No, You Should Not Save Money By Filling Your Rental Truck's Gas Tank With Water

Look, we know gas is expensive, but don’t save a couple bucks by topping off your U-Haul’s gas tank with water. We won’t pretend to care about U-Haul—not even U-Haul cares about their vehicles—but the next renter will want to bludgeon you with a rusty ice pick when their truck breaks down because you hosed the engine.

“It can cost up to $2,000 each time it happens, minimum,” said Merow.

U-Haul dealers must now find a way to counter this new water scam while also continuing to battle traditional gas scams. They are on full alert.

“We have increased security, increased cameras at all our locations, increased patrols,” said Merow.

Merow says the thefts have become brazen. Just this past weekend someone stood on the other side of the U-Haul parking lot fence in broad daylight and fed through a siphon hose, trying to get at the gas inside the U-Haul trucks.

Um, don’t siphon gas from U-Haul trucks, either. This little non-recession thingy is turning ugly.

U-Haul: Crooked renters refill gas tank with water [KOMO]

(Photo: Mikey G Ottawa)


Edit Your Comment

  1. alyssariffic says:

    I love the comment that it can cost “Up to 2000 dollars minimum.” So is 2000 dollars the top end or bottom end of the repair costs? I guess it’s both!

  2. aerick says:

    I never of thought of that. That is a good idear!

    Thanks Consumerist

  3. TechnoDestructo says:

    Your reservation is up to the number of vehicles you reserved minimum.

  4. kegtapr says:

    It’s probably safer for the next renter to have the truck towed to their destination with their belongings in it anyways.

  5. williehorton says:

    I hate U-Haul so bad, I almost think this is funny.

  6. @alyssariffic: Maybe it could cost anywhere from $0 to eleventy-billion dollars and they felt like $2,000 was a reasonable averae.

  7. greghayden70 says:

    @alyssariffic: coolest comment ever, how is it that this guy can be be an executive of U-Haul when he can’t even use proper grammer.

  8. BoomerFive says:

    @greghayden70: It’s “grammar”.

    And where does it say this is an exec? When I saw this it was a local manager doing the interview.

  9. Concerned_Citizen says:

    What I find interesting is that it almost seems as if they are saying it is impossible to know who switched out the gas. I think the video clip of this was on cnn. The person interviewed said something like, “We can’t always catch the person who did it because by the time it breaks down someone else has already rented it.” It was almost as if they were blaming the current renter.

  10. ifixit says:

    Something’s not right here. Water is “heavier” than gasoline, so it goes to the bottom of the tank where the fuel-pump pickup is. Depending on the size of the tank, it would take about 1 to 4 gallons to put the pickup completely under water, they would only be able to drive about a block before the water reached the engine. Come to think of it, I guess there’s ***holes who would do that right around the corner to save $4.00.

  11. NumberFiveIsAlive says:

    Good catch Alyssariffic, thats something that I definitely didn’t notice till it was pointed out. Never again!

  12. zentex says:

    @ifixit: I was thinking the same thing about the density of water vs gas. You wouldn’t even get a block before water hit the intake…idling for 60-120 seconds would do it.

  13. @BoomerFive: That’s spelling, not grammar. Two different things.

    As for topping off the tank with water…I’m wondering how many times our gas stations are doing that for us. So it’s not a question of adding water to your gas, it’s a question of adding too MUCH water to your gas.

  14. theblackdog says:

    Blame the folks for renting U-haul trucks instead of Penske or Budget in 3…2…1…

  15. fjordtjie says:

    crap. i’m moving this weekend with a rental. it’s penske, but i doubt all the other companies are immune to the water in the gas tank. hope it doesn’t happen to me!

  16. apostrophesting says:

    Simple solution: Don’t require the tanks to come back full. U-haul should put enough gas in each tank to get the next customer to the nearest gas station. U-Hual eats 5 a rental, customers don’t ruin their trucks. Taa-daa.

  17. Shadowfire says:

    @Concerned_Citizen: That’s not the point. They’re saying they can’t prove who did it, so they can’t take legal action.

  18. se7a7n7 says:

    @FatalisticDread: From what I remember, working at a gas station about 15 years ago, gas pumps can sense when there is water in the gas and will shut down. I really don’t think a gas station would do that anyway because if they did, they would be quickly shut down and sued into oblivion.

  19. humphrmi says:

    I thought for sure I had heard there was a litmus-type test that could detect the presence of water in gasoline, but now as I google it, I don’t see anything.

    If this becomes a bigger problem, I predict that U-Hauls will start renting out their trucks only with enough gas to get to the nearest gas station and then siphoning them dry when you return them. The cost of the gas they siphon out (which you paid for anyway) is far less than the damage it does to their engines.

  20. donkeyjote says:

    Other alternatives.
    1) Bleach- Its like 50 cents a gallon at BJ’s/Costco’s.
    2) Cheap/Used Cooking Oil- Since it’s an oil, and equal weight with gasoline, it will mix and not settle. As a bonus, food truck smell.
    3) Piss- Cheaper then water. More Pragmatic and enviornmentally friendly then water too.
    4) Napalm- Well, it’s Napalm. Nuff Said.

