I generally expect dealing with UHaul to be frustrating, but still...

So, yesterday my girlfriend and I returned a UHaul van. As much as they're a huge rip-off, their hands-off business approach is great. Any yahoo can walk in there and take a truck, do anything to it, and bring it back whenever. They're such a rogue business that they recognize this, so they'll throw in plenty of free perks. You usually get a way bigger truck than you "reserved," because they never have the one you "reserved" since it was abandoned last week after someone used it to drop off some bodies in a ravine. Which is so common that UHaul trucks actually have pre-printed stickers right on the window instructing law enforcement officials on how to return impounded or abandoned vehicles. Dedicated phone number for this.

Yesterday really took the cake in terms of UHaul idiocy.

So, we rented the van, gas gauge at full, drove it 23 miles, took it to the gas station, pumped until full, looked at the meter that said we'd put 7.61 gallons of gas in it--whaaat? There's no way a 2005 Savana gets 3 miles per gallon.

OK, so I figure this is a pretty clear-cut problem that they should easily fix. We have the gas receipt from 2 minutes ago from the gas station next door to the UHaul place. Everyone knows that the basic manual dipstick-type gas gauges have several gallons of play in them, so I figure it's pretty clear that the last person took it filled, burned 5 or 6 gallons, didn't gas it up, and returned it with the gauge more or less reading full.

I showed the guy who parks the trucks my receipt, he agreed with me that the van should get about 12 MPG and must have not been actually topped off, and said just to take the receipt to the manager and he'd fix it.

I did this, the manager said, "We don't pay you for gas. You take it full, you return it full. You signed that the truck was full when you took it. You should have looked at the gauge."

So I told him that, yes, I looked at the gauge, but that the gauges aren't particularly accurate, and I could have gotten it to read full by parking it on the hill rather than filling it.

He told me that the gauge is perfect, because the van is brand new.

At this point it seems that he knows nothing about cars, since most gas gauges are estimates unless it's one of those fancy gauges hooked into a mileage computer thing. I find this possibility really disturbing given that he has a job responsibility of doing things like, you know, calculating whether your engine and transmission are appropriate for towing heavy loads on a highway.

Therefore, I come to the reasonable conclusion that this guy is completely bullshitting me, which I just don't appreciate. Tell me that your policies aren't flexible or even be a jackass to me, but don't lie to me, assume I'm stupid, or go around asserting things you don't actually know to be true.

So I told him that the gauge had also read barely below full when I took it to the gas station, but I'd been honest and filled it up as I'd agreed to do. I told him again that I put 23 miles on it, as the odometer slip showed, and I'd put 7.61 gallons of gas in it, as the receipt showed. I asked him, "This van does not get 3 miles per gallon, correct? It gets, what, about 12?" He said, "Yep, it gets about 12. Look, we run into this problem every day and there's nothing I can do about it. The tank is full, someone drives it about 20 miles, it still shows full. The person ahead of you must not have put gas in it, since it still said full. You shouldn't have signed that it was full then."

You run into this problem every day?!

I explained to him yet again that it read full. He just said there was nothing he could do. I said to him, "So you agree that I've purchased gas that I didn't use and that this gas is in your company's possession, yes?" He said, "Yeah, there's nothing I can do about that."

I politely told him that they could stick a nozzle in each truck when it's returned, and if the tank accepts more than a topoff, they charge the previous renter's credit card. His response was, "Naw, we just go by the gas gauge. You shouldn't have signed that it was full."

If I do ever rent from them again, I'm going to insist that we go over the gas station next door and do some pumping before I agree that the truck is full.

Of course, a couple of liters of soda or other sugary beverage would also make the gas gauge read full for a lot less than $17. Not that I'm suggesting such a thing, of course. Just sayin.


Karsten M. Self said...


12 miles, 17 gallons, on a 14' truck, leased from Redwood City, CA (El Camino Real at Hwy 84), when the fuel gauge registered "full" at lease time. Manager wasn't in, crew didn't have his phone, didn't call per my written note left at the store last night, wouldn't come to the phone when I called this morning (20 minutes on hold over 5 separate calls).

Gauge read "full" when I picked up the truck, but needle moves a full 1/4 position further out if actually topped off. Needle was swinging between 3/4 and full at the time I tanked up.

U-Haul could address this simply by putting a red dot on the fuel indicator noting the "true fill" level.

Mentioned this and another mechanical issue (load ramp pulls clear of vehicle and falls to ground) to three staff, three times, asking if they were going to take a damage/defect report. No dice.

BBB and small claims, here I come.

No more U-Haul rentals.

Bruce D said...

I'm having a problem with U-Haul myself. The gas gauge read 7/8 when I got it, but was stuck when trying to put gas in so I ended up filling it. Still trying to get them to reimburse me.

But regarding Karsten's problem, the same exact thing happened to me with a Budget truck: 14 miles, 7 gallons of gas. But Budget was execellent. I called the national office, faxed a receipt for the gas. They sent me the entire $21 I paid for gas.

I'm going with Budget next time!