to be stopped and the companies that have been perpetrating it for so long need to suffer major punitive damages.

  • marie72

    Ya Enterprise Car Rental in Spring ,TX tried to charge me

    stadium tax and I was not at
    the airport i was in the suburbs!

  • marie72

    Yes I know they will try to tax you twice if u don’t watch it..you will get your quote with all fees and taxes included and then they try to take that totall and tax again on top of that…Enterprise is the worst!
    Make sure at the end of your rental to show that taxes were already included..if they say that was just a estimate then tell them ok take all the taxes off and charge meyour taxes from the base price..