  21. mgy says:

    @alyssariffic: You’ve got a keen eye. I passed over that comment without a second thought. Bravo!

  22. ianmac47 says:

    This is getting interesting. Just wait for the food riots next year, then things will really start looking grim.

  23. Kierst_thara says:

    @humphrmi: I forget what it was called, but I worked at a gas station in high school, and we had some kind of water-sensing goo that we put on our resevoir measuring stick. It was supposed to turn colour if there was water in the gas due to snow or condensation, or whatever.

  24. @se7a7n7: That’s a good thing to know. I always assumed that the less-honest gas-station owners could get away with that one. I guess what I thought was dishonesty was just my car’s insistence to use “better” gasoline. (It just doesn’t run very well with any gas other than Shell.)

  25. Criminal.

    Just be thankful we are not in China, where they solve their criminal problems darn quickly with a bullet.

  26. weakdome says:

    Carey: “but the next renter will want to bludgeon you with a rusty ice pick”

    You bludgeon with blunt implements, and stab with sharp ones. I’m pretty sure an ice pick is sharp.
    Otherwise, it’s much less effective.
    /resume stabbing

  27. laserjobs says:

    If you are going to add water make sure you add some ethanol or methanol so it will mix with the gas and be undetected. So fill’er up with E85 and mix with water.

  28. packetsniffer says:

    I think you misread BoomerFive‘s comment… he was correcting greghayden70‘s misspelling of “grammar”, not confusing grammar with spelling (greghayden70 was doing both, however.)

    Also, kudos on your laughable conspiracy theories with thinking gas stations secretly add water to their fuel to rip everyone off, and with thinking your car runs noticeably better with Shell gasoline.

  29. failurate says:

    @theblackdog: I am pretty sure you are supposed to just make your own truck at home or get it from some hole in the wall.

  30. failurate says:

    @weakdome: Maybe it was so rusty that there was nothing left but a handle?

  31. hatrack says:

    @greghayden70: @BoomerFive:
    Add the fact that apparently Kim Merow is a woman. If people are going to be picky then maybe they should try for some accuracy themselves.

  32. weave says:

    If this is that big of a problem, since U-haul charges by the mile anyway, just hike the cost per mile up to cover gas, and lock the tank — for local rentals.

  33. snoop-blog says:

    Doesn’t anyone believe in karma anymore?

  34. @packetsniffer: Exactly my point.

  35. bossco says:

    Regardless of what you think of Uhaul, doing this to a rental vehicle is a criminal act and I don’t think fines and jail time would be worth a $100 bucks of gas…

  36. @kegtapr:

    It’s probably safer for the next renter to have the truck towed to their destination with their belongings in it anyways.

    thank you sir, that quote put a smile on my face

  37. timmus says:

    You wouldn’t even get a block before water hit the intake…idling for 60-120 seconds would do it.

    Thus… maybe it’s an inside job. Dirtbag employees at U-Haul siphoning out the gas into their personal vehicles and replacing it with water, and blaming the customer. Who would you trust more, a U-Haul customer or U-Haul employee?

  38. esthermofet says:

    How long until renters just disconnect the fuel gauge sending unit and short it to make the dash gauge read full? A trivial hack, indeed.

  39. ClayS says:

    Yes, but the gasoline is actually drawn from the top of the liquid since the pickup is on a float assembly. This also prevent sediment on the bottom of the tank from being pumped into the engine.

  40. CPC24 says:

    @donkeyjote: Napalm is gasoline. Gasoline and gelatin, to be exact.

  41. Applekid ┬──┬ ノ( ゜-゜ノ) says:

    @Corporate-Shill: Texas is in China? ;)

  42. Anonymous says:

    U-haul deserves it. Crap trucks, crap service – it’s their corporate policy. I have never had a good experience renting, driving or returning a U-haul truck – lump ’em in with the AT ‘n T Deathstar filed under “Companies not to ever do business with.”

    As for the experience of the next renter – unfortunately a tank of water will cause the truck to break down. On the bright side, I don’t think that tanks of water will cause more than a 1% increase in U-haul truck breakdowns since it’s obviously U-haul corporate policy not to do any maintenance.

    That’s why their few operating vehicles you see on the highway say “America’s Moving Adventure.” They have a completely different definition of adventure – “Waiting for one’s useless expensive rented truck filled with one’s belongings to be towed from the side of a highway.”

  43. @ClayS:

    gasoline is actually drawn from the top of the liquid since the pickup is on a float assembly

    Not to sound contrarian but actually, no. Whilst there is a float on an arm for the fuel level sending unit, the fuel pickup itself (and the fuel pump on most modern vehicles) is universally just above the very bottom of the tank. It has a little screen to filter out the worst of the crud but otherwise it just pumps what gets from the bottom of the tank. Also, keep in mind that the majority of half-ways recent vehicles don’t just have a single fuel line feeding the engine, they also have a return line that allows fuel to flow back to the gas tank from the engine (the fuel pressure regulator just vents excess fuel back down this line) and finally a vapor line to carry excess petrol vapor to a carbon cannister for later purging into the engine through the inlet manifold, in an effort to control the emission of uncombusted hydrocarbons.

