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What happens when you put unleaded gas in a diesel rental car?

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Here’s a simple and essential car rental tip that will save a lot of time, money and hassle: When renting a car in Europe, make sure you know if it requires diesel or unleaded gas.

Why, you ask? Allow us to demonstrate photographically what happened on a recent journey when we overlooked this critical step. Come, Cheapos, let’s take a ride…

Step 1: Fill ‘er up

Unleaded? Diesel? Who cares! Just fill ‘er up. In our case, we filled up a diesel-only car with unleaded gas.

Step 2: Hit the beach

Drive (a short distance) to a picturesque location and park the car. For us, it was Lake Como, Italy, where we spent the day swimming and frolicking, nary a care in the world.

Ahhhh, so relaxing.

Step 3: Try to start car and panic

When the car doesn’t start and you realize that you didn’t use diesel, go ahead and briefly freak out, perhaps for three or four minutes. Then, if you don’t speak Italian, do your best mime routine to the locals and hitch a ride on the back of their ninja motorcycle.

Off to the races.

Step 4: Back to the beach

After repeating your mime act at the gas station – much to the delight of both yourself and the assembled audience – hop in a car with the head mechanic and drive back to your stranded car. (Preferably, your car ride should follow directly behind a circus trolley that is inexplicably carrying the head mechanic’s children.)

Enjoying the view.

Step 5: Get towed

Watch with embarrassed relief as your car is hoisted onto the back of a flatbed truck to take you to the gas station.

Getting on tow truck.

Step 6: Say goodbye to paradise

Snap a photo and wave goodbye to Lake Como from inside the car (there’s not enough room in the truck’s cabin, natch) as you make your way to the gas station.

And away we go.

Step 7: De-gas and re-gas

Hang around the gas station and watch all the “bad gas” get sucked out of your car’s tank. Try not to concentrate on how much the gas originally cost. Pose confidently for a photo.

No comment.

Step 8: Learn your lesson

Swear you’ll never do this again. Yet allow yourself to appreciate the experience you just had.

About the author

Pete Meyers

About the author: An Ohio native, Pete Meyers was bred on family road trips and the Beach Boys. When not working at EuroCheapo HQ in NYC, Pete likes to be found eating bouillabaisse anywhere in the south of France.

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6 Responses to “What happens when you put unleaded gas in a diesel rental car?”

Dino says:

Had a similar problem in Tuscany in 2001 while driving three women to the Gucci outlet near Florence. Luckily, I do speak Italian and happened upon a wonderful young mother who piled the three women into her car with her children and drove them to Gucci while I waited for the tow truck. Believe me, I swore I’d never do this again, and I definitely appreciate the experience. Luckily, the women were just as jovial about it as well, and it’s a story we’ve all told time and again.

Pete Meyers Pete Meyers says:

Well, there could certainly be worse places to be stranded than on your way to a Gucci outlet, right?

Thanks for sharing, Dino. And we agree, we’ve gotten plenty of “mileage” out of our diesel story as well!

How is “unleaded gas” and “diesel” designated on the pumps?

dennis gray says:

well after driving my gas fueled truck all week on vacation and getting gas every day, I just filled my diesel van full of gas…… does any one know if anything need to be done after removeing gas and fueling with diesel before trying to start it?

avidyvette says:

Well I feel better now. I did the same thing in Portugal and felt like a complete idiot, even though the station attendant pointed me to the wrong pump. Avis wasn’t happy. They had to come by and give me a new car and charged me a fee, which I then disputed back home in the U.S. Avis lowered the fee 50%. I definitely learned my lesson too and swear I’ll never do it again! Thanks for the story.

Chris says:

How much did AVIS charge you at first? I just had same situation with half tank of gas going into diesel rental, just a few hundred yards before the heathrow AVIS drop off. They are saying could be as much as £575 ($1000) to “fix”.

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