    Thus endeth the lesson on the contemporary gas tank.

    In terms of how long a vehicle can run with water in the tank, one of the interesting effects of the fuel return line system is that it allows engines to run with some astoundingly nasty crap in their fuel, since a mouth-full of water will only pass the fuel injectors for a moment before being sent back to the tank, it’s possible to actually make progress with gallons of crap in your tank, for a while anyway. Not great for the engine or the fuel pump or anything else of course, but possible. I can see this sort of thing happening certainly.


  44. bagumpity says:

    I’m all for “sticking it to the man,” but this sort of thing is wrong. I wonder how long it will be before the car rental places start requiring receipts as proof- and charging you a hefty fee if you can’t produce them.

  45. mac-phisto says:

    @ifixit & zentex: i’m thinking a few gallons of water & 12oz. of drygas is probably the mixture they go for.

    @theirishscion: great info. nice post.

  46. ClayS says:

    You’re right; I was thinking of the sending unit for the fuel gauge.

  47. mgomega says:

    How is this any different from renters who put diesel into trucks that run on gasoline? Or worse, gasoline in a diesel (far more spectacular, I’m sure). UHaul probably spends quite a bit each year already for those simple boneheaded mistakes.

  48. There's room to move as a fry cook says:

    It’s not fool proof but rent-a-car places can ask for a gas receipt when you return the car or truck. I believe some do.

  49. ludwigk says:

    @apostrophesting: UHaul doesn’t require the fuel tank to be full. They require it to be half full. They have each customer verify that the fuel gauge is 1/2 when you pick the truck up, and they check after you return it. If its not at half, they charge like $30 refueling fee, and $5.75/gallon.

    I just went through this in NorCal (SF/bay area) with a local UHaul branch. Besides the manager being a bit eccentric, my experience was actually fine. I requested a van @ 10am, and got an automated confirmation for a pickup at 1pm the same day. When I got there, the truck I rented was brand-new, and had about 42 miles on it.

    After about 4.5 hours of moving, I returned the truck (put about 3 gallons of gas into it), and 2 days later, the deposits were removed from my CC and the actual charge was placed.

    I realize that the brand-new truck is like hitting the UHaul lottery, but they occasionally are capable of doing a satisfactory job, and it was by far the cheapest option for local moving.

    And just so people don’t think I’m a shill, I’ve been stranded in a UHaul in central Kentucky during the summer when the truck wouldn’t start after we stopped for lunch. Luckily it was at truckstop, which had several restaurants and travel stores.

  50. ceriphim says:

    @ludwigk: Statistical anomaly. I’ve moved quite often for work over the past 8 years and issues have come up nearly every time. Most recently, I had a reservation (made a week before) on our corporate account that was apparently just me wasting my time, because when I went to pick it up they just shrugged and said they didn’t have anything for me.

    Oh and every time I’ve rented, they check the gas level when signing off on the truck. That’s the level it’s required to be at when you return it, not an arbitrary 1/2 full.

  51. HOP says:

    it took an hour and a half for us to lease a u-haul from a local convenience store….the clerk was dealing with us while selling lottery tickets and cigarettes….the vehicle was slated to be picked up the following morning at the store location…..we had the receipts and other paperwork…the next morning we went to pick up the truck, the clerk,not the same one, could find no paperwork that we leased a truck….we did get a truck, but not the one we had signed for….i hope i never have to get involved with u-hall again….

  52. zibby says:

    You know, I think I just figured out how to get rid of the 6 or 8 gallons of used motor oil I’ve been too lazy to bring in for proper disposal.

  53. mariospants says:

    You know, this U-haul rep is pretty entertaining:

    “”It seemed a little bit odd in the very beginning when this started happening, but the more and more it happens, we shake our shoulders,” she said.”

    Riiight. “Odd” that losers are supplementing fill ups with water due to historically high gas prices? Odd if it wasn’t happening, frankly.

    And what the fuck is “shake our shoulders” supposed to mean? Who “shakes” their shoulders? I couldn’t figure that one out. I’ve tried it, but it doesn’t make sense.

    And then there’s this beauty:

    “”Unfortunately we caught them before they did it. Because then we couldn’t prosecute,” said Merow.”

    WTF is that supposed to mean??? Well, no shit because if you “catch” someone before they do something, the didn’t do it. You can at LEAST prosecute on some other charge, like “attempted”.

  54. mermaidshoes says:

    @mariospants: i wouldn’t expect anything but shaking shoulders and confusing language from a u-haul “veteran”…

  55. Shadowman615 says:

    @ludwigk: If you want to be technical about it, they require the gas tank to be at the same level it was when you picked it up, whether that be half-full, full, or whatever.

  56. BoomerFive says:

    @FatalisticDread: Uh, I was correcting the spelling dude. Pay attention huh?